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Retail industry advertising in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The retail industry is one of the main drivers of economic growth in the United States, contributing trillions of U.S. dollars to annual GDP and supporting millions of jobs nationwide. In 2020, U.S. retail sales amounted to 4.89 trillion U.S. dollars, and while this figure dropped by approximately 10 percent due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the industry is forecast to see a swift recovery as consumers regain purchasing power and confidence. Home to some of the most valuable retail brands worldwide, the United States is also a distinctly competitive retail landscape. With conglomerates such as Amazon, The Home Depot, and Walmart competing for consumer interest and dollars alike, it comes as no surprise that advertising has become an indispensable tool.

Retail advertising and e-commerce

In the first quarter of 2021, retail industry ad spend in the U.S. reached an estimated 2.73 billion U.S dollars, marking a 33 percent dip on the previous quarter. On the other side of the coin, digital ad spend of U.S. retailers increased by three percent in 2020, and while this figure could not measure up to pre-pandemic growth levels, it still outperformed all other verticals. Retail remains the industry with the highest digital ad spend in the country, thanks to companies’ quick embrace of e-commerce and other dynamic changes in consumer behavior. In 2020, when consumers switched from in-store to online shopping, and e-commerce sales accounted for 15 percent of U.S. retail spending, marketers allocated a record 17.3 billion U.S. dollars towards e-commerce promotion. Retail brands increasingly recognize the benefits of targeting users on these platforms, which is why retail e-commerce ad spend will continue to surge in the future.

Amazon dominates U.S. retail advertising

Amazon has been the retailer with the highest advertising spending in the United States for several years, accounting for almost 90 percent of retail media ad spend in early 2021. Back in 2019, Amazon’s U.S. ad spend surpassed 6.88 billion U.S. dollars, which was more than Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and Kohl’s spent on advertising collectively. Thanks to its vast portfolio of retail goods and its impressive global user count, Amazon has also become an attractive digital advertising platform for other brands and companies. Over 70 percent of retail brands who sell on Amazon also use the website for advertising purposes, and in 2021, Amazon’s U.S. ad revenue is forecast to reach a record 20 billion U.S. dollars. While the company still takes the largest slice of the retail advertising pie, companies such as Walmart are growing their market share more rapidly than ever.


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