After a long day, how do most Americans unwind? Do they go out for a run? Meditate? Burn some lavender incense? Listen to smooth jazz? Heck no! That’s just what we write on our Tinder profiles. In reality, more than 50% of Americans deal with stress in a completely different way: retail therapy.
If our online shopping statistics are anything to go by, we are a nation of consumers. Buying things is practically an art in America, and we’re always hunting for sales, discounts, and better deals when we want to indulge our consumerist urges.
Typically, we see shopping as a fairly innocent activity, an opportunity to treat ourselves a little bit (we deserve it, right?). But how harmless is it really? As traditional stores move online and that hot new item we covet is only a few clicks away, our relationship with shopping is slowly changing. Here’s where we are right now.
Online Shopping Stats — Highlights
- 69% of Americans say they have purchased an item online.
- 56% of online shoppers prefer physical stores.
- 78% shop online because they don’t have to wait in line.
- 90% of shoppers prefer free shipping, even if items take longer to arrive.
- 67% of online shoppers report that they trust Amazon with their personal information.
- 87% of online shoppers believe social media plays a vital role in their shopping decisions.
- 11% of consumers say they frequently shop to improve their mood.
- 58% of compulsive shoppers are badly in debt.
General Online Sales Statistics
1. There are currently 224.1 million online shoppers in the United States.
And this number is expected to rise. By 2021, the USA can expect to have more than 230.5 million digital shoppers.
2. eCommerce transactions made up 10.2% of total sales in the first quarter of 2019.
(US Census Bureau)
Online shopping statistics from The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce show that online shopping is slowly becoming America’s modus operandi. This figure of 10.2% represents a 0.3% increase compared to Q4 figures from 2018. Compare these numbers to the figures from Q4 2014 and you’ll see that, back then, eCommerce represented only 6.6% of total sales.
3. 69% of Americans say they have purchased an item online.
Here are some more stats on online shopping that indicate just how popular it’s becoming: 43% of US residents claim they shop online regularly, with 25% of them doing it at least once a month, 16% of them doing it at least once a week, and 2% of them going out of their way to do it daily. Can you imagine? The practice is becoming so ingrained in our society that we don’t think twice about it anymore.
4. 56% of online shoppers prefer physical stores.
Just to set the record straight, even though Americans love eCommerce, brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. While going online might be convenient, nothing beats the personalized experience of physical stores. When you want to buy some new lipstick, you’ll go to your local mall because it’s so fun to swatch the colors on your hand and have the salesperson recommend a shade that’s just right for you. When you need new sneakers, you’ll want to try out several pairs and find the ones that can handle your high-intensity workouts. Getting to see, touch, and feel a product in person is one element of shopping that online stores can never hope to replace.
However, online shopping stats also show that 37% of shoppers stay true to online stores whenever they can. Some people simply don’t like buying things, and doing it online removes all those awkward interactions. There are no aggressive salespeople breathing down your neck and trying to convince you spend your hard-earned cash.
5. 54% of users access online stores through a desktop computer.
Online shopping usually takes place over a desktop computer, though mobile isn’t lagging too far behind, at 45%. Some users enjoy shopping through voice home assistants like Alexa. Even though that number is only 1% for now, this number is likely to grow as voice home assistant technology develops and becomes more popular.
According to statistics on online shopping, 18% of Americans own this kind of technology. Of those who do, 10% have used it to make an online purchase at least once.
6. China has the largest eCommerce market ($672 billion), followed by America ($340 billion).
It would appear that Americans are not the reigning kings of eCommerce — global online shopping statistics show that China takes the crown. Alibaba, the most popular Chinese online store, had over 552 million active online users in 2018, and the number just keeps growing. In global terms, it’s the only real competitor to Amazon.
Why do people buy online?
7. 39% of online shoppers say they choose online stores over brick-and-mortar because they’re faster.
