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Online shoppers take a breather in February, Signifyd ecommerce data shows

Read “The State of Commerce 2023” report

“The State of Commerce 2023” report

Cover of Signifyd's State of Commerce 2023 report

Online spending growth in February was muted compared to a year ago, but one ray of light emerged, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data.

Grocery spending was up annually, as it has been for months partly due to rising grocery prices. But in February, the 22% year-over-year increase appeared to be fueled by more shoppers buying more online, rather than by higher prices. Along with increased spending, shoppers placed significantly more online orders — up 29% over February 2023 — while including roughly as many items in each order. The easing grocery inflation continued a year-over-year trend that has been ongoing.

The good grocery news was also reflected in government data on consumer prices, which was released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Online grocery shopping is seeing a resurgence

On top of consumers making more digital trips to the grocery store, more consumers overall were relying on online orders to do their grocery shopping compared to a year ago, according to Signifyd data. 

A Signifyd analysis of purchases showed a 15% increase in unique digital wallets making purchases in February — suggesting that roughly 15% more people started buying groceries online compared to a year ago. 

As for online shopping overall, ecommerce sales in North America were up 3% over a year ago, according to Signifyd data, with impressive growth in the grocery and electronics categories offset by a steep decline in the apparel vertical. 

While growth is growth, the 3% figure was overshadowed by a surprising holiday season that saw spending up 7% year over year, including an 11% boost in December and a 7% increase in January.


February ecommerce sales — 2024 vs. 2023

Apparel & fashion -15%
Grocery  +22%
Auto, parts & tires +3%
Beauty & cosmetics  +1%
Electronics +11%
Home goods  0%
Leisure & outdoor  -3%
All verticals  +3%


 Consumers chill after red-hot spending over the holiday season 

The February slowdown could be a sign that consumers are taking a breath after leaning on credit cards, discounts and buy now pay later plans to make holiday dreams come true. Nonetheless, most major categories finished February in positive territory compared to a year ago — just not in extremely positive territory. 

Electronics sales were up 11% from last February, notable for a month that featured the Super Bowl and often sees a bounce in the sales of devices with screens. This year’s version of the football extravaganza attracted a record 123.4 million viewers — an audience figure that hadn’t assembled for a single show since 1969 when old-school networks broadcast Apollo 11 landing humans on the moon for the first time. 

Apparel sales had a tough month 

Auto, parts and tires spending was up 3% in February; home goods sales were flat; beauty and cosmetics rose 1% over last year.

On the flip side, apparel plunged 15% year over year after being down 2% in January. Leisure and outdoor sales dropped 3% from a year ago and home goods were flat.

One other signal in a time of mixed economic messages: The use of gift cards to make purchases was up 27% in February over a year ago, similar to the trend in January when their use rose 33%.

We speculated last month that the rise could be the result of heavy gift card giving during the 2023 holiday season, spurred by gift-givers with set spending limits in the face of inflation. Rather than spend $65 in December for a wallet that cost $50 during the 2023 season, a shopper might opt for a $50 gift card that gets a loved one most of the way there. 

Tales from the dark side: Ecommerce fraud rises

Fraud and consumer abuse continued to flourish in February. Fraud pressure — a measure of the rise and fall of orders identified by Signifyd as risky and likely fraudulent  — increased 18% last month. Meanwhile, consumer abuse — for instance, false claims that a package never arrived or that it was unsatisfactory when it did arrive — rose 11%, a slight bump over January’s 6% year-over-year increase. 

Photo by Getty Images

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Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].