US e-commerce Q1 sales rise, but penetration is flat

US ecommerce sales in the first quarter of 2023 hit $253.1 billion. That’s an 8% rise from $234.4 billion in the comparable quarter of 2022, according to a Digital Commerce 360 ​​analysis of US Department of Commerce figures released May 18.


Those first-quarter sales figures suggest 2023 could be another record-setting year for e-commerce. In February, Digital Commerce 360 ​​reported that a total of 2022 ecommerce sales reached $1.03 trillion — the first time ecommerce revenue had topped the $1 trillion level.

Ecommerce penetration was steady at 21.7% in Q1 2023 compared to 21.2% in the year-earlier quarter, according to a Digital Commerce 360 ​​analysis of the Commerce Department data.

While the record for online sales spikes of the pandemic has faded, quarterly e-commerce sales have continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace.

In 2021 and 2022, ecommerce had its slowest share of total retail growth on record for two consecutive years. That’s an indication that offline sales are catching up with digital commerce after the COVID lockdowns.

How do we calculate e-commerce penetration?

Digital Commerce 360 ​​studies non-seasonally adjusted Commerce Department data and excludes spending in segments that don’t typically sell online.

These segments include:

  • restaurants
  • bars
  • Automobile dealers
  • Gas stations and fuel dealers

US ecommerce penetration reflects the share of dollars consumers could potentially spend online.

The Commerce Department defines e-commerce sales as the sales of goods and services where an order is placed by the buyer or price and terms of sales are negotiated over an internet, extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other online system . The customer may or may not make the payment online. The Commerce Department publishes estimates it has adjusted for seasonal variations and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes.

Percentage changes may not align exactly with dollar figures due to rounding.

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