For the first time, US ecommerce spending is likely set to surpass $1 trillion in 2022, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

If it is reached, this milestone would be marked after two years in which ecommerce spending surged in the pandemic, data released Tuesday at the Adobe Summit show. Just take a look at the figures from March 2020-February 2022:

  • U.S. consumers spent $1.7 trillion on ecommerce purchases.
  • That's $609 billion more than the two-year period prior to the pandemic.
  • In 2021, American consumers spent $885 billion in online purchases, which was up 8.9% year-over-year from 2020.

When it comes to what consumers bought, most of the growth was attributed to the following three categories:

  • Grocery grew the most as food shopping moved online. With wider adoption of curbside pickup and more instant delivery options, the category now accounts for 8.9% of ecommerce spending overall. That's up from 6.3% pre-pandemic.
  • Consumer electronics was the largest category in ecommerce before the pandemic, and only grew over the two years in which many conducted most of their business and personal life at home. Electronics now account for 18.6% of ecommerce spending overall. with an 8% year-over-year increase in 2021.
  • Apparel remained the second-largest category behind electronics, with 14.3% share. But the gap has widened. Adobe noted growth of 9% and 8% year-over-year for the category in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
It shows that the surge in ecommerce spending didn't necessarily result in uniform growth across retail. That will be especially important to keep in mind as in-person stores reopen and shopping habits shift again. Yet the growth of certain categories also says a lot about retail is heading.

“Ecommerce is being reshaped by grocery shopping, a category with minimal discounting compared to legacy categories like electronics and apparel,” Patrick Brown, vice president of growth marketing and insights at Adobe, said in a statement. “It highlights a shift in the digital economy, where speed and convenience are becoming just as important as cost savings.”

chart showing online spending Adobe forecasts $1 trillion in US ecommerce spending in 2022.(Image courtesy of Adobe)

While there was plenty of growth to report, the data also showed the effects of challenges that emerged in the tumultuous pandemic economy.

  • Inflation: Of the $1.7 trillion spent, Adobe stated that consumers paid $32 billion more for the same amount of goods.
  • Supply chain: The rising demand for ecommerce ran headlong into supply chain issues that resulted from shortages of labor and materials. That led the chance that a consumer sees an out-of-stock message to rise 235% from pre-pandemic levels over the last two years.
  • Demand, however, is still rising. In the first two months of 2022, the data show a 13.8% year-over-year increase in ecommerce spend.

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