The decade of the 2010s was bookended by two crises with major implications for online retailing. As the decade began, the world was emerging from the financial crisis of 2008-09, a recession that swept away weaker retailers and opened the door for online-focused newcomers. A decade later, the COVID-19 pandemic that hit North America in early 2020 could have even more far-reaching consequences.
Even before the coronavirus hit, the shift to online shopping had been the big retail story of the past decade, and that continued in 2019. Across North America, ecommerce accounted for 51.2% of all retail growth, as online sales grew by 15.1% and total retail sales increased by only 3.5%.
In the United States, online sales represent 16.0% of total retail sales when excluding items rarely purchased online, such as motor vehicles and gasoline. From 2010-19, total online retail sales in the U.S. increased at a compound annual growth rate of 15.1% versus 3.9% for total retail sales. That accounts for the growth in ecommerce penetration of U.S. retail sales from 6.4% in 2010 to 16.0% in 2019.
North America’s leading online retailers—those ranked in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000—increased their online sales by a 17.2% compound annual growth rate for the decade, increasing their share of U.S. online retail sales from 78.4% 2010 to 91.9% in 2019. in 2018.