In 2020, as the COVID-19 swept across the globe, the fundamental shifts in society engendered by the pandemic pushed e-commerce sales to unprecedented heights. Initially, during the onset of the crisis in March, most US states (and many municipalities) moved to slow the transmission of the virus by instructing retailers deemed to be “non-essential” to shutter outlets for weeks or more – a decision that forced many consumers to look online for products they would have otherwise simply picked up from the store at any other time.
One factor that restrained e-commerce sales growth in the US during 2021 was the increasing stress placed on global supply chains over the course of the year. With US consumer demand for goods of all kinds continuing to rise throughout the pandemic, the manufacturing capacity in China and other Asia Pacific markets increasingly struggled to keep pace.
Ever since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the annual rate of inflation within the US has remained very low, averaging only 1.5% per year between 2009 and 2020.
With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing e-commerce sales to unprecedented heights in the US in 2020, the rate of growth for online sales was bound to come back to earth at some point. Yet, in 2021, while sales growth through digital channels slowed, it remained relatively high by historic standards, as concerns about COVID-19 variants caused a significant proportion of consumers to remain hesitant to visit bricks-and-mortar stores.
Over the last two years, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping many US consumers from engaging with bricks-and-mortar retailing to anything like the same extent as they had in the past, many brands moved to digital platforms to connect with consumers virtually. These interactions ranged in level of sophistication from online consultations to building out capabilities using virtual technologies.
Homewares and home furnishing specialist e-tailer Wayfair was one of the big winners in US retailing in 2020. During the early days of the pandemic, as legacy homewares and home furnishing stores operators such as IKEA struggled to develop the omnichannel capabilities necessary to meet the surging demand for the online provision of goods – first through weeks of mandated store closures and then through months of consumer reluctance to visit physical outlets due to health and safety concerns – Wayfair capitalised tremendously on this opportunity.
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Sales of consumer goods to the general public via the Internet. Please note that this includes sales through mobile phones and tablets (i.e. m-commerce). E-commerce includes sales generated through pure e-commerce websites and through sites operated by store-based retailers. Sales data is attributed to the country where the consumer is based, rather than where the retailer is based. The definition of e-commerce is agnostic as to where actual payment takes place; if an order is initiated online, it is considered to be an e-commerce transaction, even if the order is ultimately paid for in-store (or elsewhere). As a result, all ‘click-and-collect’ and ‘collect-at-store’ transactions are counted as e-commerce sales. E-commerce excludes sales of: (a) Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales, although please note that sales between businesses and consumers (i.e. B2C sales) on sites such as eBay are included; (b) Sales of motor vehicles, motorcycles and vehicle parts; (c) Tickets for events (sports, music concerts, etc.) and travel; (d) Sales of travel and holiday packages; (e) Revenue generated by online gambling sites; (f) Returned products/unpaid invoices; and (h) Internet sales from direct selling companies, as these are tracked in Direct Selling market size/shares. Example e-commerce brands include Amazon.com, Zappos.com, Apple.com, iTunes, Rakuten, Tesco.com, Dell.com, Coles Online, etc. 3rd Party Merchant sales through online marketplaces, such as Amazon.com, eBay.com and Walmart.com, are included and split out in shares. 3rd party merchants are the summation of sales that come from businesses that are present on an online marketplace (e.g. Amazon, Alibaba). Marketplaces are websites that allow multiple merchants to sell on the marketplace website, with the marketplace operator processing the transactions, but many marketplaces provide offer other services as to help with shipping, handling, payment, and product storage. The marketplace is not the merchant of record legally, but for the sake of shares, sales from 3rd part merchants are attributed to the marketplace brand operator.See All of Our Definitions
This report originates from Passport, our E-Commerce (Goods) research and analysis database.
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