As the COVID-19 pandemic forced many brick-and-mortar stores to close in 2020, U.S. e-commerce saw its highest year-over growth since 2002.
According to the “Forrester 2021 Online U.S. Retail Forecast,” U.S. e-commerce grew 30% in 2020. Across 28 of the 30 categories in Forrester’s online retail forecast, online category growth in 2020 significantly outpaced 2019.
Forrester data indicates that online food and drink grew more than twice as fast as e-commerce overall in 2020, and the popularity of click-and-collect and curbside pickup means 10% of food and drink purchases will occur online by 2024.
Despite strong e-commerce growth, Forrester predicts that stores will continue to capture most retail sales by 2024, including 71% of all U.S. retail sales and 64% of U.S. non-food-and-drink sales. Forrester expects that retailers will focus on reconfiguring store networks, clarifying store online sales attribution, promoting COVID-safe retail practices, and improving online margins for food and drink.
Among major online stores and marketplaces, Amazon and eBay seemed to have particular benefited from the pandemic-driven increase in e-commerce during 2020. Eighty percent of surveyed U.S. online adults who purchase products said they had purchased from Amazon in the past three months in 2020, up 18% from 68% who said they had in 2019. eBay showed 11% year-over-year growth in percentage of respondents who had made a purchase in the past three months (29% from 26%).
Platforms such as Etsy (10% from 8%), Facebook Marketplace (8% from 7%), and Newegg (3% from 2%) had similarly high year-over-year growth rates but much lower overall rates of usage. In 2020, online marketplaces drove 10% of total U.S. retail sales and 57% of total U.S. e-commerce sales.
Amazon also proved itself as a dominant source of product information for consumers during 2020. When asked what resources they used when researching purchases across different product categories in 2020, 40% of surveyed online adults said they used Amazon for small appliance purchases, compared to 19% who looked at the product in-store. Discrepancies in favor of Amazon occurred in responses for product categories including toys and games (39% vs. 14%), home décor (30% vs. 25%), and clothing and accessories (21% vs. 17%).
Interestingly, the store was more frequently used than Amazon to research products in the categories of beauty and cosmetics (21% vs. 20%), pets (21% vs. 18%), and beverages (15% vs. 7%).