The digital revolution has been rewiring retail for years. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this transition as e-commerce became the default setting for many homebound consumers. The crisis-inspired surge in e-commerce is leading to a permanent shift in retail, creating new challenges as well as new opportunities for retailers and consumer brands alike. This report explores those opportunities and challenges in North America.
After briefly ceding the crown to the Asia Pacific region, a pandemic-driven surge in digital sales has once again made North America the global leader – across all regions – in terms of the percentage of goods bought online across the total retail sector.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, North America witnessed a massive increase in e-commerce spending in 2020, much of which was driven by consumers shifting a portion of their grocery spending from store-based to digital channels.
Across North America, consumers across all age groups reported making more purchases online in 2020 than they had in the previous year, including consumers aged 60+. Those in the 30-44 age group reported the highest rate of digital purchases, with those in the 15-29 age group reporting the highest rate of mobile purchases.
In North America, the adoption and expansion of kerbside pick-up service by omnichannel retailers was one of the principal sources of e-commerce sales growth in 2020. Kerbside pick-up looks set to continue to boost digital sales going forward, as consumers appreciate the convenience and time-savings the service model provides.
According to Euromonitor International’s E-commerce Readiness Model, the consumer electronics industry in North America stands out for its untapped potential for digital sales gains that would not require any infrastructure expansion based on market dynamics entering the pandemic.
Looking to the forecast period, Euromonitor International expects that sales of apparel and footwear products will account for a greater share of e-commerce absolute value sales growth in North America between 2020 and 2025 than any other product category.
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