So, why do people enjoy shopping online? Well, because it’s easy. With only a few clicks, you can grab everything you need, pay, then continue on with your day. Of course, while the process itself is quick and easy, you’ll still have to wait for your items to arrive. It’s really all about how fast you need something, and which part of the shopping experience you’d like to speed up. If you don’t want to bother driving all the way to the mall, then online stores are great. If you want to wear your new leather jacket right after you purchase it, then the store is your only choice.
8. 76% of people shop online because it’s cheaper.
Shopping online vs in store statistics say that prices play a big role in why people decide to purchase something online. It’s generally much easier to browse when you can simply open up a few different tabs and compare prices in peace knowing that online stores often offer better deals.
9. 78% of people shop online to avoid waiting in line.
Waiting always feels like a complete waste of time. It usually involves standing around listening to some middle-aged woman yelling at the poor store clerk and holding up the line as she demands to see the manager, while you curse silently and fantasize about being somewhere else. When you shop online, you can get the items you desire without other people getting in your way.
10. 88% of people like that they can shop day and night in online stores.
Online retail statistics indicate that the freedom to shop at their convenience is important to a lot of people. If you live a busy life and are used to your favorite stores closing before you can get off work, then the internet is a great solution. You can simply power up your computer and browse at your leisure without worrying about closing times.
11. 88% of people enjoy the ease with which they can find a product.
A few seconds with Google — that’s usually all you need to find exactly what you’re looking for. While in physical stores you often have to scour the whole mall (or several malls) to find something specific, in the online world all you need to do is type “pink tie-dye spring denim jacket with embroidered dog pictures on the back” and something is bound to pop right up.
12. For 39% of online shoppers, a free return policy greatly influences their decision to buy online.
A lot of people are heavily influenced by a good return policy. Compare this to the percentage of consumers (37%) who say it affects their purchases only a little and the percentage of online shoppers who say they don’t care at all (24%).
13. 90% of shoppers prefer free shipping, even if that means waiting longer for their items to arrive.
People love free shipping. Even though most of us (hopefully) understand that things take time and money to transport from one place to another, we hate paying for shipping. If there’s an option not to pay for it, we’ll jump at the opportunity.
This makes sense, but there’s one thing you should keep in mind: free shipping is never truly free. If a company gives you the option to purchase something without transport costs, then it means the cost of shipping is hidden in the price you pay for the item.
Amazon Online Shopping Stats
As the country’s biggest online retailer, Amazon is an essential part of the American shopping experience. We know you love this eCommerce titan as much as we do because, hey, it’s got everything. You can buy everyday items like books, toys, and clothes, or look for charmingly weird bric-a-brac like these nose-shaped pencil sharpeners, toe exercisers, and this incredible Nicolas Cage mermaid pillowcase, which is probably both the best and worst thing we’ve seen all day.
But while Amazon manages to be both useful and entertaining, it often encourages us to spend way more than we intend. Our next few stats will show you the kind of impact Amazon has on our shopping habits.
14. 63% of Americans have bought an item through Amazon.
More than half of all Americans have, at some point in their lives, used Amazon. Online shopping statistics show that of those people who prefer online shopping, 92% have used Amazon. There’s barely a soul in the country who hasn’t heard about the retail giant.
15. 44% of Americans have used Amazon Prime, with 30% having personal Prime memberships and 14% sharing the membership with someone else.
What’s not to love about free, same-day shipping? If you shop often, paying for a membership can be worth the price. But remember, Amazon Prime makes it very easy to enter the spiral of shopping addiction. If you get the membership, you might feel the need to shop all the time so it doesn’t go to waste. Since adding things to your cart and having them shipped to you immediately makes the process really easy, you might not think every purchase through as thoroughly as you should.
16. 67% of online shoppers say they trust Amazon with their personal information.
Contrast this with statistics on online shopping vs in store shopping, which indicate that people generally have no confidence in the way online retailers handle their personal information. It seems 52% of online shoppers don’t have very much, and 14% have absolutely no confidence that companies will keep their personal data secure.
So, why do we trust Amazon so much? Because the entire company’s success rests on the ability to keep your info safe, and a data leak would do untold damage to its reputation. Does that mean the trust is justified? Yes and no. Amazon hasn’t had any huge leaks so far, but bear in mind that it’s currently the target of an antitrust investigation, along with other big tech companies like Facebook and Google. These are all companies with a lot of power, and a certain level of caution is always advisable.
