U.S. digital sales grew 36% for the first two weeks of December as consumers hunkered down to finish their holiday shopping at home.

Present-seekers and the pandemic came together in the first half of December to drive up online sales. And retailers that invested in curbside are reaping some of the biggest benefits, new data from Salesforce Inc. shows.

Global digital sales grew 45% year over year to reach $181 million Dec. 1- Dec. 14, Salesforce says. In the U.S., online sales reached $39 billion over the same timeframe, an increase of 36% year over year.

The software provider aggregates data from the activity of more than 1 billion global shoppers across 40 countries flowing through its Commerce Cloud platform and extrapolates its clients’ findings to the broader retail industry.  Salesforce also says global digital orders continued to grow after Cyber Monday (Nov. 30), peaking to 71% growth year over year on Dec. 5 before slowing down on Dec. 7.

Retailers with curbside pickup particularly benefitted, Salesforce adds. Digital sales Dec. 1–Dec. 14 grew 52% year over year for U.S. retailers that offered curbside, drive-thru and in-store pickup options. Retailers offering these options are experiencing the most significant sales spikes over the weekends as U.S. shoppers pick up their orders when they likely have the most free time, Salesforce says.


“Consumers are scrambling to make online purchases as the shipping window quickly closes and carriers experience a significant strain on the system,” says Rob Garf, vice president of strategy and insights at Salesforce. “Retailers offering the convenience of ordering online with the confidence of getting the package on time will gain market share over the last few days leading up to Christmas.”

Indeed, carrier United States Postal Service Inc. displayed a disclaimer on its site on Dec. 18 warning that the unprecedented number of packages stemming from holiday sales along with COVID-19 complications could delay shipments.

USPS warned shoppers of possible delays on its website

When it comes to ways to pay, consumers are embracing new digital and flexible payment options. The fastest-growing payment options from the start of Cyber Week through Dec. 14 were buy now, pay later financing (90% year-over-year growth) and Apple Pay (85% year-over-year growth). That’s because an increasing number of consumers looked to pay for big-ticket holiday gifts in installments and completed purchases from their phones, Salesforce says.

As the season presses on, retailers are pulling back on discounts, Salesforce adds. The global average discount rate has dropped to 18% on average for the first two weeks of December, similar to the discount rates offered in early November and is down from the 28% average global discount rate offered on Cyber Monday.


Other data that evaluates online shopping patterns among consumers during the pandemic reveals that stuck-at-home consumers are signing up for more subscriptions. Subscription enrollment is up 41% as of November across all verticals compared to the pre-COVID-19 January baseline, according to a new analysis from recurring revenue vendor Ordergroove Inc. From March to May, Ordergroove saw a steep increase in subscription enrollment across its client base. This corresponds with the outbreak’s initial surge, Ordergroove says. In the summer, enrollment decreased but remained above the baseline level. And subscriptions began to rise again in the fall, which roughly tracks with a second large surge in virus cases and can also be attributed to the start of the holiday season, Ordergroove says.

When it comes to subscription growth by industry, pet supplies ranked first with 352% subscription growth in November compared to January. Food and grocery grew 114%, beauty 100%, home goods 28%, and health and wellness 25%.