Despite the reopening of physical retail stores, double-digit commerce gains appear permanent. Adobe’s latest Digital Economy Index report, reflecting online buying in April and May, found digital shopping activity exceeded holiday 2019 by 7%, and posted a whopping $52 billion increase from April and May a year ago.
Responding to these trends, more small merchants are pushing further into digital commerce. And both Amazon and Walmart are wooing them.
Credit and distribution for SMB sellers. Amazon is offering up to $1 million lines of credit to its SMB sellers through a new, but still unannounced partnership with Goldman Sachs. Rival Walmart announced a partnership with Shopify, which will provide Shopify SMB sellers access to 120 million Walmart.com monthly visitors through the Walmart marketplace. The retailer said it expected to add 1,200 Shopify sellers this year.
The moves signal intensifying competition among top-tier online marketplaces as more retail spending shifts online. In addition to Amazon and Walmart, the combatants are eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy and numerous others. However, the top global marketplaces, in terms of gross merchandise value, are in China.
BOPIS transactions have declined as stores reopen
Currently, the value of U.S. e-commerce is between 12% and 16% of overall retail spending (roughly $600 billion in 2019), depending on the source. The percentage has been higher during the lockdowns, while stores haven’t been open. And it’s quite possible that during holiday 2020, digital commerce could reach 20% or more of total U.S. retail spending. This growth might have taken years to accomplish in the absence of the coronavirus outbreak.
BOPIS flattening but still up 195%. Still, as stores reopen, location analytics data show that consumers are slowly going back to physical retail. Adobe reported that buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) had begun to “plateau.” BOPIS growth in May was 195% year over year, which was down from its April peak of more than 200%. A companion consumer survey conducted by Adobe found that “23% of online consumers prefer using buy online, pick-up in store or curbside over delivery.”
Although many troubled traditional retailers will ultimately fail, those retail brands that can better integrate online and offline data and experiences will be in the strongest position vs. their pure-play competitors (save Amazon). As a case-in-point, Walmart e-commerce sales beat eBay, for the first time, in May according to eMarketer data. The latter has been the historical number two online marketplace
Finally, Adobe found that smartphones increased their share of online sales in May to nearly 40% of all e-commerce revenue. Somewhat surprisingly, the company said “new consumers who are shopping online for the first time are doing so from their smartphones.”
Why we care. The center of gravity in retail is shifting online. Even though offline sales will continue to dominate, the focus of retailers’ — especially large retailers’ — efforts will increasingly be online, where the growth story is. Consumers are becoming more agnostic about where they buy, provided there’s trust and confidence in the source. And among online marketplaces and sellers, only Amazon beats the leading names in traditional retail. But real-time inventory and local stores will remain a competitive advantage if well managed and well-executed.
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