The press has reported some key data trends suggesting that e-commerce has turned a corner in the recent holiday shopping season. It may have crossed a threshold from being a small, fast-growing sector of the market to something else. The implication is that it has matured into a leading factor in marketing channels now and is poised to become even more powerful in the future.
The discussion has a sort of inevitability about it. Powerful technological changes have been unleashed and will lead toward greater shopping and purchases in Internet channels, such as more sales revenue via e-commerce and relatively less in bricks-and-mortar retail channels. The world of shopping as we’ve known it could disappear—another casualty of digital disruption.
This is all quite plausible. There’s not a stream of data or anecdotal stories that support a halt to e-commerce growth and a return to bricks-and-mortar. However, the way these technological changes occur is not necessarily a simple linear path. Understanding how the digital evolution is impacting e-commerce requires going underneath the high-level trends and considering other development paths that digitization may bring.
What can the trend data reveal about this possible future scenario? What other types of information should be looked at to understand how the trends may evolve? What should marketers be on the lookout for in order to better adapt to coming changes and take advantage?
At the macro level in the U.S., e-commerce has accounted for a relatively small portion of overall retail sales, about 6 to 7%, over the last few years, and it’s predicted to grow to 9% by 2018, according to eMarketer. This strong upward trend in growth has been evident for a decade, starting from a very low base.