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Inflation update: Online prices are going up—and these items just saw the highest hikes

The Adobe Digital Price Index tracks 100 million different online products, then breaks the findings down monthly into 18 categories.

Inflation update: Online prices are going up—and these items just saw the highest hikes
[Source Images: the_burtons/Getty]

The prices you’ll find shopping online continue their climb skyward. A steady increase has occurred since COVID-19 hit, as many Amazon frequent shoppers can attest. But in Adobe’s latest Digital Price Index, released today, the month of November set a new record for online inflation—just in time for prime shopping season.

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The Adobe Digital Price Index is similar to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI), only it’s specifically a snapshot of how much U.S. consumers are paying for stuff online. It tracks 100 million different online products, then breaks the findings down monthly into 18 categories, from electronics, apparel, and appliances, to toys, groceries, and office supplies.

For the newest index covering November, prices were higher in 11 of those 18 categories compared to last year, marking a record-high 3.5% overall increase.

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Prices were expected to rise some this holiday season, but 3.5% was “a more substantial increase than we had anticipated,” Adobe tells Fast Company, adding that e-commerce is traditionally a place distinguished by “persistent deflation” (“As the old adage went, consumers could generally ‘get it cheaper online'”), but this points to “the continued impact of the underlying issues.”

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“Ongoing supply-chain constraints and durable consumer demand have underpinned the record-high inflation in e-commerce,” says Adobe’s VP of growth marketing and insights Patrick Brown. He notes it’s still cheaper right now to shop online for some things like toys, computers, and sporting goods. Maybe don’t expect deals on clothes, though.

Apparel prices jumped the most in November—by 17.3%. This marks eight consecutive months that online apparel prices have risen by 9% or more. Since Adobe started tracking online prices in 2014, it’s never seen a upward trend like this. Only three other months have ever recorded jumps this high in apparel prices (August 2016, January 2020, February 2020).

Grocery prices are also up—by 3.9% since last year, and 0.6% since the previous month, October. That should come as no surprise at this point, and Adobe also notes the year-over-year prices for online groceries have climbed every month for the past 22 months, which mirrors changes we’re seeing in the CPI for what people are paying in physical stores.

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Of course, this season is normally marked by mega-deals that bring prices down. But even in categories known for big discounts, Adobe’s data suggests the deals this year aren’t great. Electronics prices are only down by 0.4%, a drop it says compares poorly to the historical average (9.1%). It adds that for the 2021 Cyber Monday deals, consumers saw price drops in the 12% range for TVs, cellphones, and other electronics, versus the usual discount of more like 27%.

Because of all the supply-chain problems, Adobe also took a peek at what items were in and out of stock. For November, it says online shoppers encountered more than 3 billion out-of-stock messages, many of them in apparel. But it says consumer demand remained very strong regardless: Americans spent $114 billion last month, which represents a 13.6% jump from 2020.

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