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Although Q4 2023 ecommerce sales growth is still positive, it is the slowest (positive) fourth-quarter growth to date, according to Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data.

Quarterly U.S. ecommerce sales reached a record $324.82 billion by the end of 2023, according to Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data. That’s 7.2% growth over Q4 2022, according to Digital Commerce 360 data.

In Q4 2023, U.S. ecommerce sales accounted for 23.5% — or more than a fifth — of total retail sales. Meanwhile, total retail sales in Q4 reached $1.380 trillion, Digital Commerce 360 analysis revealed.

2023’s quarterly ecommerce sales growth has been “remarkably steady,” said James Risley, research data manager and senior analyst at Digital Commerce 360. Each quarter in 2023, U.S. ecommerce made up between a third and half of total retail sales growth.

“Q4 caps off a steady year for U.S. ecommerce growth as post-pandemic buying trends normalize,” Risley said. “With consumers frustrated and confused by the economic outlook, spending growth remained low. However, online shopping deals and holiday spending helped keep ecommerce growth up to finish off the year strong.”

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US ecommerce sales continue to grow in Q4 2023

As was the case for each quarter of 2023, ecommerce sales in the U.S. grew at a faster rate than total sales in Q4.

In Q4 2023, U.S. online sales grew at more than double the rate of total sales. Ecommerce sales grew 7.2% year over year, whereas total retail grew 3.5%.

Compared to both the prior quarter and the prior year’s Q4, ecommerce sales slowed in Q4 2023. In Q3 2023, U.S. ecommerce sales grew 7.8%. That’s closer to the growth rate in Q4 2022 (7.7%).

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Q4 2023 marks the slowest fourth-quarter ecommerce sales growth in the U.S. since 2008, when Q4 online sales decreased 6.1% year over year as a result of the Great Recession. Although Q4 2023 ecommerce sales growth is still positive, it is the slowest (positive) fourth-quarter growth to date, according to Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data. The department’s ecommerce data goes back to the year 2000.

On the other hand, total retail sales growth increased quarter over quarter to 3.5% from 3.2% in Q3 2023. That 3.5% growth is still slower than the previous Q3’s growth (5.0% in 2022).

Along with Q4, 2023 as a whole reached a new record for U.S. ecommerce sales. In addition, the online penetration of total sales also marked a new high.

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How is ecommerce penetration calculated? 

Including all retail and food-service sales, U.S. ecommerce accounted for 15.6% of total sales in Q4 2023, according to the Commerce Department. Unadjusted figures show U.S. ecommerce sales represented 17.1% of total sales, the Commerce Department said. It estimates total U.S. ecommerce sales for the full year surpassed $1.118 trillion.

Digital Commerce 360 studies non-seasonally adjusted commerce department data and excludes spending in segments that don’t typically sell online. These segments include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Automobile dealers
  • Gas stations
  • Fuel dealers

U.S. ecommerce penetration reflects the share of dollars consumers could potentially spend online.

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The Commerce Department defines ecommerce sales as the sales of goods and services where an order is placed by the buyer or price and terms of sales are negotiated over:

  • Internet
  • Extranet
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network
  • Electronic mail
  • Other online system

Payment may or may not be made online. The Commerce Department publishes estimates it adjusts for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes.

Percentage changes may not align exactly with dollar figures due to rounding. Here’s last quarter’s update.

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