4 minutes

The 2023 holiday season was marked by healthy consumer spending, a longer shopping period, and online growth.

The 2023 holiday season is now in the rearview mirror. The year distinguished itself from recent years, as consumers and retailers continued to worry less about the COVID-19 pandemic. But retailers had plenty more to consider, thanks to another year of inflation and fears of waning consumer demand.

These are the most important trends of the 2023 holiday season, according to Digital Commerce 360’s coverage.

1. Consumers spent despite inflation worries

Analysts spent much of 2023 warning about an economic slowdown. Consumers, meanwhile, were burdened with shrinking savings, resumed student loan payments, and inflation. Retailers shared similar concerns in quarterly earnings calls.

“The sharp deceleration in retail growth is due to stubborn inflation in many sectors, spiking interest rates, a year-over-year decline in COVID-era federal stimulus, and the ongoing rotation of consumer spending from goods to services,” president at retail research firm Consumer Growth Partners Craig Johnson said in a holiday forecast.

Despite these concerns, consumers spent anyway. According to Adobe Analytics, U.S. online holiday spending reached $221.8 billion. That’s in line with Adobe’s projection of $221.8 billion. Online holiday spending in the U.S. grew 4.9% over Adobe’s recorded $211.7 billion in 2022, setting a new ecommerce record. Growth was higher than the 3.5% year-over-year growth Adobe reported in 2022. Adobe classified November and December as the holiday season.


Fraud prevention vendor Signifyd says U.S. holiday sales increased 7% in 2023 over 2022. Signifyd classifies Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 as the holiday season. The security company previously predicted that sales would grow 5%.

Some consumers might have even spent money they didn’t have. Buy now, pay later services like Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay were used to finance more holiday spending than ever this year. That contributed $16.6 billion in online spending, an increase of 14% and $2.1 billion over the same period in 2022. U.S. consumers used BNPL for $9.2 billion in online purchases in November, up 17.5% year over year. Cyber Monday was the biggest BNPL day in history, accounting for $940 million in sales, up 42.5%.

2. The holiday season extended

Holiday shopping started earlier this year. Amazon’s Big Deal Days sale in October kicked the buying season off in earnest. Walmart held a competing Holiday Kickoff Sale at the same time, explicitly marketing the October event as part of the holiday season.

Other retailers felt the pressure to start marketing holiday promotions earlier, too. True Religion launched its holiday campaign in October, earlier than in previous years. The retailer studied consumer behavior and Google search trends, alongside information from consumer research firms like McKinsey and Deloitte.


Meble Furniture made a similar calculation, president Raf Michalowski said. The marketing firm that works with Meble advised the retailer to start the sale earlier.  

“Consumers only have so much money to spend, so you want to get in front of them or they spend it somewhere else,” he told Digital Commerce 360.

Sales and holiday-themed marketing events, such as Big Deal Days, pushed consumers to start shopping earlier in the season, says Kasi Socha, analyst at retail data research company Gartner. Consumers are trending toward shopping for holidays all year long, she says, and Gartner predicts 30% of consumers will shop for winter holiday gifts year-round by 2026.

A November poll from Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights bears that out. Nearly one-quarter (23.9%) of the 844 consumers surveyed said they started shopping for holiday gifts before September this year. Another 11.1% started in September, and 13.4% started in October. Just 21.9% of consumers waited until the Cyber 5 period or later to start holiday shopping.


3. Online shopping kept growing

2023 proved consumers aren’t willing to give up the convenience of online shopping, even if they feel safe going to stores. The U.S. Census Bureau, as well as the National Retail Federation (NRF) and CNBC’s Retail Monitor, reported that November online holiday spending outpaced in-store sales growth.

Online sales recorded the largest growth of any category measured by Retail Monitor, growing 26.27% year over year. Core retail sales, meanwhile, grew 4.7%. Retail Monitor’s data comes from credit and debit card purchases from consumer data vendor Affinity Solutions. 

The U.S. Census Bureau also reported online sales growth outpacing total retail in November. Nonstore sales, which encompass online sales, grew 10.6% over 2022. That’s significantly higher than total retail sales, which grew 4.1% over the same period. 

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