In 2021, US total retail sales (excluding automotive and gasoline sales) reached a record high of $4.3 trillion, driven by US consumers’ accumulated savings in 2020 and the stimulus checks that they received from the government. By 2027, Forrester expects total US retail sales to reach $5.5 trillion and US online retail sales to reach $1.6 trillion. We expect online retail sales to grow at a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years to account for 30% of the market by 2027. In 2022, Forrester expects US online retail sales to exceed $1 trillion.

Let us take a quick look at the online retail sales growth trends:

  • In pre-COVID years (2019 and earlier), online retail sales grew faster than offline retail sales. As a result, online penetration (which is the percentage of online retail sales out of total retail sales) continued to increase over the years.
  • In 2020, online retail sales grew at more than double the growth rate of 2019. The lockdowns forced consumers to make more of their purchases online. The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated consumer adoption of click-and-collect sales (which includes both BOPIS — buy online, pick up in store — and curbside pickup). Click-and-collect sales added to the growth of online retail sales.
  • In 2021, that growth shifted from online to offline channels. As stores reopened and COVID restrictions were lifted, consumers flocked to stores. As a result, US offline retail sales (which primarily consist of store-based retail sales) saw record-breaking year-over-year growth of 14%. We have not seen growth that high for offline retail sales in the last 25 years. If 2020 was a breakout year for US online retail sales, 2021 was a breakout year for US offline retail sales.
  • From 2022 onward, we expect online retail sales growth rates to settle back at pre-COVID levels. The fundamental growth drivers of online retail — lower prices, greater product selection, faster delivery, and increased transaction convenience — will continue.

Our newly published 2022 Online Retail Forecast, US, provides insights about total US retail sales, online retail sales, and the online retail penetration forecast for 30 product categories for the next five years, with historical data going back to 1998.

We also recently recorded a client webinar on the US online retail sales trends and outlook for 2022 and 2023. Along with our forecast data, in this webinar, we shared detailed numbers on inflation, how it is impacting US retail sales, and the inflation outlook for the next six quarters. If you are a Forrester client, please do watch the webinar, as well.

Want to talk to us about our US online retail forecast? Please schedule an inquiry with us!