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US Online Shopping market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Online Shopping market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Definition

This Report covers online-only retailers and the online operations of brick and mortar retailers and is inclusive of all online purchasing, whether made via a computer, tablet, smartphone, or other device. The focus of this Report is on tangible objects that need to be picked up or delivered; digital media, travel, entertainment, insurance policies, and other intangible products are not the main subjects of this Report.

This Report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Online Shopping – US, June 2017, Online and Mobile Shopping – US, September 2016 and Online Shopping – US, June 2015.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Diana Smith, a leading analyst in the Retail & Apparel sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

While purchases made online comprise a small portion of total retail sales, e-commerce continues to grow at staggering rates with no end in sight. Even many retailers that are struggling overall report their e-commerce business as a bright spot. Consumers value the convenience and (often) favorable prices digital shopping brings, but by the same token, are growing increasingly impatient with paying shipping costs and waiting on deliveries. Most consumers do a majority of their purchasing in a store as opposed to online, but the online channel is akin to a second skin for most of these shoppers, playing a major part of the increasingly complex path to purchase, regardless of category. Diana Smith
Associate Director - Retail & Apparel

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Overview
          • The issues
            • Onward and upward
              • Figure 1: Total US online retail sales and fan chart forecast, at current prices, 2012-22
            • Still less than 10%
              • Figure 2: Percentage of total purchases online, March 2018
            • Old habits die young
              • Figure 3: Barriers to purchase, March 2018
            • Price can break old habits
              • Figure 4: Price-related attitudes and behaviors toward online shopping, March 2018
            • Grocery lags behind
              • Figure 5: Categories purchased online, March 2018
            • The opportunities
              • Increase shopping frequency among average online shoppers
                • Figure 6: Online shopping frequency, March 2018
              • Hone mobile and voice strategies
                • Figure 7: Attitudes and behaviors related to mobile and voice-command devices, March 2018
              • Consider the store’s role in the path to purchase
                • Figure 8: Role of online and stores in purchase journey, March 2018
              • What it means
              • The Market – What You Need to Know

                • E-commerce represents less than 10% of total retail
                  • Apparel sales quickly shift online
                    • M-commerce boosts total e-commerce
                      • Blurred lines between physical and digital
                        • Digital natives will comprise a larger portion of US
                        • Market Size and Forecast

                          • Despite nearly doubling in the past six years, online sales comprise less than 10% of total retail
                            • Figure 9: Total US retail sales and online sales, at current prices, 2012-17
                          • Online sales set to double from 2017-22
                            • Figure 10: Total US online retail sales and fan chart forecast, at current prices, 2012-22
                            • Figure 11: Total US online retail sales and forecast, at current prices, 2012-22
                        • Market Breakdown

                          • Apparel and accessories leads ecommerce sales
                            • Figure 12: E-commerce sales by type of products, 2012 and 2017^
                          • E-commerce growth fueled by mobile
                            • Figure 13: M-commerce’s percentage of total e-commerce sales, 2018-22
                            • Figure 14: Devices used, March 2018
                          • Mobile sites favored over apps
                          • Market Perspective

                            • Most shopping is not done online
                              • Figure 15: Percentage of total purchases online, March 2018
                            • Blending of physical and digital
                              • Figure 16: Attitudes and opinions toward online shopping, October 2016-November 2017
                              • Figure 17: Online shopping behaviors and preferences in relation to in-store, March 2018
                          • Market Factors

                            • Nearly everyone shops online
                              • Figure 18: Population aged 18 or older, by age, 2013-23
                            • Smartphones gain universal appeal
                              • Figure 19: Mobile device ownership, by age, June 2017
                            • Parents shop more online, but households with kids on the decline
                              • More ways to jump online
                                • Figure 20: Personal and household technology ownership, June 2017
                                • Figure 21: Devices used for digital activities, December 2017
                              • Broadband reaches capacity while US household growth slows
                                • Figure 22: Household internet service provider subscriptions, November 2012-17
                                • Figure 23: Household internet service provider subscriptions, by household income, October 2016-November 2017
                              • Higher income generally correlates with higher levels of online engagement
                                • Figure 24: Median household income, in inflation-adjusted dollars, 2006-16
                              • Social media platforms becoming more shoppable
                                • Figure 25: Product research and purchases on social media, by gender and age, February 2018
                            • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                              • Amazon…and then everyone else
                                • Online grocery shopping lags behind
                                  • Voice commerce emerges
                                    • Off to the fulfillment races
                                    • What’s Working?

                                      • No end in sight for Amazon…
                                        • Figure 26: Top 10 online retailers, 2017
                                        • Figure 27: Percentage of online purchases on Amazon, by repertoire of online shopping frequency, March 2017
                                        • Figure 28: Use of Amazon and Google when shopping, by age, December 2017
                                        • Figure 29: Percentage of online purchases on Amazon prime membership and intent to renew, March 2017
                                      • …but it’s not all about Amazon
                                        • Figure 30: Top 20 retailers with highest 5-year CAGR, 2017
                                      • What’s driving growth?
                                        • Figure 31: Chewy postcard mailer, April 2017
                                    • What’s Struggling?

                                      • Select bookstores, department stores and office supply stores see losses
                                        • Figure 32: Top 20 retailers showing biggest sales decreases, 2017
                                      • Online grocery still not mainstream
                                      • What’s Next?

