How the Internet Changed the Way We Shop

E-commerce isn't just a trend; it's a global shift. Dive into the statistics that illustrate the internet's profound influence on our shopping choices.


Lyndon Seitz - Editor-in-Chief

Date Modified: April 18, 2024

How the Internet Changed the Way We Shop

Before the advent of the internet, shopping was a tactile and time-consuming experience. Consumers would wander through physical stores, touch products, try them out, and engage in face-to-face interactions with salespeople. Cities and towns buzzed with shoppers who frequented local markets, department stores, and specialty shops. Major sales, festive discounts, and seasonal shopping sprees were events that people looked forward to, often planning and saving for them in advance.

However, the rise of the internet in the late 20th century marked a significant shift in this dynamic. A vast digital landscape unfolded, presenting unparalleled opportunities for commerce. E-commerce platforms emerged, providing a virtual marketplace where consumers could browse and buy at the click of a button. This digital transformation was not just a phase; it became an integral part of the modern shopping experience. In fact, forecasts indicate that the global e-commerce market will reach a staggering $6.3 trillion by 2023. This trend is set to continue, with predictions suggesting that by 2024, 21.2% of total retail sales will transpire online. Such data underscores the immense potential and profitability of borderless e-commerce, reshaping the retail industry and redefining consumer behavior worldwide.

The Dawn of E-commerce

E-commerce, or electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods and services using the internet. It also includes the transfer of money and data to complete these sales. As a concept, it represents a monumental shift from traditional business models, relying on the power of the internet to facilitate virtually instantaneous transactions, often across vast distances.

The journey of e-commerce is a testament to rapid technological advancements and the visionaries who foresaw the potential of the digital marketplace.

Evolution of E-Commerce

  • 1969: The seeds of e-commerce were sown with the launch of CompuServe, marking the U.S.'s entry into commercial online services.
  • 1979: The landscape took a definitive turn when Michael Aldrich innovated to lay down the foundations of online shopping, bridging the gap between consumers and products in an entirely new way.
  • 1982: The digital marketplace took its baby steps with the commencement of the Boston Computer Exchange, pioneering the concept of an online marketplace.
  • 1995: E-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay burst onto the scene. Their meteoric rise was evident when, in just two years, they reported a whopping one million transactions.
  • 1998: Trust in online transactions was bolstered with the introduction of PayPal, offering a secure and trusted payment system for e-commerce activities.
  • 2000: The turn of the millennium saw Google stepping into the e-commerce arena, launching AdWords, and revolutionizing the way businesses advertised online.
  • 2005: Adding value to its services, Amazon rolled out the Prime membership, offering a slew of benefits to its members and reinforcing customer loyalty.
  • 2009: Simplifying the payment process further, Square was introduced, allowing seamless payment processing via a handy app.
  • 2014: Tech behemoth Apple made waves with the launch of Apple Pay, a cutting-edge digital wallet, further simplifying online transactions.

Statistics Highlighting the Growth of Online Shopping

In the past few decades, online shopping has transitioned from a novel concept to a dominant force in the global retail landscape. The convenience of browsing products from the comfort of one's home, coupled with the expansive product variety and competitive prices, has fueled its exponential growth. The digital marketplace's surge is not just a fleeting trend; it's a reflection of evolving consumer preferences and the adaptability of businesses to meet these changing demands. The numbers below provide a compelling narrative of this transformative journey and the undeniable imprint of e-commerce on global commerce.

Global Retail E-commerce Revenue from 2014 to 2026 

The e-commerce landscape has experienced a meteoric rise over the past decade, with global revenues showcasing a robust upward trajectory. These yearly figures (in billion US dollars) not only emphasize the growing consumer inclination towards online shopping but also spotlight the adaptability and innovation of businesses in tapping into this digital potential. 

