At the end of 2019, no one could have predicted the trends that would emerge in U.S. retail during 2020. From the panic-induced hoarding of toilet paper in March to a slew of bankruptcies among department stores like JCPenney when in-store shopping plummeted, COVID-19 shook the retail sector.
But even as brick and mortar retailers, restaurants, and other in-person venues struggled to survive, e-commerce flourished. According to McKinsey, the U.S. saw 10 years of digital commerce adoption in just a three month period in 2020. Mega e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay saw impressive growth, and the holiday shopping season did not disappoint.
An e-commerce sales forecast released by Digital Commerce 360 projected that e-commerce sales will exceed $839 billion by the end of 2020, marking a staggering 40.3% growth from 2019’s $598 billion; this is the highest year-over-year (YOY) e-commerce growth the U.S. has seen in over 20 years. Much of this growth can be attributed to the fact that e-commerce is capturing a larger portion of retail sales than in previous years: online sales will account for 21% of total retail sales, up from just 15.8% in 2019.
Specific e-commerce trends, including Buy Online, Pick-Up In Store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, and grocery delivery, all saw their own gains in adoption this year. In a recent PaymentsJournal article, Raymond Pucci, Director of Merchant Services at Mercator Advisory Group explained that “[t]he convenience and immediacy of e-commerce has never been so stark for consumers, whether it’s for in-store pickup, curbside pickup, or delivery.”
In a separate article, Pucci noted that “BOPIS is here to stay and represents another e-commerce trend that has been accelerated due to COVID-19.”
Additionally, millions of consumers who were previously resistant to online shopping have signed up with e-commerce sites. While some will revert to in-store shopping post-COVID, many who have since become accustomed to shopping online will continue to do so when the pandemic ends.
The shift to e-commerce was very apparent this holiday season. Holiday shoppers spent $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday, which is over 15% higher than 2019’s Cyber Monday sales. Online shopping also rose nearly 22% YOY for both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
While it’s impossible to say for sure exactly what the 2021 retail landscape will look like, one thing is clear: a good portion of the unprecedented growth in e-commerce is here to stay.