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The Rise Of E-Commerce In The United States

This chart shows e-Commerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales in the United States.

Over the past 20 years, e-commerce has steadily risen in size and reach. According to Statista’s Digital Market Outlook, roughly 230 million Americans will make an online purchase this year, spending a total of $474 billion. But how big is e-commerce really in the grand scheme of things? 

As the following chart, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows, the impact of online shopping on total retail sales in the United States is still smaller than many people might think. In the fourth quarter of 2017, e-commerce accounted for more than 10 percent of total retail sales for the first time ever, for the full year 2017 online sales accounted for roughly $9 of every $100 spent. 

While that doesn’t seem like a lot considering the perceived importance of e-commerce, it needs to be noted that total retail sales include categories such as motor vehicle and parts dealers, gas stations and of course grocery stores where e-commerce plays a very minor role. Excluding such categories, the market research firm comScore puts the share of e-commerce in consumer spending at almost 20 percent.

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