  • 2014 - $1,336 billion: This year marked a strong foundation for e-commerce, with businesses understanding the power of the internet and the opportunities it presented.
  • 2015 - $1,548 billion: The growth continued as more retailers recognized the benefits of online platforms, leading to an increment from the previous year.
  • 2016 - $1,845 billion: Innovations in mobile commerce and an emphasis on user experience contributed to the surge in e-commerce revenue.
  • 2017 - $2,382 billion: With increased trust in online transactions and a broader range of products available, global revenues saw a significant jump.
  • 2018 - $2,982 billion: As online marketplaces matured, global audiences became more accustomed to shopping online, leading to almost $3 trillion in sales.
  • 2019 - $3,351 billion: Integration of technologies like AI and AR into the shopping experience played a pivotal role in driving sales upward.
  • 2020 - $4,248 billion: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping, as brick-and-mortar stores faced restrictions, boosting e-commerce like never before.
  • 2021 - $5,211 billion: Post-pandemic behavior solidified, with many consumers preferring the convenience of online shopping even as physical stores reopened.
  • 2022 - $5,717 billion: Enhanced logistics, faster delivery times, and the growth of social commerce contributed to the steady rise.
  • 2023 - $6,310 billion: Predictions indicate a focus on personalized shopping experiences and sustainable practices, driving further growth.
  • 2024 - $6,913 billion: As emerging markets further embrace e-commerce, the global revenue is expected to be near the $7 trillion mark.
  • 2025 - $7,528 billion: Continued innovations in the user shopping experience and the integration of immersive technologies are projected to play a crucial role.
  • 2026 - $8,148 billion: Forecasts suggest that the consistent emphasis on consumer-centric strategies and the growth of niche online markets will push e-commerce revenues past the $8 trillion milestone.

Proportion of Online Shoppers Purchasing from Social Media in Various Countries Worldwide in 2022

The marriage of social media and e-commerce has birthed a dynamic shopping experience that harnesses the engagement of social platforms with the convenience of online purchasing. As digital interactions become increasingly intertwined with our shopping habits, a clear trend emerges across various nations, emphasizing the significant role of social media in shaping consumer behaviors.

Global 2022 social media shopping prevalence by country


  • On-platform social commerce: 62%
  • Social commerce: 88%


  • On-platform social commerce: 50%
  • Social commerce: 86%

United Arab Emirates:

  • On-platform social commerce: 49%
  • Social commerce: 86%


  • On-platform social commerce: 52%
  • Social commerce: 84%


  • On-platform social commerce: 46%
  • Social commerce: 80%


  • On-platform social commerce: 42%
  • Social commerce: 79%


  • On-platform social commerce: 43%
  • Social commerce: 76%


  • On-platform social commerce: 42%
  • Social commerce: 72%


  • On-platform social commerce: 41%
  • Social commerce: 68%

South Africa:

  • On-platform social commerce: 42%
  • Social commerce: 68%

United States:

  • On-platform social commerce: 32%
  • Social commerce: 63%

Age Groups Most Active in Online Shopping

Online shopping is no longer a luxury or a niche activity; it has become a routine part of many people's lives across various age groups. However, distinct patterns emerge when we dive into the age demographics of online shoppers. Each generation, with its unique experiences and influences, interacts differently with the digital marketplace.

  • Gen Z (18-25 years) - 52%
  • Millennials (26-41 years) - 58%
  • Gen X (42-57 years) - 51%
  • Baby Boomers (58-76 years) 45%

Gender-based Shopping Habits

Shopping habits, preferences, and behaviors can often differ based on a myriad of factors, with gender being a significant one. While it's essential to steer clear of overgeneralizations, certain patterns emerge when analyzing shopping trends among different genders. These distinctions not only provide insights into purchasing decisions and preferences but also aid retailers in tailoring their strategies to cater to diverse demographics.

US' Most Popular Online Shopping Categories

The digital marketplace in the US showcases a diverse array of shopping categories, each reflecting the evolving needs and preferences of consumers. From daily essentials to luxury items, online shopping has transformed the way Americans access and purchase products.

