Adobe Digital Economy Index: UK consumers spent £110.6B online in 2022, driven by heavy discounting from retailers

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New data from the Adobe Digital Economy Index which analysed tens of billions of UK transactions across 2022, has revealed that the UK digital economy greatly expanded during the pandemic, with 2022 online spending up significantly compared to pre-COVID figures from 2019.

Compared with 2021 data, where COVID-related restrictions on physical retail continued to push more spend online, total online spend in 2022 fell by 8.6% to £110.6 billion. Interestingly, the average number of items per transaction increased from 3.3 to 3.4, showing that UK shoppers were spending less but buying more, with the drop in actual spend driven by heavy discounting from retailers rather than a reduction in online shopping activity.

2022 saw UK consumers hit by rising energy prices, inflation and a wider cost of living crisis that impacted their spending power. In response, retailers offered heavy discounts across a broad range of products, resulting in the overall drop in the amount spent online.

“While UK consumers spent less in 2022, our data shows that on average they bought more items, as they took advantage of discounts offered by retailers and hunted down bargains,” said Suzanne Steele, Vice President and Managing Director for Adobe in the UK. “The digital economy remains strong, but to weather the cost-of-living crisis in 2023, businesses must be mindful of how they price and promote products and services to increasingly cost-conscious consumers.”

The UK Digital Economy in 2022

The total amount spent online by consumers decreased by 8.6% compared to 2021, falling to £110.6 billion last year. Over the same period, the average number of items in each order placed online increased from 3.3 items per order in 2021 to 3.4 in 2022.

When comparing 2022 figures with pre-COVID figures from 2019, the UK digital economy has greatly expanded, growing by 42.3%.

Online spending in the crucial Christmas period

While online spending was lower across 2022 compared with 2021, December figures showed more positive signs of spending acceleration, with a lower year-over-year (YoY) decrease of just 7.4% compared with October and November, where spending fell by 11.3% relative to the same period in 2021.

During the Christmas shopping period (November 1st – December 31st), consumers spent a total of £22.4 billion online, a 10.1% YoY drop.

Compared with December 2019’s pre-COVID figures, December 2022 online spending grew by 17%.

Mobile commerce is on the move

One interesting pocket of growth in 2022 came from the palm of consumers’ hands – with more than half (56.8%) of purchases taking place on smartphones, representing a 10.9% YoY increase in share.

Mobile was the most dominant online shopping channel in 2022, with consumers spending £62.8 billon on their devices during the year, of which £13.2 billion came in November and December.

The sustained growth of mobile shopping over the past few years is a strong sign that retailers’ investments to improve their mobile experience are beginning to pay off. With mobile now driving such a significant proportion of online spending, it’s crucial that businesses continue to innovate here and meet the consumer demand head on.

Adobe Digital Economy Index (DEI) used Adobe Analytics to analyse tens-of-billions of visits to retail sites from UK consumers, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories in the period January to December 2022, to provide the most comprehensive view of the UK digital economy. Adobe Analytics is part of Adobe Experience Cloud, relied upon by major retailers to deliver, measure, and personalise shopping experiences online.

Global figures are based on analysis of over a trillion visits to ecommerce sites and direct transaction data of consumers from over 80 countries – more than any other technology company or research firm. Find out more about the Digital Economy Index here.