Salesforce Survey Of 1 Billion Digital Consumers Says Online Habits Are Here To Stay

online shopping

A new survey of 1 billion shoppers from 40 countries released Wednesday (April 14) shows that the digital gains retailers have experienced during the pandemic extended their growth into the first quarter of 2021.

According to the Salesforce Q1 Shopping Index, global digital commerce rose 58 percent in the first three months of the year, while U.S. consumers grew domestic online sales by 45 percent, a torrid pace that the software maker said even outpaced the holiday-heavy fourth quarter’s 43 percent progression.

The continued expansion of digital sales, as well as the trend’s extension into the new year, should help allay fears that the recent surge in online shopping is losing steam.

“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 of 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.”

Specifically, the global maker of eCommerce software said the findings support the need for retailers to offer experiences that are both immersive and contactless to balance the requirements and meet the needs of increasingly digital consumers.

Delving Into 22 Billion Visits To 2,000 Sites

With a global purview of 22 billion visits to nearly 2,000 different digital commerce sites, Salesforce is in a unique position to spot trends and data in real time. Accordingly, the study showed that daily online spending during the quarter peaked in the U.S. on March 17, reflecting a 117 percent year-over-year advance that coincided with the third round of federal stimulus checks being disbursed.

At the same time, the new data show that people were not only shopping more online but were also spending more when they did. Officially, Q1 website traffic grew 27 percent while the average amount spent per visit jumped by nearly one-third from the year before.

Specific pockets of outsized growth were seen in luxury handbags (up 95 percent), home appliances (up 96 percent) and sporting goods (up 110 percent) Salesforce said. On the flip side, although it cannot really be called weakness, the survey saw certain categories lagging the broader digital trend, with segments like luggage (up 8 percent), home decor (up 40 percent) and active apparel (up 42 percent).

Taken together, the average order size in the U.S. rose about $5 last quarter versus a year ago to more than $103 per transaction, even though the average discount offered by retailers fell to 17 percent — the lowest rate in at least two years.

“The Q1 data indicates that the habits formed over the course of the year and the 2020 holiday season are here to stay,” Salesforce said, adding that retailers are going to have to rethink what the “role of the store” actually is, as well as the role employees play in helping to fulfill the surge in digital orders.

Devices And More

Not surprisingly the Shopping Index showed that the pace of growth of mobile transactions, within the broader realm of digital commerce, was leading the way. However, the software firm’s analysis of browsing, buying and abandonment rates differed widely depending on the type of digital device being used.

Specifically, Salesforce found that while people browse more on their phones, they actually buy more — and abandon saved items in their carts less — when they do their shopping from a computer.

According to the Shopping Index, 68 percent of digital commerce in the U.S. was done via mobile phones in Q1, versus 28 percent of consumers doing their shopping with a computer.  However, when it comes to actually ordering things, those numbers get a lot closer, with mobile buying rate slipping to 55 percent and the computer buying rate rising to 40 percent.

Cart abandonment rates also showed a bias for bigger screens, with 94 percent mobile shoppers leaving a site without buying the items they saved, versus just 88 percent of computer shoppers walking away empty handed.

Digital Growth Vs. Expectations

The Salesforce findings augment PYMNTS’ Global Digital Shopping Index which showed consumers’ digital shopping channel use increased by 60 percent since the COVID shutdowns kicked in in March 2020.

In addition, PYMNTS research also highlighted the rising expectations and changing behaviors that consumers are developing as they increasingly look to buy in non-store settings, including less patience for any transactional frictions that resemble the pinch points of in-store shopping such as delayed checkout or product shortages. Although the pandemic has lifted eCommerce, it has also exacerbated these tensions, and underscored the need for retailers to do more to imbue in-store shopping experiences with the sense of control, convenience and safety consumers have come to expect when purchasing online.