ECommerce Sales By Category and Merchant Size

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ECommerce Sales By Category and Merchant Size

Small companies dominate eCommerce in the US, with the top category revolving around fashion/apparel and travel (the latter most likely because it is a big-ticket item that is more likely to be bought than, say, automotive). The pandemic has also fueled a skyrocketing demand for categories like books, cleaning supplies, and outdoor equipment.

Detailed findings have been placed in the requested spreadsheet linked here. Additional perspectives that cannot be directly placed on the spreadsheet are also detailed below.

Additional Perspectives on the Breakdown of eCommerce Sales by Category in the US

  • According to another study by eMarketer, food and beverage eCommerce sales will be worth $23.65b in 2020. Of this, groceries will be 2.3%. This also allows us to pull out the percentage for personal care which was lumped together with food in the earlier finding.
  • According to JP Morgan, travel is a large category at 31.9%.
  • Another study was done by Pipecandy that segments eCommerce by the number of companies (vs. the market share) provides additional support to the fact that apparel is the largest category for eCommerce companies selling physical goods, as most companies in eCommerce provide this item.
  • For this breakdown, other categories of interest are lumped under "other". However, the team was able to triangulate some values. There were 26,392 companies in the same data set that sold food and beverages over eCommerce, or 9.26% of companies (26,932/284,956). 25,407 companies sold consumer electronics, electrical or electronics goods, and/or technology and computing items, or 8.91% of companies (25,407/284,956).
  • Looking forward, the pandemic has done much to shift the popularity of certain categories when it comes to eCommerce in the US. According to Rakuten, books have experienced the largest growth in eCommerce vs. the same period last year with a 295% jump, followed by cleaning supplies (235%) and sports and outdoor equipment (122%). More details can be found in the chart below.

Additional Perspectives on the Breakdown of eCommerce Sales by Company Size in the US

  • There is less information on segmenting the eCommerce market in terms of the size of the companies, most likely because of how quickly eCommerce moves- new sites are being launched every day, some from heavily established brick-and-mortar companies with strong followings, and companies can easily cross from one size bracket to another.
  • In general, though, it is incredibly difficult for a company to grow from scratch into a large eCommerce company. McKinsey found that less than 5% of e-commerce startups ever get to make $100m or more in revenue annually.


Research Strategy

To complete this research, the team looked at trade and industry websites, statistical data, and press releases. Where triangulation was needed, the team used the base size for the US eCommerce industry ($700b) established in the early findings to maintain consistency. Note that in the breakdown by category, several categories may overlap and sources may differ slightly, and so the sum may not add up to 100%.

The team validated that it would not be possible to triangulate merchant size using Pipecandy data, given that there was no available data on the average merchant size per category, or a way to approximate it with any certainty. For example, home goods could be sold by an Etsy store or by Wayfair, which are vastly different. However, the team was able to account for the remaining percentage of companies using an alternate route and discovering the contributions of other categories like travel, groceries, and other food.
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