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eComm Continues Growth, But Leveling

Online Growth Still Outpaces Total Sales Climb

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In the fourth quarter of 2023, U.S. ecommerce sales reached a new quarterly high of $324.82 billion, marking a 7.2% increase from the same period in 2022, according to Digital Commerce 360's analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

This growth, although positive, represents the slowest fourth-quarter increase since the data was first collected in 2000, highlighting a deceleration in the pace of ecommerce expansion.

The slowing growth rate comes amidst a broader context of steady ecommerce performance throughout 2023, with online shopping accounting for a significant portion of total retail sales growth. Ecommerce sales for the year contributed to more than a fifth of total retail sales, which amounted to $1.380 trillion in Q4 2023. The year witnessed ecommerce making up between a third and half of the total retail sales growth each quarter, demonstrating the substantial role of online shopping in the retail sector's overall expansion.

Despite the deceleration, the ecommerce sector's performance in Q4 2023 still outpaced the growth of total retail sales, which increased by 3.5% year over year. This is in contrast to the 7.2% growth rate of ecommerce sales, indicating that online shopping continues to grow at a significantly faster rate than the retail sector as a whole.

This trend of ecommerce growth, although at a slower pace, is part of a broader shift in consumer behavior and economic factors. According to James Risley, research data manager and senior analyst at Digital Commerce 360, the steady growth throughout 2023 reflects a normalization of post-pandemic buying trends and cautious consumer spending amid economic uncertainties. However, online shopping deals and holiday spending contributed to keeping ecommerce growth buoyant as the year ended.

The overall ecommerce penetration also reached new heights in 2023. Digital Commerce 360's analysis reveals that ecommerce accounted for 22.0% of total retail sales, up from 21.2% in 2022, marking the largest U.S. ecommerce sales penetration to date. This growth signifies the increasing importance of ecommerce within the retail sector and consumers' growing preference for online shopping.

In summary, while ecommerce growth in Q4 2023 has slowed to its lowest rate for a fourth quarter since 2008, the sector continues to capture a larger share of the retail market. The record quarterly sales and increasing ecommerce penetration underscore the resilience and ongoing evolution of the ecommerce landscape in the face of economic headwinds and changing consumer behaviors.

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