Retail is the process through which services and consumer goods, whether food, electronics or household items, are sold to customers through various channels of distribution. The most widespread and still the most profitable form of retail is shop-based, notwithstanding the size or location of the establishment, from small town mom–and–pop groceries to shopping-mall flagship stores. Due to the ubiquity of desktop and mobile computers and devices, as well as through the worldwide propagation of the internet, a new form of retail has emerged: e-commerce.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) electronic transactions, also known as online shopping, allow customers to browse products on internet pages of web-only retailers, such as Amazon, the leading United States e-retailer as of 2014 in terms of sales, as well as number of monthly visitors. Additionally, they can access web pages of retailers with both online and offline outlets, such as Wal-Mart, which is the most successful retailer in the United States, based on online and offline sales of over 334 billion U.S. dollars in 2013. The most popular category of products on the worldwide e-commerce market is consumer electronics, with 26 percent of total online sales.
Figures for the first quarter of 2015 show that e-commerce sales represent a 7 percent share of total retail sales in the United States, an increase from only a 4 percent share in the first quarter of 2010. Spending particularly spikes around the holiday season, with more than 53 million U.S. dollars having been spent on online shopping between November 1st and December 21st of 2014. An increasing amount of online shopping is done using mobile devices. In the fourth quarter of 2014, mobile e-commerce spending in the United States surpassed 10 billion U.S. dollars for the first time.