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Online Retail in the US: The Top Shopping Websites

Threecolts
Geri Mileva
Published
November 30, 2023
Modified
November 30, 2023
Online Retail in the US: The Top Shopping Websites

Online shopping saw a surge in growth during the pandemic, starting in 2020. However, as the world returned to normal, the number of US consumers shopping online decreased slightly. But despite the return of in-person shopping, eCommerce growth is still rising as it had been prior to the pandemic. 

For eCommerce business people, keeping up with the latest trends and consumer behavior is vital to business performance. This report is a summary of the most popular shopping websites in 2023, including trends in eCommerce and consumer behavior.

Evolution of Consumer Behavior in Online Shopping

Online shopping has come a long way since most consumers shopped exclusively from brick-and-mortar stores. Very few businesses had online counterparts, and eCommerce was yet to be a viable business option for aspiring entrepreneurs. ECommerce, from the perspective of consumers and brands, was a nice thing to have—a convenience but certainly not a necessity. Digital wallets were nonexistent; purchases were made face-to-face via cash or credit card.

Consumer behavior years ago also showed more brand loyalty than today. Because they have limited access to alternative brands, consumers' brand preferences remain steady. During these times, price, quality, brand reputation, and limited availability were the main factors in purchase decisions. Today's popular marketing buzzwords, such as sustainability, were hardly in consumers' minds. Marketing focused more on promos, value for money, and using traditional media for advertising.

When the pandemic struck in 2020, it forced many brands to adapt and shift to online business. While eCommerce was already a growing industry then, the closure of physical stores catalyzed its growth. Both companies and consumers learned how to shop online, from groceries to retail and other products.

An important thing that affected consumer behavior was the health and economic situation at the time. Because COVID-19 was a health concern, many people started to give more importance to health products and activities that lessened contact with other people. Products and services related to health, wellness, safety, and hygiene saw an increased demand.

Meanwhile, the economy also suffered losses because of low productivity, supply chain interruptions, and inflation. Uncertainty about finances has made consumers more conscious and intentional about the products they purchase, focusing more on value and necessity. 

The tech industry likewise contributed to the rapid growth of eCommerce during and even after the pandemic. As most consumers began to buy products and services online, companies were quicker to identify customer pain points and improvement areas to refine the shopping experience. Digital payment methods began to be developed and offered more convenient ways to pay. Deliveries were streamlined to be more efficient because of the increased volume of orders.

Today, online shopping remains a significant element of commerce in general. Even though the pandemic is over, consumers' attitudes have shifted from eCommerce as a mere convenience to being a vital part of their daily lives. Trends such as voice searches, mobile shopping, and free shipping make online shopping more attractive.

Key Trends Shaping ECommerce Landscape in 2023

As eCommerce continues to expand, some trends dictate the industry's evolution. 

Consumers Prefer a Multi-Channel Approach

The convenience of online shopping has made it easy for consumers to compare products and prices across different platforms and markets. This multi-channel approach is not a new trend but a continuation of consumer behavior from previous years.

Consumers report visiting multiple sites before deciding on a final purchase, with most saying they visit between 2 and 4 websites. People tend to spend more time on different websites for specific product categories, such as consumer electronics, before purchasing.

Finally, this trend has also extended to online browsing. Globally, there is a spike in product browsing without intending to buy. This may be because more people search to discover new products or research about the market. 

Online Marketplaces Rule ECommerce, But Social Media Is Catching Up

Online Marketplaces Rule ECommerce, But Social Media Is Catching Up

Online marketplaces are still the top online shopping platforms, but the US trends show that social shopping is becoming more popular. Many consumers discover new products through social media. While only a fraction of them actually purchase products directly from social media accounts, the number is increasing. Trust is still a significant factor in consumers’ hesitance to buy from social media, but these platforms still greatly impact brands’ online presence and engagement with their customers.

Free Shipping and Returns are Important

Among the services consumers look for in online shopping are free shipping and easy returns. Customers now expect delivery to be fast, with more than 90% of US customers reporting that they expect two- to three-day shipping as standard, according to a McKinsey report. Same-day shipping has also entered the market as a special service that attracts consumers.

Shipping issues are a major reason for cart abandonment, with extra costs making up about half of the reason that customers leave during checkout. Delivery times also factor into consumers' decision to abandon their carts. Aside from this, they also prefer stores that offer an easy return and refund process. This may be a bit burdensome for sellers, but they are services that can boost sales for online sellers.

Retail Media is Essential for Success

Retail media is when brands place ads on an online retailer's webpage to influence a buyer's purchase decision. It is usually seen at the point of purchase or on the digital shelf, similar to how people see ads on physical shelves or the checkout counter in-store.

Retail media has become a buzzword in the eCommerce industry, especially with the rise of Amazon's retail media network. The profitability of these ads for the platform and sellers is becoming apparent, with Amazon's ad revenue increasing yearly as of the last quarter of 2022.

Technology Impacts ECommerce

As technology advances, so do consumers' expectations when it comes to shopping experiences. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) technologies has disrupted the way we shop. VR tech, which includes augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR), introduced new experiences such as virtual try-ons, virtual pop-up stores, and even AI chatbots for customer service. 

Aside from enhancing both in-store and online shopping, AI and VR are used in eCommerce to personalize the shopping experience for consumers. AI uses customer data such as browser behavior and purchase history to analyze a customer’s preferences and offer them more relevant recommendations. 

For sellers, AI can optimize their business. Tools like Threecolts’ marketplace management platform make it easy for online sellers to manage their seller accounts on Amazon, eBay, and other major online marketplaces.