                                        • Shopping with your voice
                                          • Figure 33: Online shopping behavior related to voice command ordering, by select demographics, March 2018
                                        • Augmented reality gets a little bigger
                                          • Beauty
                                            • Furniture
                                              • Apparel
                                                • Figure 34: Zara’s augmented reality experience, e-mail, April 2018
                                              • Future of fulfillment is fast and furious
                                                • More create-your-own holidays?
                                                  • Figure 35: Wayfair’s Way Day promotional e-mail, April 2018
                                                  • Figure 36: Overstock.com spring black friday e-mail, April 2018
                                              • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                • Three quarters of consumers are average to heavy online shoppers
                                                  • More savings, more time
                                                    • Physical stores preferred out of habit, to see products
                                                      • Marketing doesn’t end with the purchase
                                                        • Working with the store, not against it
                                                        • Online Shopping Frequency

                                                          • Finding the shopping moments
                                                            • Figure 37: Online shopping frequency, March 2018
                                                          • A closer look at the online shoppers
                                                            • Figure 38: Repertoire of online shopping frequency, March 2018
                                                          • Heavy online shopper profile
                                                            • Figure 39: Heavy online shopper profile, March 2018
                                                          • Light to non-online shopper profile
                                                            • Figure 40: Light to non-online shopper profile, March 2018
                                                          • Average online shopper profile
                                                          • Categories Purchased Online

                                                            • Apparel and electronics top categories purchased online
                                                              • Figure 41: Categories purchased online, March 2018
                                                            • Over a third of men are buying personal care, household goods online
                                                              • Figure 42: Categories purchased online, by gender and age, March 2018
                                                            • Rural shoppers in line with suburbanites and urban dwellers
                                                              • Figure 43: Categories purchased online, by Area, March 2018
                                                          • Purchase Drivers

                                                            • What drives a consumer to shop online instead of in-store?
                                                              • Figure 44: Purchase drivers, March 2018
                                                              • Figure 45: Purchase drivers, by repertoire of online shopping frequency, March 2018
                                                            • Convenience and savings remain universal drivers regardless of category
                                                              • Figure 46: Purchase drivers, by category, March 2018
                                                          • Path to Purchase

                                                            • Consumers compare prices and read customer reviews before buying
                                                              • Figure 47: Pre-purchase process, March 2018
                                                            • Everyone appreciates a good deal
                                                              • Figure 48: Pre-purchase process related to price savings, by household income, March 2018
                                                            • Social media provides inspiration for young buyers
                                                              • Figure 49: Pre-purchase process related to social media, by gender and age, March 2018
                                                            • Showrooming still occurring
                                                              • Figure 50: Percentage who visit a store before buying online, by age and repertoire of online shopping frequency, March 2018
                                                            • More involved categories equate to longer path to purchase
                                                              • Figure 51: Pre-purchase process, by category – Part one, March 2018
                                                              • Figure 52: Pre-purchase process, by category – Part two, March 2018
                                                          • Barriers to Purchase

                                                            • Why wait, when you can get it now in the store?
                                                              • Figure 53: Barriers to purchase, March 2018
                                                              • Figure 54: Barriers to purchase, by repertoire of online shopping frequency, March 2018
                                                            • Barriers can vary by category
                                                              • Figure 55: Barriers to purchase, by category, March 2018
                                                          • Opportunities for Retailers and Brands

                                                              • Define mobile moments
                                                                • Make items shoppable through social media
                                                                  • Figure 56: Online shopping behavior related to social media, by gender and age, March 2018
                                                                • Become more personalized and personable
                                                                  • Figure 57: Online shopping attitudes related to personalization, by select demographics, March 2018
                                                                • Maintain transparency, especially at checkout
                                                                  • Figure 58: Online shopping behaviors related to price transparency at checkout, by household income, March 2018
                                                                • Test tactics to lure cart abandoners back
                                                                  • Figure 59: Online shopping behaviors related to cart abandonment, March 2018
                                                                • Simplify the returns process
                                                                  • Consider reordering and/or subscription services
                                                                    • Figure 60: Online shopping attitudes related to reordering, by parental status/age of child, March 2018
                                                                    • Figure 61: Online shopping attitudes related to online subscription services, by household income, March 2018
                                                                  • Enhance product descriptions and images
                                                                    • Improve integration across devices
                                                                      • Figure 62: Online shopping attitudes related to cross-device integration, by age, March 2018
                                                                  • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                    • Data sources
                                                                      • Sales data
                                                                        • Fan chart forecast
                                                                          • Consumer survey data
                                                                            • Direct marketing creative
                                                                              • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                • Abbreviations
                                                                                  • Terms
                                                                                  • Appendix – The Market

                                                                                      • Figure 63: Total US online retail sales and forecast, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2012-22
                                                                                      • Figure 64: E-commerce sales by type of products, 2012-17
                                                                                      • Figure 65: Number of households, 2007-17
                                                                                      • Figure 66: Households, by presence of related children, 2007-17
                                                                                      • Figure 67: Disposable Personal Income change from previous period, January 2012-February 2018
                                                                                  • Appendix – Key Players

                                                                                      • Figure 68: Overstock.com spring black friday e-mail campaign results, April 2018
                                                                                  • Appendix – The Consumer

                                                                                      • Figure 69: Attitudes and opinions toward online shopping, October 2016-November 2017
                                                                                      • Figure 70: Time spent online at home, October 2017-November 2017
                                                                                      • Figure 71: Average online shopper profile, March 2018
                                                                                      • Figure 72: Categories purchased online, November 2012-17
                                                                                      • Figure 73: Websites ordered from, October 2016-November 2017
                                                                                      • Figure 74: Online home delivery subscription service, by household income, October 2016-November 2017
                                                                                      • Figure 75: Online activities, October 2016 – November 2017