Tablets, New Spending Drive E-Commerce Growth


Mobile shopping—and particularly mobile shopping from tablet devices—is having a huge impact on e-commerce and retail sales, according to eMarketer. The firm estimates that 15 percent of online retail sales this year will originate on a mobile device, up from 11 percent in 2012. And by 2017, 25 percent of online sales will be made on the move. Some 79.4 million U.S. consumers—51 percent of online buyers—will buy something using a mobile device this year.


Tablet devices are driving much of that growth, eMarketer says, and will account for more than half of “m-commerce” sales this year, compared with 35 percent from smartphones. Having a tablet almost guarantees that the person uses it to shop, and by 2017, 78 percent of U.S. tablet users will make purchases on their devices. While some m-commerce sales will shift from the desktop or laptop, mobile also helps shift spending by extending the shopping day and untethering consumers from desktop computers and brick-and-mortar stores.


Overall U.S. retail e-commerce sales will total $259 billion this year, a 14.8 percent annual increase over 2012’s $225.5 billion, and e-retail is expected to maintain a 14 percent compound annual growth rate through 2017. Despite this phenomenal growth, only 6 percent of U.S. retail sales came from e-commerce in 2012, eMarketer says. And with nearly three-quarters of Internet users already making purchases online, growth will rely not on expansion of the customer base, but additional spending in categories such as food and beverage, which traditionally favor in-store purchases.