Over the past 20 years, e-commerce
has steadily risen in size and reach. According to Statista’s Digital Market Outlook
, roughly 270 million Americans will make an online purchase this year, spending a total of $548 billion. But how big is e-commerce really in the grand scheme of things?
As the following chart, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows, the impact of online shopping on total retail sales in the United States is still smaller than many people might think. In the fourth quarter of 2018, e-commerce accounted for 11.2 percent of total retail sales, the highest share ever and just the second time it reached double digits.
While that doesn’t seem like a lot considering the perceived importance of e-commerce, it needs to be noted that total retail sales include categories such as motor vehicle and parts dealers, gas stations and of course grocery stores where e-commerce plays a very minor role. Excluding such categories, the market research firm comScore puts the share of e-commerce in consumer spending at almost 20 percent.