The Rockstar State of Ecommerce in 2020

Ecommerce in 2020 is like nothing we’ve seen before. Mainly attributed to the global Covid-19 pandemic (and subsequent store closures and stay-at-home orders), the state of ecommerce has risen sharply to new heights and soared past expectations. No one knows how long this will last, or if these new behaviors will become commonplace; however, we can look to predictions for a small glimpse into the rest of 2020 as we round out the year. 

Let’s explore the amazing data on ecommerce spending, and then peek into the crystal ball to see what may be ahead for the holiday season.

Ecommerce Skyrockets in 2020

The U.S. Department of Commerce data shows online consumer spending was up 30.1 percent in the first two quarters of 2020, compared with the same time period in 2019. The majority of this occurred in the second quarter, which began shortly after the pandemic forced people to stay home, work from home, exercise from home, and even learn from home. 



Adobe Analytics attributes an extra $107 billion in online sales to the pandemic, beginning in March. Later in the year, U.S. online sales increased 42 percent year over year in August, a slight decline from the high in July, which was 55 percent year over year. Interestingly, smartphone sales generated 40 percent of online sales so far in 2020, even though people have been turning away from their phones while spending more time at home. 

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BOPIS Sales Lead the Way

BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) sales have been even more impressive, up a whopping 259 percent year over year in August. Purchases are driven by the convenience and speed of buying and acquiring products the same day, frequently referred to as click-and-collect transactions. Shipping delays from online retailers also motivated consumers to purchase from brick-and-mortar locations, where they didn’t have to wait for deliveries or wonder when they would arrive in the first place.



Note: While BOPIS isn’t a purely ecommerce experience since consumers pick up products from the store, it’s still considered a digital commerce transaction with payment occurring online.

Highs and Lows in Certain Categories

While consumer online spending has increased dramatically over 2020, the activity looks different across categories. For example, apparel experienced a boost in digital purchases in May, but has been declining every month since then. 



On the other hand, categories like electronics and groceries have seen increased spending in August, with consumers spending more on grocery bills since the beginning of the pandemic.



The Holiday Effect on the State of Ecommerce

While the expectations for holiday spending are low in general (Deloitte forecasts it to be only 1-1.5 percent compared to the same time last year), ecommerce holiday sales are expected to surge by 25-35 percent year over year from November 2020 through January 2021. That number was 14.7 percent from November 2019 through January 2020. In total, digital commerce is expected to generate between $182-196 billion this holiday season, according to the same Deloitte survey.

The growing numbers are driven by consumers’ preference to buy online rather than in brick-and-mortar stores. A recent poll reveals 71 percent of U.S. adults plan to do more than half of their holiday shopping online this year.



The Big Outlook for Ecommerce in 2020

According to eMarketer, ecommerce is poised to grow 18 percent, following a 14.9 percent gain in 2019. Driven by new consumer behaviors on both personal and professional levels, digital purchases are rising in ways we didn’t even expect at the onset of 2020. Nowadays, consumers are more comfortable purchasing products online and either having them delivered or picking them up on their own, rather than spending time scouring the aisles of brick-and-mortar stores. It remains to be seen whether these same buyers prefer to maintain these new methods of shopping or return to business as usual once life returns to the way we once knew it—or some version of that.

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About the Author

Rob SandersRob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience. During that time, Rob has helped a wide range of companies utilize new and emerging technologies to increase sales and profitability. As founder of RSO Consulting, Rob helps clients maximize their digital marketing efforts via SEO, SEM, SMO, and Web Analytics. He is responsible for many facets of the web analytics value chain, from identifying business goals and objectives to developing strategies and translating those into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rob also teaches digital marketing and analytics classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. As a contributor for Simplilearn, Rob creates expert thought leadership content on a variety of digital marketing and analytics topics.

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