  • Fashion: Dominating the online retail space with a staggering $990 billion.
  • Electronics: A close second, with consumers spending $910 billion on gadgets and tech products.
  • Toys, Hobby, and DIY: A testament to the nation's creativity and leisure activities, this category raked in $780 billion.
  • Beauty, Health, Personal, and Household Care: Catering to self-care and daily needs, this sector generated $400 billion.
  • Food: The convenience of online grocery and gourmet shopping brought in $350 billion.

Reasons Shoppers Leave Their Online Carts Unpurchased

Online shopping offers unparalleled convenience, but there are several factors that can deter a shopper from completing a purchase. Understanding these reasons is crucial for businesses to optimize their user experience and reduce cart abandonment rates. 

  • Additional Charges (Shipping, Taxes, Additional Fees) - 48% of shoppers abandon carts due to unexpected costs like shipping and taxes, which can erode trust.
  • Mandatory Account Creation - 24% of customers prefer not to be forced into creating an account, desiring a hassle-free purchase instead.
  • Prolonged Delivery Times - 22% of buyers opt out if delivery times are too extended, given the importance of quick shipping in today's fast-paced world.
  • Concerns About Site's Credit Card Security - Trust issues related to credit card security deter 18% of potential shoppers.
  • Complex Payment Procedure - 17% of shoppers drop out because of a complicated checkout process.

Top Social Media Platforms for Online Shopping

Social media platforms have evolved beyond networking and entertainment, now playing a significant role in e-commerce. The integration of shopping features has transformed these platforms into vibrant marketplaces.

Top Social Media Platforms for Online Shopping

  • Facebook: With its vast user base, Facebook has become a major player in the e-commerce space, offering a range of shopping features and integrations.
  • Instagram: Leveraging visual appeal, Instagram provides a seamless shopping experience with shoppable posts and stories.
  • YouTube: As the leading video platform, YouTube offers various advertising and shopping integrations, making it a potent tool for e-commerce.
  • TikTok: The short-video platform has quickly embraced e-commerce with features that allow users to shop directly from videos.
  • SnapChat: With its younger demographic, SnapChat offers unique shopping experiences integrated within its platform.
  • Twitter: Though primarily a microblogging platform, Twitter has ventured into the e-commerce domain with various shopping features and partnerships.

Leading Online Retailers in the U.S. 

From giants offering everything under the sun to niche sites specializing in handcrafted goods, here's a snapshot of the top online retailers dominating the American digital marketplace in terms of visitor traffic and offerings.

  1. Amazon (Monthly visitors: 2.73 billion): The world's top online marketplace, Amazon offers everything from books and electronics to fashion and tools. With Amazon Prime, U.S. shoppers benefit from expedited delivery services.
  2. eBay (Monthly visitors: 855.82 million): Dominating various categories, eBay provides a platform for auctions, brand sales, and verified sellers. Many items also come with free shipping.
  3. Walmart (Monthly visitors: 468.96 million): Catering to diverse needs, Walmart online offers electronics, baby items, fashion, and more. The added perk of a Walmart credit card provides additional savings for U.S. consumers.
  4. Craigslist (Monthly visitors: 342.56 million): A broad platform, Craigslist encompasses everything from electronics to adult services, making it a diverse online marketplace.
  5. Target (Monthly visitors: 258.34 million): As the U.S.'s second-largest department store, Target boasts a product range from fashion to electronics. Their RedCard further solidifies their presence in the financial sector.
  6. Etsy (Monthly visitors: 266.31 million): Specializing in handmade and vintage items, Etsy provides a unique platform for artisans to sell products ranging from art to beauty goods.
  7. Best Buy (Monthly visitors: 192.70 million): Predominantly an electronics retailer, Best Buy also offers a range of products including appliances and fitness equipment.
  8. Macy’s (Monthly visitors: 165.29 million): Offering a vast collection from fashion to home decor, Macy's has also ventured into the financial world with its proprietary credit card.
  9. Home Depot (Monthly visitors: 147.15 million): The leading home improvement retailer in the U.S., Home Depot's online store complements its widespread physical presence across North America.
  10. Wish (Monthly visitors: 111.62 million): Primarily a mobile marketplace, Wish enables businesses to sell directly to consumers, focusing on electronics, beauty, and home decor.

