$1 Trillion in E-Commerce: Tiny vs. Local Sales

EMarketer reported that e-commerce surpassed $1 trillion in 2012. This is a major milestone and a “psychologically” powerful number. Here are the charts reflecting the regional contributions to the overall estimate:

Ecommerce figures

The US is the largest individual market, coming in at $343 billion in 2012 and projected to reach $384 billion in 2013. By comparison total US retail sales for 2012 will probably be about $4.5 trillion (or so) when the final numbers come out for Q4. And there may be trillions more spent on local services, transportation and entertainment in the US each year.

According to US government figures, e-commerce has been growing steadily (about a percentage point per year) and was 5.2% of total US retail in Q3 (up from 4.3% in Q3 2011). EMarketer’s figures would make e-commerce a somewhat higher percentage (nearly 8%).

Standing between pure online and offline commerce is digital-influenced offline buying (which now includes mobile research). There have been various attempts to quantify and assign a dollar value to that phenomenon over the past few years. Recently I conducted a survey (n=1,125 US adults) on this question:

Which of the following best describes the way you typically shop and buy things?

  • Shop in stores and buy in stores — 34.8%
  • Buy in stores and online equally — 28.3%
  • Shop online and buy online — 15.8%
  • Shop online before buying in stores — 13%
  • Shop in stores but mainly buy online — 8.1%

If the question and answers were worded differently there might be somewhat different results. Nonetheless, only 13% said “shop online before buying in stores.” I was surprised that this number was relatively low. However, another nearly 28% said “buy in stores and online equally.” So we can probably conclude that at least 41% of respondents’ traditional purchases are sometimes if not regularly digitally influenced.

As big as e-commerce may be in real dollar terms it remains a tiny fraction of overall local spending (retail + services) in the US market.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed.

No Responses to “$1 Trillion in E-Commerce: Tiny vs. Local Sales”

  1. EveryBlock Shuts Down, Will Patch Be Next? says at

    […] projects and startups because there’s a solid logic to them: people live locally and spend money locally. However the fragmented nature of the Internet and the cost involved in building and scaling a […]

Leave a Reply