Salesforce: Online holiday spending rises 5%; returns up 63%

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
online christmas shopping
U.S. online holiday sales showed solid performance in 2022.

Soft November online sales were offset by Cyber Weeek discounting and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) offerings, according to new Salesforce data.

Consumers spent a total of $1.14 trillion online globally and $270 billion in the U.S. across the 2022 holiday season (Nov. 1 – Dec. 31), according to an analysis of November and December shopping data from over 1.5 billion shoppers on retail sites using Salesforce Customer 360 (including 24 of the top 30 U.S. online retailers). Those figures represent flat performance from $1.14 trillion in global online holiday sales during 2021, but 5% growth in the U.S. from $257 billion.

After Salesforce initially tracked soft online holiday sales during the first few weeks of November 2022, the company observed retailers increasing discounts during Cyber Week and into December. In the end, shoppers saw better deals than the 2021 holiday season, with a 21% average discount compared to 19% the year prior.

Returns Spike

Salesforce previously predicted that 1.4 billion orders purchased during the 2022 holiday season would be returned. Data shows that 1.39 billion holiday orders, or 13% of the total, were returned, marking a 63% increase in returns year-over-year. Returns especially rose in the six days after Christmas (Dec. 26-30), with 16% of orders returned during that week — a 5% increase from 2021. 

In addition, Salesforce analysis indicates that nearly one out of every five online orders placed globally during the 2021 holiday season were done via BOPIS. Usage of BOPIS by consumers peaked at 35% of all orders on the Friday before Christmas (Dec. 23). And when the holiday ground shipping window closed on Dec. 15, U.S. companies that offered BOPIS grew their revenue nearly seven times faster than those without the omnichannel option.

Social media referrals hit all-time high

Traffic referrals from social media set a new record, driving 12% of all mobile holiday traffic, up 23% year-over-year. The three countries where social media referrals had the most influence were Belgium, Italy, and the U.S.

“Retailers closed out the 2022 holiday season with stronger online sales growth than expected – driven in large part by U.S. demand, steeper discounts on peak days, and BOPIS options,” said Rob Garf, VP & GM of Retail, Salesforce. “Staggering return numbers show that consumers are still cautious amid economic uncertainty, however. In 2023, retailers must double down on efforts to put the customer at the center of their business with data-driven personalization and efficient operations in areas such as fulfillment, service, and returns.” 

Salesforce analyzes aggregated data to produce holiday insights from the activity of over 1.5 billion global shoppers across more than 64 countries powered by Commerce Cloud, in addition to Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud data from retailers. Salesforce’s holiday data set includes 24 of the top 30 U.S. online retailers and utilizes publicly available third-party data sources.

To qualify for inclusion in the analysis set, a digital commerce site must have transacted throughout the analysis period (Nov. 1 - Dec. 31, 2022) and meet a monthly minimum visit threshold.

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