Additional Key E-Commerce Statistics 2023

These additional statistics from 2023 provide a deeper insight into the ever-evolving e-commerce landscape. From global shopper counts to platform-specific data, the figures highlight the rapid growth, extensive reach, and significant impact of online shopping in today's digital era.

Additional Key E-commerce statistics for 2023

  • Worldwide Online Shopper Count: The digital consumer base has witnessed significant expansion with a count of 2.14 billion online shoppers. This signifies a commendable growth rate of 4.4% in just a year, from 2020 to 2021. The surge underlines the global acceptance and trust in e-commerce platforms.
  • U.S. Online Shopper Count: The United States, being a major hub for e-commerce, boasts an online shopper population of 268 million. This represents an impressive uptick of 16.2% since 2020, underscoring the nation's increasing reliance on digital shopping avenues.
  • Global Online Shopping Engagement: Highlighting the vast reach of e-commerce, 27% of the world's population now engages in online shopping. This figure emphasizes the global shift towards digital shopping platforms.
  • U.S. Residents & Online Shopping: Delving into national trends, a significant 70% of U.S. residents are now frequent online shoppers. This statistic showcases the penetration and acceptance of e-commerce within the country.
  • Average Global Online Spending: On a global scale, the average individual spends approximately $2,310 annually on online purchases. This figure encapsulates the global consumer's trust and dependency on online markets.
  • U.S. Online Expenditure: Zooming into the U.S., the average American splurges about $3,428 per person on online shopping every year. This higher average indicates the nation's strong purchasing power and affinity for e-commerce.
  • Online Sales in Retail: In the grand retail landscape, online sales now account for a whopping 20% of total retail sales. This highlights the growing dominance of e-commerce in the retail sector.
  • Projected Global Online Sales: Looking ahead, the momentum of e-commerce shows no signs of slowing down. By 2024, the global online sales figures are projected to cross the monumental mark of $7 trillion.
  • Global E-commerce Store Count: The digital marketplace is bustling with over 12 million e-commerce stores operating globally. This vast number exemplifies the immense competition and variety available to online shoppers.
  • Shopify's E-commerce Dominance: A notable player in the e-commerce platform industry, Shopify, now powers over 4 million online stores. This statistic attests to Shopify's widespread adoption and its pivotal role in facilitating online businesses.

Evolving Patterns in Future E-Commerce

The future of e-commerce is marked by rapid technological advancements and changing consumer behaviors. As voice-activated shopping gains traction and social media platforms evolve into e-commerce hubs, businesses are leveraging machine learning to offer personalized shopping experiences. These emerging trends underscore the dynamic nature of online retail and the need for businesses to adapt and innovate continuously.

  • Voice-Activated Tech Paving the Way for Streamlined Commerce: The use of smart devices like Alexa for shopping is rising, especially among millennials. Nearly 50% have used voice technology for online purchases. By 2022, voice shopping in the U.S. is predicted to reach $40 billion.
  • Social Media Shopping: The New Extension of E-Commerce Platforms: Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are now e-commerce hubs. Over half of Instagram users search for products, and AR features on these platforms can significantly influence buying decisions.
  • Leveraging Machine Learning for Tailored Online Shopping Journeys: Modern shoppers seek personalized experiences. Utilizing AI and machine learning, brands can offer tailored recommendations, leading to increased sales. Investments in e-commerce personalization can yield significant returns, emphasizing the blend of technology and human insights for market optimization.

