Shoppers spent $2 billion online on Election Day this year, 82 percent more than they did in 2016, according to a new analysis.
In 2016, shoppers spent $1.1 billion online on Election Day, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracked more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites.
While the uptick in online shopping comes amid a pandemic that has most people hunkered down at home, experts said it also speaks to the uncertainty about the country’s future, as election results still trickle in.
Retail therapy, or comfort shopping, has long been a coping mechanism for some people to ease anxiety, Jill Gonzalez, an analyst with Wallethub, told NBC News in an email. The company found in April that 43 percent of Americans said they had used shopping to ease the stress caused by the pandemic.
43 percent of Americans said they have used shopping to ease the stress caused by the pandemic.
“People respond to stressful events in different ways, and comfort buying can be one of them,” Gonzalez said. “Election stress, or other political tensions could cause anxiety, especially in categories of people that would be directly affected by a certain outcome.”
Vivek Pandya, senior manager with Adobe Digital Insights, told NBC News his company has seen “an overall rise in e-commerce because of Covid-19,” noting “much more elevated levels of online shopping” in March and April of this year, when the pandemic took hold.
Consumer spending, which makes up about two-thirds of the country’s economy, has been slowly increasing over the last few months from its dive in the spring. Adobe Analytics data estimates that online holiday sales will total $189 billion this year, a 33 percent increase from last year.
That number could increase by as much as $11 billion if Congress approves and distributes another round of stimulus checks before the holidays, Adobe said.
The sparkle of the holiday season has already been dimmed by storefront windows covered in plywood, as tensions rise over ballot counts. Amid such a backdrop, retailers face an uphill battle get people to shop, Greg Portell, lead partner with Kearney, a strategy and management consulting firm, told NBC News.
“In the past we haven’t had this kind of paralysis, so there is no good analog or comparison. There is so much emotion wrapped up in this election and the longer it goes on the less likely the consumer is going to spend,” he said. “The long-term ramifications will vary, but the next few months will be ok if we can get past this period of uncertainty.”
Katie Fisher, a social media manager in Washington, D.C., told NBC News that she has been shopping online to ease stress related to the pandemic and, more recently, the elections. She used to browse Target aisles after a long work week, but now she browses online stores.
“All my shopping habits have evolved with the pandemic,” she said. She’s in the market for comfortable tennis shoes instead of work pumps, and manicure sets since she can no longer get her nails done at the salon.
“It’s wanting to have some sort of control,” she said. “If I order something and it’ll be here in the next few days, that’s something I know is happening. And maybe that’s why I drifted toward online shopping. It’s become my only way to shop.”