For centuries, commerce followed the same basic principles: companies would purchase goods from producers (foreign or domestic) – or would produce the goods themselves – and then display them in any sort of market for the consumers so that they can choose what they want to buy.


After the Internet was born, the world had changed and has never been the same since. Now, in the middle of the digital revolution, everything is changing at a pace faster than ever before. The digital transformation was of the hottest trends of 2018, and it will certainly be for years to come as well.


In the center of this revolution also dwells of our most primary needs: shopping. We have to purchase goods, products, to satisfy our wants and needs. We live in an age of speed, and time seems to wrap and contract more and more.


In this environment, online retail was born. Since we no longer have enough time to go to stores, e-commerce seems the obvious alternative.


In 1995, only 0.4% of the world population actually had an Internet connection, which meant around 16 million people. In 2018, more than 55% of the world population has Internet access. That’s close to 4 billion people. In 1995, the total online sales were only $131 million, whereas 23 years later, we’re on the verge of reaching 2.8 trillion dollars.


Thanksgiving – a holiday originally brought to the New World by English pilgrims in the 17th century – now marks the start of the real Holiday Season sales. If in 2017, the Holiday Season sales reached $43.5 billion, this year (Nov. 1 – Nov. 25) surpassed all expectations and reached a whopping $50.62 billion. This is even greater than the forecasts, which were around $49.5 billion.


This year also marks also a new all-time record for Black Friday online spending: 6.22 billion dollars, compared to $5.03 billion in 2017.


On Thanksgiving, US shoppers spent around 3,7 billion dollars, nearly $900 mil. more than last year’s $2,87 billion. The 28% increase from the previous year might not mean that much alone, but coupled with the 31.8% increase in sales from the day before Thanksgiving ($2.38 billion), the 23% increase for Black Friday, and the 29% increase on Veterans’ Day, it represents a consistent increase throughout all the major discount days.


If we analyze the chart showing desktop US retail e-commerce sales growth in the United States from 2002 till 2017 (*the most recent year data is available for), we see an impressive increase year on year.


If in 2002 retail online sales were only 42 billion dollars, last year marks an impressive milestone of over 335 billion dollars. The growth rate was growing also year on year, with a small hiatus during the financial crisis, from 2007 to 2010.

Smartphone buying is a lot newer than desktop e-commerce, and a comparison with anything that happened more than a decade ago is not that relevant. However, if we look at overall retail from the past 3 years, we definitely see a notable increase for mobile.


The forecasts predict that e-commerce retail will surpass 504 billion dollars this year, and will get to 612 billion dollars by 2020 and to $700 billion by 2022. In 2016, overall e-commerce retail sales (desktop, smartphone, and tablet) reached 390.515 billion dollars, which means that mobile sales represented almost 100 billion dollars.


In 2017, smartphone sales already went over the $100 billion barrier and got to more than 110 billion dollars.


Opportunities for the analytics industry

The incredible growth potential of the e-commerce industry, the transition to mobile and the dire need of traditional retailers to establish an online presence are all amazing opportunities for 2019 for the analytics industry.


The growth potential alone means that the traffic will increase, and more and more users will adopt e-commerce as their primary way of shopping. If we look at the forecasts, we can already envision the oceans of data that will have to be monitored, analyzed, curated.


This is only the start since everything is cascading: in order to analyze that data, companies will need proper tracking installed and good analytics implementation in place. This requires analysts, engineers, developers, data viz experts and so on.


Check below a Timeline we created to see how e-commerce evolved. Maybe you’ll find the next big hit.

About the author

Sebastian Stan

Sebastian is a journalist and digital strategist with years of experience in the news industry, social media, content creation and management, and digital analytics.

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