What distinguished e-commerce winners and losers during the pandemic?
The novel coronavirus pandemic gave e-commerce adoption an unprecedented boost and brought huge sales increases to some retailers. New data suggests, however, that retailers of all sizes did not benefit equally from the e-commerce boom.
The biggest retailers in the U.S. including Amazon.com, Walmart and Target received the majority of the windfall from the public’s pandemic-era e-commerce habits, according to a study by Digital Commerce 360, reported on Inc.
The research found that the top 500 companies generated $849.5 billion in online sales in 2020, a 45.3 percent increase year-over-year and the biggest jump since Digital Commerce 360 began tracking the statistic in 2006. While retailers of all sizes did benefit from online sales, new customers largely turned to familiar, big brands, allowing those retail enterprises to take share from smaller operators. Crafting company Joann represented the fastest growing online business of the Digital Commerce 360’s top 500.
Even among the top 500, the top 100 largest companies grew at a rate greater than that of the whole, according to an analysis of the report. In 2019 the opposite was true, with the bottom 100 registering the fastest growth and the top 100 growing the slowest. In 2020, the top 10 grew even faster than the top 100.
While the Inc. article refers to larger brands succeeding in part due to their ability to more adequately manage shipping and supply chain issues throughout the pandemic, this was not the case at every point during the pandemic.
In March of 2020, e-commerce’s biggest player, Amazon, ran into problems fulfilling orders on time. Long waits and order cancellations became common, and for a time during the pandemic’s first U.S. wave the e-tailer stopped fulfilling orders for items deemed “non-essential” entirely.
There were also instances of big businesses booming due to their facilitating small business successes.
Etsy, for example, was anticipated to perform poorly during the pandemic at the outset, but due to a sudden public need for cloth masks ended up experiencing a tripling of its stock value by June. While the company numbered among Digital Commerce 360’s top 500 in 2015, as a marketplace its success comes from facilitating access to smaller sellers.
- Online Sales Exploded in 2020–But Mostly For Retail Giants – Inc.
- Meet the 500 largest online retailers in North America – Digital Commerce 360
- Is Amazon facing a crossroads with the coronavirus pandemic? – RetailWire
- Etsy’s stock jumps to record, tripling in three months on surge in face mask sales – CNBC
- Amazon preps an Etsy-like marketplace – Digital Commerce 360
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What factors have created winners and losers during the months since the pandemic hit the U.S.? How do losers go about crossing over into the winners column more than a year in?