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ECommerce Trends: Only 3% of Organizations Don’t Have AI Plans

Quick take: Salesforce Commerce Cloud analysis of holiday shopping activity finds that  discounts and AI were key to winning over shoppers in the 2023 holiday season as they continue to seek value and personalization. The just-released State of Commerce report shows how sellers are embracing new transaction channels, payment types, and AI.

The 2023 holiday shopping season saw the highest average discount rate since 2020 and an increase in AI-influenced purchases. Based on the digital shopping activity of over 1.5 billion shoppers across Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud, Salesforce found that consumers’ decision to buy during this holiday season was driven by value alongside individually tailored engagements and offers.

  • Global online sales reached $1.17 trillion during the holiday season (November and December), up 3% year over year (YoY). U.S. online sales reached $272 billion.
  • Growth in the U.S. was essentially flat YoY (1%) and Europe grew 6%. 
  • The global average discount rate across the entire holiday season was 21%, the highest it’s been since the start of the pandemic.
  • Over 17% of all holiday orders were influenced by AI in November and December, equaling $199 billion. Cyber Week alone saw $51 billion in online sales influenced by AI.

Consumer shopping behavior and expectations throughout the holiday season, particularly the higher demand for value in both the prices and experiences offered to them, give a glimpse into what to expect across the commerce industry in 2024. As businesses look to continue to drive greater personalization, revenue, and customer loyalty beyond the holiday season, they’re zeroing in on the following key areas that are poised for growth.

Commerce stands at the cusp of mass AI adoption

Only 3% of commerce organizations have no AI plans, although adoption is nascent. Nearly one-third (29%) of teams have fully implemented AI in their workflows so far, and that group reports notable benefits to internal processes and productivity. In fact, commerce professionals using AI credit the technology with an average time savings of 6.4 hours per week.

Commerce organizations across industries vary in AI adoption, with automotive leading the way in full implementation (42% of organizations) and media and communications trailing behind (23% of organizations).

Even if most commerce organizations haven’t fully embraced AI, the majority are poised to in the near future. Forty-eight percent are experimenting with AI, and 20% are evaluating how it will fit into their operations.

Ecommerce is increasingly everywhere

Even before the rising popularity of AI, ecommerce was in the midst of a revolution as channels multiplied. No longer limited to web or a mobile app, transactions now occur across a myriad of owned and third-party channels. Case in point: A recent study of the retail sector found that 59% of shoppers have completed a transaction over social media — a meteoric rise from the 15% who reported having done so in 2021. During the 2023 holiday season, Salesforce data shows that 10% of all traffic to digital storefronts came from social media. 

Cross-functional commerce touchpoints — known collectively as “embedded commerce” — are proliferating. Sizable pluralities, if not outright majorities, of companies have implemented such capabilities across sales, customer service, and social media touchpoints, among others.

Organizations with embedded commerce capabilities generate an estimated 41% of transactions through such channels.”

Customer service channels are emerging as particularly significant in embedded commerce strategies. Twenty-nine percent of commerce professionals report that customer service drives substantial incremental revenue. 

Digital wallets surge as a payment of choice

In addition to expanding where they shop, customers are changing how they pay. No payment method exemplifies these changing behaviors more than digital wallets — a broad category that includes Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay, among others. 

Digital wallets remained popular throughout the holiday season, with usage growing 54% during the months of November and December compared to the same time period last year. 

64% of organizations now accept Apple Pay — up from 54% in 2022.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud data shows a sharp increase in the amount of transactions taking place through digital wallets that is continuing over quarters as other payment types including PayPal, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services, and bank transfers see downticks.

Standing in contrast to digital wallets’ rise is the flatlining of cryptocurrency — a payment type whose popularity was soaring as recently as 2022, but whose adoption rates have since stalled. 

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All Wrapped Up

Salesforce analyzed buying activity of over 1.5 billion B2C and B2B shoppers across 64 countries occurring in November and December 2023 on websites operating on Salesforce Commerce Cloud.. To qualify for inclusion in this analysis, sites were required to meet a monthly minimum visit and order threshold. Additional data hygiene factors were applied to ensure consistent metric calculation. 

State of Commerce

Salesforce conducted a double-blind survey of 2,700 professionals in ecommerce, customer service, information technology, marketing, operations, and sales/business development roles whose job duties include ecommerce strategy and execution. Data was collected between October 6 and November 8, 2023. Respondents were sourced from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Additionally, Salesforce analyzed buying activity of over 1.5 billion B2C and B2B shoppers across 64 countries occurring between Q4 2022 through Q3 2023 on websites operating on Salesforce Commerce Cloud. To qualify for inclusion in this analysis, sites were required to meet a monthly minimum visit and order threshold. Additional data hygiene factors were applied to ensure consistent metric calculation.


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