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E-commerce in the United States

E-commerce

Internet access
The U.S. is among the leading countries in terms of internet technology and penetration. It is estimated that about 89% of the total U.S. population has access to the internet (versus 74% ten years ago). For some demographic groups – such as young adults, college graduates and those from high-income households – internet usage is almost universal (Pew Research Center, 2018). Today, roughly three-quarters of American adults have broadband internet service at home, however the adoption of traditional broadband service has slowed in recent years, also because a growing share of Americans now use smartphones as their primary means of online access at home. In fact, about 95% of Americans now own a device, with the share of those owning smartphones at 77%. Along with smartphones, nearly three quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly 50% own tablet computers and around 20% own e-reader devices. The most popular web search engines in the U.S. are led by the market leader Google, which generated 63.4% of all core search queries in 2017, followed by Bing (23.7%) and Oath (formerly known as Yahoo), with a market share of 11.9%.
E-commerce market
Since 2011 the U.S. online retail growth has accelerated and in 2017 the e-commerce represented 13% of total retail sales and 49% of the growth of the retail sector as a whole. Consumers in the US spent US$ 453.4 billion online for retail purchases in 2017, a 16% increase compared with US$ 391 billion in 2016 (data from U.S. Commerce Department). While the top two e-commerce companies - Amazon and eBay - are for the most part online-only retailers, 60% of the biggest e-commerce players are multichannel, with a majority of sales occurring in-store (Walmart, etc.). Other major online stores include Apple, Home Depot, Best Buy and Macy’s. Electronics & media is currently the leading product category in America, followed by toys, hobby & DIY. Americans are increasingly using their smartphones to browse and make purchases: it is estimated that mobile shopping represents 40.3% of total e-commerce traffic (Adobe Analytics).
E-commerce sales and customers
There are currently 203.96 million e-commerce users in the U.S., with an additional 26 million users expected to be shopping online by 2021 (eshopworld). Amazon is responsible for an outsized proportion of total online sales, with a turnover forecasted to reach USD 258 billion in 2018 (equal to 49.1% of all e-commerce retail spend in the country, and 5% of all retail sales (e-Marketer). When Amazon’s sales are combined with e-commerce sales from eBay and Walmart - the next two companies on the list - they represent almost 5% of total retail sales in the US. It is estimated that 95% of Americans shop online at least once a year, with about 30% shopping online weekly. Online shopping is more common in younger generations, with respectively 67% and 56% of Millennials and Generation X that claim to prefer to search and purchase on e-commerce sites rather than in store (the ratio being 41% for “baby boomers” and 28% for seniors). The top three most influential factors in determining where Americans shop are price (87%), shipping cost and speed (80%) and discount offers (71%). Almost a quarter of online shoppers (23%) are influenced by social media recommendations/reviews. Oddly, one in five Americans have accidentally bought something they didn’t want. Credit cards remain the preferred online payment method (56%), while 25% of American shoppers prefer to use PayPal for their transactions. Debit cards and vouchers/promo codes have a lower share (10% and 7% respectively).
Social media
Today around seven-in-ten Americans use social media, compared to 26% in 2008 (Pew Research Center, 2018). While young adults were among the earliest social media adopters, nowadays the share of users aged 50-64 has increased and is estimated to have reached 64%. Facebook is the most-widely used of the major social media platforms across all type of age groups, with 214 million users. Smaller numbers of Americans use social media such as Instagram (77.6 million), Pinterest (75 million), LinkedIn (133 million) and Twitter (67 million). YouTube is also very popular (180 million users), while instant messaging apps like WhatsApp are less common (around 20 million). For many users, social media is part of their daily routine: around 75% of Facebook users – and around 60% of Instagram users – access these platforms at least once a day.

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Latest Update: June 2022

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