Ecommerce penetration is holding steady, suggesting that the digital-shopping habits of the pandemic may be the new normal even as stores have reopened.

U.S. ecommerce sales in the first quarter of 2023 hit $253.1 billion. That’s an 8% rise from $234.4 billion in the comparable quarter of 2022, according to a analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce figures released May 18.



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Those first-quarter sales figures suggest 2023 could be another record-setting year for ecommerce. In February, reported that total 2022 ecommerce sales reached $1.03 trillion — the first time ecommerce revenue had topped the $1 trillion level.

Ecommerce penetration was steady at 21.7% in Q1 2023 compared to 21.2% in the year-earlier quarter, according to a analysis of the Commerce Department data.

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While the record online sales spikes of the pandemic have faded, quarterly ecommerce sales have continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace.

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In 2021 and 2022, ecommerce had its slowest share of total retail growth on record for two consecutive years. That’s an indication that offline sales are catching up with digital commerce after COVID lockdowns.

How do we calculate ecommerce penetration? 

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 and 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 an internet, extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other online system. The customer may or may not make the payment online. The Commerce Department publishes estimates it has adjusted 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.

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