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Salesforce: Stimulus checks spur Q1 online spending

The release of government stimulus payments in March helped drive strong e-commerce performance in the first quarter of 2021.

According to the Q1 2021 Shopping Index from Salesforce, online retailers in the U.S. closed out the quarter with a strong March as consumers increased spending in response to the American Rescue Plan Act. It was a happy (and green) St. Patrick’s Day as daily online spending in the U.S. peaked for the quarter on March 17, growing 117% year-over-year (YoY), coinciding with the official payment date for the first batch of stimulus checks distributed to approximately 90 million Americans.

For the quarter as a whole, U.S. digital revenue rose 45% YoY, well above pre-pandemic levels and slightly up from 43% YoY digital revenue growth reported by Salesforce in the fourth quarter of 2020. Product categories with the most digital YoY sales growth in the first quarter as reported by Salesforce include sporting goods (101%), home appliances (96%), and luxury handbags (95%).

Conversely, product categories with the lowest YoY digital sales growth for the quarter included active apparel (42%), home, dining, art & decor (40%), and general handbags & luggage (8%).

Globally, Salesforce tracked digital revenue growth of 58% YoY in the first quarter. According to Salesforce, this healthy global digital revenue increase was driven by a combination of an increase in the amount of money spent by shoppers per site visit (31%) and overall online traffic growth (27%).

“Retailers were forced to be scrappy last year as they reacted to an influx of new digital shoppers and embraced new tactics like curbside pickup to help keep consumers safe,” said Rob Garf, VP and GM, retail at Salesforce. “The growth in digital commerce over the first quarter is a signal that retailers will need to continue to scale their investments in digital while refocusing the in-store experience. Ultimately, stores must offer a balance of contactless and immersive experiences to cater to the differing needs of consumers.”

The Q1 Shopping Index analyzes the activity of more than 1 billion shoppers across more than 40 countries, powered by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Several factors are subsequently applied to extrapolate projections and actuals for the broader retail industry, and additional data hygiene factors are applied to help ensure consistent metric calculation.

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