Report: U.S. E-commerce Will Rise 18% in 2020 Due to Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is fueling online sales, according to new data from eMarketer.

The research firm predicts a 10.5% decline in total U.S. retail sales this year, with a 14% drop in brick-and-mortar sales. In February, the research firm projected growth of 2.8% to $5.6 trillion in total domestic retail sales.

The one bright spot: E-commerce is set to grow 18% this year following a 14.9% uptick in 2019.

“E-commerce sales have been driven by a surge in click-and-collect, specifically curbside pickup, allowing U.S. consumers to make immediate purchases while minimizing human contact,” Alexandra Samet with eMarketer wrote in a post. “We now expect U.S. click-and-collect e-commerce sales to grow to $58.52 billion, up 60.4% from our initial forecast of 38.6% growth.”

Samet said the 18% growth forecast for e-commerce reflects a notable increase in both the number of digital buyers and the average spending per buyer. She said the gains reflect the pandemic’s impact on new buyers joining the online retail space, including 12.2% growth for those ages 65 and older.

“In a pandemic economy, consumers have gravitated toward trusted and reliable retailers,” Samet wrote. “As a result, we can expect the top 10 e-commerce retail businesses [i.e. Amazon, Walmart] to grow at above average rates (21.8%).

Some of the extreme channel-shifting in Q2 2020 will subside over the course of the year as stores reopen and lockdowns end countrywide, according to eMarketer. However, certain behaviors like click-and-collect and curbside pickup will persist, indicating a long-term trajectory of e-commerce growth.

“Walmart’s accelerating e-commerce growth will take it to the No. 2 position for the first time,” Samet wrote.

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