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Consumers Expected to Face Higher Prices this Holiday Season — Salesforce Digital Forecast

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Global online sales predicted to grow 7% year-over-year following historic 2020 holiday shopping season 

Consumer prices projected to rise up to 20% this holiday season 

U.S. retailers are expected to face an extra $223 billion in costs of goods sold due to manufacturing capacity, logistics costs, and labor shortage

Packages at risk for delay this year projected to be down 94% as retailers improve logistics and build out curbside pickup capabilities 

SAN FRANCISCO—September 29, 2021—Salesforce (NYSE: CRM), the global leader in CRM, today announced new consumer insights and predictions for the 2021 holiday shopping season. The company expects digital sales to once again top $1 trillion globally, but consumers, retailers, and suppliers are predicted to face rising costs and decreased inventory due to pressure on the global supply chain.

While online sales growth is expected to be moderate compared to last year’s historic 50% surge and more in line with pre-pandemic growth trends, digital shopping habits formed during the pandemic will persist and drive total sales to record rates for this holiday season. Salesforce forecasts: 

  • 7% year-over-year overall growth in global digital commerce for November and December (slowing down from 50% year-over-year growth in 2020) and 10% growth in the U.S. (slowing down from 43% year-over-year growth in 2020) 
  • Total digital sales are expected to reach a record high of $1.2 trillion globally and  $259 billion in the U.S. 
  • Digital commerce growth will be driven by a 20% rise in consumer prices despite fewer global (-2%) and U.S. (-4%) holiday orders expected 

“While last holiday was defined by the last mile, this year is expected to be dominated by the first mile,” said Rob Garf, VP and GM of Retail, Salesforce. “With persistent global supply chain disruptions, retailers must draw consumers to their online and physical stores early in the season to fulfill demand and capture holiday spending.”

As retailers and consumers grapple with the challenges of the ongoing pandemic for a second straight holiday season, Salesforce predicts:

Retailers, suppliers, and consumers will bear the burden of rising costs

Increased costs appear to be front and center this year for retailers, suppliers, and consumers — for a multitude of reasons.

  • Retailers and suppliers: Three key forces that have exerted significant pressure on the global supply chain are: manufacturing capacity, logistics costs, and the labor shortage. In total, Salesforce predicts that the retail industry in the U.S. will face an extra $223 billion in the cost of goods sold this holiday season.
  • Consumers: With inventory issues and higher costs fueling inflation and cutting into margins, expect to see higher retail prices for merchandise. In fact, Salesforce projects consumers will see a 20% rise in prices during the holiday and beyond. As consumers contend with these higher prices, global “buy now, pay later’’ usage will likely account for 8% ($96B globally and $20B in the U.S.) of online orders this holiday season, up from 4% of orders during the 2020 holiday season. 

Product availability takes over shipping delays as this holiday’s spoiler

One of last year’s biggest challenges was fulfillment delays to consumers’ doorstep. While concerns persist this year, it is much less pervasive. Overall, Salesforce projects a 94% decrease in packages at risk of being delayed, or 40 million packages worldwide, down from 700 million last year. Just five million packages are expected to be at risk of delay in the U.S. 

These predictions come as consumers place larger and fewer orders. Last-mile carriers have also added year-over-year capacity, and 40% of all U.S. retailers now have a brick-and-mortar presence offering buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) options. 

Bottlenecks at ports and skyrocketing container costs, two of the key pressures shaping the holidays, should cause consumers to be concerned about product availability. Retailers are responding by consolidating Stock Keeping Units (SKU) online product catalogs are predicted to shrink by 5% over last year as supply chain challenges continue to play out. And consumers are predicted to come out early again this holiday season to avoid out-of-stocks, with pre-Cyber Week shopping growing 6% in the U.S. (to $29 billion) and 3% globally (to $129 billion).

No more Christmas ‘cookies’: marketing departments disrupted by new change

With global legislation and changing consumer preferences giving way to increased internet privacy, marketing departments are facing one of the greatest disruptions they’ve seen in the last five years. Tracking user activity through third-party data across the web and mobile applications is expected to become more expensive, if not impossible, and first-party data — data that organizations collect and manage on their consumers — will be king. 

Loyalty programs, social media engagement and personalized email marketing are expected to offer opportunities to marketers in the battle for first-party data, with Salesforce projecting 30% growth in ecommerce traffic from social referrals and an 18% rise in email marketing across November and December, compared to last holiday season. 

Brick-and-mortar locations become a critical part of digital strategy

The combination of store associates — fulfilling online orders, offering an endless aisle of products, serving digital shoppers, and becoming social influencers — along with shoppers making purchases on mobile devices while in the store, indicates that physical locations will serve as a critical component of digital strategies this holiday.

As a result, more than six in ten global online orders are predicted to be influenced by brick-and-mortar locations — either by helping to place an online order or by fulfilling it via curbside pickup options. At the same time that labor shortages are wreaking havoc in the lead up to the holidays, it’s becoming more critical than ever for store associates to meet rising consumer expectations.

Additional resources:

  • Visit the 2021 Holiday Insights hub here.
  • Check out our initial 2021 Holiday Predictions blog post here.

2021 Salesforce Holiday Insights and Predictions Methodology

To help retailers and brands benchmark holiday performance, Salesforce analyzes aggregated data to produce holiday insights from the activity of over a billion global shoppers across more than 40 countries powered by Commerce Cloud, in addition to Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud data from retailers. Salesforce’s overall holiday data set includes 24 out of the top 30 U.S. online retailers on the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 list and utilizes publicly available third-party data sources.

To qualify for inclusion in the analysis set, a digital commerce site must have transacted throughout the analysis period, in this case April 1, 2019 through August 31, 2021, and meet a monthly minimum visit threshold. Additional data hygiene factors are applied to ensure consistent metric calculation.

The Salesforce holiday predictions are not indicative of the operational performance of Salesforce or its reported financial metrics including GMV growth and comparable customer GMV growth.

About Salesforce

Salesforce, the global CRM leader, empowers companies of every size and industry to digitally transform and create a 360° view of their customers. For more information about Salesforce (NYSE: CRM), visit:

Any unreleased services or features referenced in this or other press releases or public statements are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase Salesforce applications should make their purchase decisions based upon features that are currently available. Salesforce has headquarters in San Francisco, with offices in Europe and Asia, and trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "CRM." For more information please visit, or call 1-800-NO-SOFTWARE.


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