Essential Tips for Modern Online Shopping

  1. Ensure Website Security: As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, ensuring the security of your online transactions is paramount. One of the fundamental ways to do this is by checking if the website uses HTTPS protocols, which encrypts data for secure transfers. Additionally, trust badges, often located at the bottom of e-commerce sites, can provide an added layer of assurance. These badges indicate that the website has passed security checks and is safe for transactions.
  2. Use Price Comparison Tools and Extensions: The online marketplace is vast, with numerous sellers offering the same product at varying prices. To ensure you're getting the best deal, utilize price comparison tools and browser extensions. These tools automatically scan multiple e-commerce sites to find the most competitive prices, helping you save money without the hassle of manual searches.
  3. Always Read Product Reviews and Verify Seller Ratings: In the digital shopping realm, product reviews and seller ratings are invaluable. They provide insights into the product's quality, performance, and potential shortcomings. By reading through these reviews, you can make informed decisions and avoid potential disappointments. Similarly, verifying seller ratings ensures that you're buying from a reputable source, minimizing the risks of receiving counterfeit or substandard products.
  4. Familiarize Yourself with Return and Exchange Policies: Not all online purchases go as planned. There might be issues with fit, function, or even the look of the product. Hence, it's crucial to understand the return and exchange policies of the e-commerce platform or seller. Knowing the duration within which returns are accepted, any associated costs, and the process can save you potential future headaches.
  5. Opt for Secure Payment Methods: The final step of your online shopping journey involves payment, and it's essential to prioritize security. While many e-commerce sites offer various payment methods, always opt for secure options like credit cards or trusted online payment gateways. Be cautious of direct bank transfers, especially with unfamiliar or new sellers, as they don't offer the same level of protection against potential frauds.

The Takeaway

The transformative power of the internet on shopping cannot be overstated. From the days of window shopping and browsing through aisles, consumers have now transitioned to scrolling through digital catalogs and adding items to virtual carts. This shift offers unparalleled convenience, allowing shoppers to explore global markets from the comfort of their homes, compare prices instantly, and access a plethora of reviews. Yet, as with any technological evolution, it brings its set of challenges, from cybersecurity concerns to the impersonal nature of digital transactions.

Embracing the myriad conveniences of online shopping is a given in our modern age, but it's equally vital to remain vigilant and informed about potential pitfalls. As consumers, we must strike a balance between enjoying the ease of digital purchases and ensuring our data's safety and transaction integrity. Furthermore, the landscape of e-commerce is fluid, constantly shaped by innovations and changing consumer preferences. As we look to the future, the possibilities seem boundless, with advancements like augmented reality shopping, AI-driven personalization, and voice-activated commerce promising to redefine our shopping experiences even further.


What are the most popular online payment methods?

Online payment methods have evolved over the years, with options ranging from credit and debit cards to online payment gateways like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet. Digital currencies, bank transfers, and "Buy Now, Pay Later" services are also gaining traction.

What is the role of influencers in e-commerce?

Influencers, with their vast online following and credibility, play a pivotal role in e-commerce by promoting products, services, and brands. Their endorsements can drive sales, increase brand awareness, and shape buying decisions, making them valuable assets in digital marketing strategies.

How do price comparison tools work?

Price comparison tools scan multiple e-commerce platforms to fetch the prices of a particular product. They then present a list of various sellers offering that product, along with their prices, allowing consumers to choose the best deal. Some tools also offer browser extensions that automatically notify users if a product is available at a lower price on a different site.

What is "green" or sustainable online shopping?

Green or sustainable online shopping refers to e-commerce practices that prioritize environmental sustainability. This could involve selling eco-friendly products, using sustainable packaging, adopting carbon-neutral shipping methods, or even planting a tree with every purchase. It's a response to growing consumer awareness about environmental issues and a desire to shop more responsibly.

How do online return policies generally work?

While return policies can vary by retailer, most online stores allow customers to return products within a specified period, provided they are in original and resellable condition. Some stores offer free returns, while others might deduct shipping or restocking fees. It's crucial for customers to read and understand the return policy of an e-commerce platform before making a purchase.