Influencers, Social Media, and Online Shopping Stats
What do people buy online and how is it advertised to them? Nowadays, for the most part, advertising takes place through social media. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are popular platforms, and one of the most effective ways to take advantage of them is by working with influencers. Let’s take a look at how companies like to market to us.
17. 40% of business owners use social media to generate sales.
Social media gives businesses a simple way to reach a lot of people. It’s easy to influence customers’ purchasing habits if you appear in their news feed every day. Most of us are practically married to our phones and computers nowadays, so we’re always exposed to this kind of marketing.
18. 87% of online shoppers believe social media plays a vital role in their shopping decisions.
(Social Media Today)
Online shopping growth statistics make it obvious that we know exactly what we’re signing up for. We’re aware that social media platforms are large marketplaces that companies use to push products our way, and for the most part, we’re more than fine with that. Targeted advertising means we get good recommendations about the things that interest us, but it also lets Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms track our internet habits every day.
19. 86% of women rely on social media for product recommendations.
(Digital Marketing Institute)
Female online shopping statistics show that women are particularly savvy when it comes to social media. They look to their favorite influencers to recommend skincare and makeup items, and they often read other people’s reviews to inform themselves before making a purchase.
20. 74% of consumers say there is a direct link between watching a video on social media and buying a product.
Give us something fun and brightly colored and you’ve got our attention. Online shopping stats indicate that consumers love entertaining videos that show us how to use the product in question. Not only is this practical; it also shows us what the product looks like in real life and lets us imagine what it would be like if we had it in our hands.
21. 70% of teens on YouTube feel closer to influencers than they do to regular celebrities.
(Think With Google)
Online personalities with their own small, niche followings can successfully market products to their fan base because, unlike major celebrities, their recommendations feel very personal. Millennials online shopping statistics show us that this generation is also fond of influencers — four in 10 believe that their favorite influencer understands them better than most of their friends.
All of this is, of course, completely understandable. A lot of us watch YouTube almost every day, and following the life of our favorite online creator and listening to their product reviews makes us feel closer to them. We know all there is to know about their life and we trust their recommendations. It’s almost like a real friendship in some strange way.
Of course, a relationship like this is never reciprocal. Influencers have no idea who we are, and reviewing products is a job that they’re paid to do. Some influencers are very honest and eager to help their followers make good purchasing decisions. Some, unfortunately, are not. Use your best judgement to figure out who to trust.
Shopping Addiction and Impulse Buy Statistics
And here we come to the darker side of shopping: addiction. We live in a culture that seeks instant gratification at every corner, and while there’s nothing wrong with wanting more material possessions, things can quickly get out of hand if left unchecked. There’s something dangerous about online shopping in particular. We’ve included this section to shed some light on the potential problems.
22. 31.7% consumers say they “almost always” or “frequently” buy things only because they’re on sale.
Online shopping statistics point out a major flaw in the average American consumer’s behavior. A lot of us buy things just because they’re on sale, regardless of whether or not we really need them. We think we’re saving money, but in reality, we usually end up overspending.
23. 18.1% of consumers say they often buy items that they don’t need or don’t intend to purchase when they start shopping.
Sometimes we don’t even need a sale as an excuse to waste cash. Online shopping makes it particularly difficult to limit ourselves to a single item in our cart. We keep adding more, hoping to spend enough to earn free shipping, and we’re distracted by flashy ads and product recommendations that assure us there’s another similar product that we’d love to have.
24. Almost 11% of consumers say they frequently shop to improve their mood.
Online shopping stats also show that 45% shop to improve their mood occasionally, compared to 44% who appear to have more restraint. And where’s the harm in grabbing a few new trinkets when you’re down in the dumps? There isn’t any, if you do it rarely. But if you start using the high you get from shopping to deal with bad moods or treat underlying psychological issues, then it’s likely to spin out of control pretty fast.