Companies innovate and introduce new products at neck-breaking speeds while consumers buy more products online. Yet traditional inflation reporting fails to take into consideration digital data and real-time price and product changes. Adobe (Nasdaq:ADBE) is addressing this with its monthly Digital Price Index (DPI), part of the company’s Digital Economy Project. Two economists – Austan Goolsbee, professor of economics at The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama, and Pete Klenow, professor, department of economics at Stanford University – have partnered with Adobe on the DPI.
Between February 2015 and February 2016 the DPI showed a deflation in prices for most consumer goods categories. Prices for TVs, computers, appliances, toys, furniture and bedding decreased between 2.5 and 20.3 percent. In comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only reported between 0.5 and 15 percent price deflation for the same categories and time period. For groceries, the DPI showed a slight inflation in prices with 0.8 percent while the BLS reported a decrease of 0.3 percent. In March 2016 prices for toys saw the largest non-holiday month-over-month (MoM) decrease (2.9 percent) in two years.
The DPI analyzes billions of digital transactions involving nearly 1.5 million products sold online, tracking digital transactions more accurately than any other current source. The official Consumer Price Index (CPI) compiled by the BLS, for instance, relies on consumer surveys to approximate the actual sales of each product category. The DPI uses transactional data on the actual quantities purchased for millions of products and captures the data in real-time. In addition to the DPI, the Digital Housing Index (DHI) reports adjustments in online housing searches, and the Job Seeking Index (JSI) measures shifts in online job seeking activity.
“The DPI captures real-time pricing data that has notoriously been impossible to measure, tracking 1.7 million consumer goods, in comparison to the CPI’s 83,000,” said Mickey Mericle, vice president, Data Insights at Adobe. “We’re able to identify online pricing trends quickly and accurately, which is vital in today’s digital age. The addition of toys, appliances and furniture is the first set of many new categories that will be added to the DPI bringing us one step closer to a combined, real-time inflation rate for the U.S. economy.”
“Adobe is filling a void with the DPI, providing real-time insights into people’s buying behaviors and price fluctuations of millions of products,” said Professor Goolsbee. “Economists have always wanted accurate inflation data that was based on data from actual transactions and the DPI provides it.”
“The DPI has several advantages over traditional inflation calculations, including Adobe’s tremendous volume of e-commerce data,” said Professor Klenow. “Expanding the DPI in March to encompass new consumer goods categories provides even more visibility into the digital economy. Though its category coverage is narrower than the CPI, Adobe has much more product depth per category – in the millions of products in the DPI overall vs. tens of thousands in the CPI.”
The DPI added new categories – appliances, toys and furniture – to its monthly analysis of retail goods. Latest findings include:
- Appliances: Prices for appliances in March decreased by 0.9 percent MoM with refrigerators and dishwashers seeing the most deflation. In February 2016 the DPI showed greater deflation YoY than the CPI (down 5.7 percent versus 2.7 percent, respectively). DPI appliance data is based on online transactions of approximately 110,000 products between March 2014 and March 2016. Products include large appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, washers and dryers, as well as small appliances such as vacuums, mixers and blenders.
- Toys: In March 2016 prices for toys saw a decline of 2.9 percent MoM. It is the largest non-holiday MoM decrease since March 2014. Between February 2015 and February 2016, the DPI shows prices for toys decreased 4.6 percent compared to the CPI’s report of 7.1 percent deflation. DPI data is based on online transactions for over 249,000 toys between March 2014 and March 2016, including toys, games and playground equipment.
- Furniture and Bedding: Furniture and bedding prices remained flat in March 2016 with a slight increase of 0.1 percent MoM, with prices for beds and mattresses seeing the highest increases. In February, prices dropped one percent versus January, in which the CPI reported 0.7 percent deflation. The DPI shows a 2.5 percent deflation for furniture and bedding YoY (February 2015 vs. February 2016) while the CPI reports deflation of just 0.5 percent. DPI data is based on online transactions of approximately 173,000 products between March 2014 and March 2016. Products include indoor and outdoor furniture, mattresses, sheets, pillows and other bedding products.
- Electronics: In March 2016, prices for electronics dropped 0.8 percent MoM, with computers and TVs seeing the most deflation. Prices for electronics fell 10.2 percent between February 2015 and February 2016. The CPI doesn’t break out electronics overall, but reports price deflation of 15.0 percent for TVs and 7.8 percent for computers during the same time period. In comparison, the DPI shows prices dropped by over five percentage points more (20.3 percent) for TVs and 12.8 percent for computers. DPI data is based on online transactions of one million electronics products between March 2014 and March 2016.
- Groceries (“Food at Home”): In March, prices dropped 0.5 percent MoM, with fruit, vegetables, non-alcoholic beverages and eggs seeing the most deflation. The DPI shows inflation of 0.8 percent YoY (February 2016 versus February 2015). For the same time period, the CPI reports 0.3 percent deflation for groceries. The DPI covers 30 to 40 percent of online grocery transactions for approximately 195,000 products between March 2015 and March 2016, and is heavily comprised of groceries purchased online and picked up in-store.
Job Seeking & Digital Housing Indices
- Job Seeking Index (JSI): Online job seeking is down 15.2 percent YoY in March. Over the same period, the BLS reported the (unadjusted) unemployment rate decreased by 8.9 percent (5.1 percent in 2016). Adobe’s data comes from the analysis of aggregated and anonymous data of one billion visits to U.S. job search websites and top U.S. employer career pages from March 2015 through March 2016. Adobe measures searches of 20 of the top 30 U.S. employers.**
- Digital Housing Index (DHI): Online search for purchases and rentals is up 15.7 percent YoY in March. Adobe’s data comes from the analysis of aggregated and anonymous data from more than two billion visits to U.S. housing search websites between March 2015 and March 2016.
Adobe is the first company to conduct a digital-centric analysis based on real-time access to price-paid data and actual quantities sold. Seven dollars and fifty cents out of every ten dollars spent online with the top 500 U.S. retailers go through Adobe Marketing Cloud.* The DPI is based on the analysis of aggregated and anonymous data of four billion U.S. website visits and 1.7 million products from February 2015 through March 2016.
Adobe Digital Index leverages the Fisher Ideal Price method, which uses actual quantities purchased to measure inflation and is recognized by leading economists as the gold standard for the calculation of inflation. No other organization can use the Fisher Ideal Price method today because they do not have enough data or sufficiently timely data to make these calculations. With the Fisher Ideal Price method, the DPI is able to take into account that online shoppers find better prices from a competing or substitute product if the price of an item suddenly increases. In addition, because the DPI measures quantities and does so in real-time, Adobe is able to accurately capture the effect of major discount holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
About Adobe Marketing Cloud
Adobe Marketing Cloud empowers companies to use big data to effectively reach and engage customers and prospects with highly personalized marketing content across devices and digital touch points. Eight tightly integrated Solutions offer marketers a complete set of marketing technologies that focus on analytics, web and app experience management and creation, testing and targeting, advertising, video, audience management, social engagement and campaign orchestration. The tie-in with Adobe Creative Cloud makes it easy to quickly activate creative assets across all marketing channels. Thousands of brands worldwide including two thirds of Fortune 50 companies rely on Adobe Marketing Cloud.
- Digital Economy Project Report
- Inaugural Digital Economy Announcement (March 16, 2016)
- Adobe Digital Index Portal on CMO.com
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