US e-commerce reached market share levels it would have only gotten to in 2022. According to the Department of Commerce, e-commerce represented 13.4% of total retail spending in Q1 2021. Before the pandemic, it was expected to be 12.3%.
The year of growth from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021 was going to happen over two years instead. The pandemic pulled it forward by one year. A much smaller step change than severe lockdowns and store closures would have suggested.
Early in the pandemic, decreased overall retail spending resulted in a much greater e-commerce penetration figure. By now retail spending has recovered, and thus the figure is now more representative.
In 2021 and beyond, e-commerce penetration will not shrink and instead continue to grow from the current level. After reaching nearly $800 billion in sales in 2020, it will surpass $1 trillion as early as 2022 - a figure that wouldn’t have been achieved at least until 2024.
E-commerce was on a steady rise for over a decade. The pandemic brought a step change that pulled forward growth by one year, but it didn’t accelerate growth beyond that or otherwise fundamentally change e-commerce’s role in retail. It is back to a steady rise for the upcoming quarters.