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2023: The year of AI gift-giving and other holiday shopping trends

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December 13, 2023
Photo Illustration by Stacker // Canva

This story originally appeared on Flowcode and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

2023: The year of AI gift-giving and other holiday shopping trends

Retailers have high hopes for this year's holiday shopping season.

National Retail Federation projections anticipate people in the U.S. will spend between $957 billion and $967 billion at retail companies in November and December, about 3% to 4% more than last year. On average, NRF reports Americans plan to spend about $875 on holiday preparations, including gifts, decorations, cards, candy, and food.

Though inflation has cooled, prices are still significantly higher than they were a couple of years ago. That, among economic uncertainty and fears of a recession, a well-established comfortability with online shopping, and continually advancing technologies will shape this year's holiday shopping season.

Flowcode analyzed holiday shopping forecasts and surveys from Salesforce, NRF, Intuit QuickBooks, and others to identify a few major trends for 2023.

Online shopping

Nearly 3 in 5 people celebrating winter holidays in the U.S. plan to make some holiday purchases online, according to an NRF report. What's more, a QuickBooks survey shows about 3 in 10 plan to shop primarily or exclusively online.

Online shopping became ubiquitous nationwide during COVID-19 pandemic-era restrictions, establishing it as the norm for many new consumers. Though people now can—and do—shop in person, those routines hold firm.

In October, online retail sales were up 7.6% from a year earlier, Census Bureau data shows. That compares to about 3.5% growth among overall retail (excluding cars, parts, and gas). So far in 2023, about $1 of every $5 spent in retail has been online.

With those figures leading into the season, Salesforce projects that online holiday sales in the U.S. will reach $273 billion this year.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence chatbots such as ChatGPT have dominated the news cycle in 2023. ChatGPT experienced historically fast growth, adding 100 million monthly users in its first two months. As of August, the platform had 180.5 million unique users, though traffic and usage on the site had begun to fall as the craze died down.

According to a Salesforce survey published in August, a small but mighty 17% of shoppers have used a generative AI like ChatGPT to brainstorm shopping ideas. As the holidays approach and people struggle to figure out what to give others on increasingly tight budgets, that share could rise.

An Insights/HostingAdvice survey conducted in October showed that nearly a third of Americans plan to use generative AI to find holiday gifts this year—most commonly, millennials. For some, the technology may replace Google searching this year, as gift-givers can provide more detailed information on the interests of the people they're buying presents for and their specific budget.

On the sellers' side, Salesforce expects that AI-powered customer experiences like promos and customer service will drive $194 billion in online holiday spending nationwide.


When a paycheck can't stretch as far, discounts are king. About 4 in 10 shoppers planned to start holiday shopping before November to spread their budgets out and get certain deals, according to NRF. Nearly half plan to shop at discount stores, and about 13% say they will be thrifting this holiday season.

Black Friday and Cyber Week are staple discount events this time of year: Salesforce projects about a quarter of digital holiday sales will occur during Cyber Week, and the best deals will include discounts of around 29%. Combining forces with technology and AI, shoppers will also use search engine extensions, chatbots, or basic searches to find deals.

Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.

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