2020’s Biggest US Forecasting Shocks

A Year of Recalculations Brought About by COVID-19

Executive Summary

Throughout 2020, we reevaluated many of our forecasts to produce more accurate projections that accounted for the pandemic. Examining the difference between what we thought in February 2020 vs. what we think now reveals an intriguing new set of metrics.

Which of our US forecasts shifted the most in absolute terms?

Retail ecommerce sales: Our forecast shifted up by $119.62 billion, now reaching $794.50 billion in 2020 instead of $674.88 billion as originally forecast prior to the pandemic. On the flip side, our US brick-and-mortar (or non-ecommerce) retail sales forecast is now $234.50 billion less than it was before the pandemic, declining from $4.946 trillion to $4.711 trillion. US retail is so large that any shifts within it dwarf our other forecasts in absolute terms.

Which digital services will see the most unexpected increases in US users?

We now forecast that 189.0 million US adults will participate in digital banking this year, an unexpected additional uptick of 22.8 million people compared with our pre-pandemic forecast. Similarly, TikTok will gain an additional 20.5 million US users compared with our first projection, and our US mobile proximity payment users forecast is 17.6 million users higher than expected.

Which digital time spent forecasts increased the most dramatically between the earlier estimates and the latest estimates?

Adults in the US will spend an average of 64 more minutes with media per day in 2020 than we thought they would. Within this, users will spend almost 26 additional minutes per day on their smartphones compared with our earlier expectations. Also, nearly 20 extra minutes per day will be spent with subscription over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix and Disney+.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? Included are highlights of those US forecasts that we revised most significantly due to COVID-19. Nearly every forecast we produce was affected, but some significantly more than others.

Here’s what’s in the full report


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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. The US Forecasts Most Heavily Disrupted by COVID-19
  3. Selected Highlights of Our Biggest Forecasting Changes
  4. Digital Users
  1. Time Spent with Digital
  2. Ad Spending
  3. Ecommerce and Overall Commerce
  4. Key Takeaways
  1. Read Next
  2. Media Gallery

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Ethan Cramer-Flood


Cindy Liu
Senior Forecasting Analyst

"Behind the Numbers" Podcast