Most Popular Shopping Websites in 2023

The ten most popular online retailers, according to Statista’s report on eCommerce market share based on sales, are

  • Amazon – 37.6%
  • Walmart – 6.4%
  • Apple – 3.6 %
  • eBay – 3%
  • Target – 1.9%
  • The Home Depot – 1.9%
  • Costco – 1.5%
  • Best Buy – 1.4%
  • Carvana – 1.4%
  • Kroger – 1.3%

If we measure by the average monthly visits, the most popular shopping websites in 2023 are:

  • Amazon.com – 44.58%
  • eBay.com – 10.07%
  • Walmart.com – 5.01%
  • Etsy.com – 3.85%
  • Craigslist.org – 2.66%

Amazon

Amazon

By far the most popular eCommerce platform in the US, Amazon is leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors. The eCommerce giant commands a substantial 45% of visits to online shopping websites in the first quarter of 2023, making it the most visited eCommerce website in the US and globally. 

Third-party sellers are responsible for 60% of the products sold on Amazon, highlighting the significance of small and medium enterprises for the platform and eCommerce in general. Amazon's fulfillment service, FBA or Fulfillment by Amazon, is commonly used by sellers without the resources and workforce to complete orders in-house. Because of this service, the buying experience from Amazon is more seamless and consistent. Customers can expect their deliveries in the specified time window. For any questions or issues about the product or transaction, FBA also handles customer service and returns for the seller. 

As mentioned, retail media also plays a crucial role in eCommerce success. Amazon's opportunities for retail media are vast, leveling the playing field for online sellers. Sellers can bid for sponsored ads, the buy box, and other display ads to boost their brand awareness and generate more profit.

However, pressure from their competitors is also starting to have an impact. Amazon's services undoubtedly come at a cost for sellers, so it's unsurprising that sellers on the platform do not always have the lowest online prices. As eCommerce grows, other marketplaces and websites learn from Amazon's success and quickly adapt. The number of sellers on the platform also presents a challenge for merchants, who must stand out from other sellers to gain loyal customers.

Walmart

Walmart

Walmart is a household name in the US when it comes to retail, with 60% of consumers shopping from Walmart in-store. Thanks to its vast offline market, its online counterpart, Walmart Marketplace, has also seen decent success, coming in second to Amazon with a 6.4% share of retail eCommerce sales. The company was a bit late to the game when Amazon was already establishing its dominance. Still, it hasn't stopped the retail giant from adapting well and giving its shoppers more choices online. 

With over 120 monthly visitors, Walmart’s market is also a force to be reckoned with. It plays to Walmart’s advantage that they have an already established name in retail shopping, so they can leverage customer loyalty and entice their patrons to shop online using familiar deals and promos from their physical stores. 

The company offers multiple seller services for vendors on their platform. They have their own Walmart Fulfillment Services, Walmart Connect for sponsored ads, and Brand Portal for intellectual property protection.

A drawback for sellers of Walmart Marketplace is that they only accept established eCommerce sellers, so entrepreneurs with no history of success in an online marketplace or other eCommerce platforms are not eligible to join. This barrier to entry may be a formidable obstacle for aspiring Walmart Marketplace sellers, but it assures consumers that every seller on the platform is legitimate.

Apple

Apple

The popularity of Apple products plays a significant factor in their third-place spot among the top online retailers in 2023. Statista states they are now the most valuable brand worldwide, with a brand value worth over $880 billion and a 2023 revenue of $383 billion. Shopping for electronics online is common, with about 41% of US consumers reporting to have bought an electronic device through digital channels in 2023.

Aside from the popular Apple devices like the iPhone, iPad, and AirPods, Apple.com also sells accessories for their devices, software, and entertainment products. They offer free delivery and pickup, with a two-hour delivery available. Extended returns are currently available until early next year as part of their special services for the holiday season. Finally, they also offer trade-ins of old devices to earn credit or buy a new one.

eBay

eBay

What started as an auction website in the 90s has become one of today's biggest online marketplaces. eBay is fourth in eCommerce sales, getting 3% of the market share among online retailers. However, the website is second to Amazon for web visits, garnering 1.2 billion monthly visits against Amazon’s 4.8 billion visits in the first quarter of 2023.

In this age of eCommerce, eBay has transformed itself into an online shopping website that offers two pricing formats. Sellers on this platform can select if they want to sell their products via an online auction, where the highest bidder wins, or the more traditional fixed-price route similar to other marketplaces. eBay’s market generally leans towards the more price-conscious and those looking for hard-to-find things, collectibles, and pre-loved items.

Like Amazon, eBay offers Guaranteed Delivery for buyers, which sets the delivery date at specific times, including within 1-2 days of purchase. The website also offers easy returns, including a money-back guarantee to protect consumers. Because eBay allows secondhand items to be sold on their platform, the risk of getting fraudulent or damaged things is higher on eBay than on Amazon, which may put off consumers from buying even new products from eBay sellers. 

Regarding seller services, eBay has fewer special services for sellers than Amazon, which is understandable given their size difference. However, eBay is more flexible regarding payment options and seller control. They also have eBay ads to allow their sellers to expand their reach and get more sales.

Target

Target

The fifth most popular and biggest online retailer in the US in 2023 is Target. While most of their revenue comes from sales from their physical stores, the retailer’s online counterpart, Target.com, is responsible for about a 2% share of retail eCommerce sales in the US, behind eBay. Target is not as massive as one of its biggest competitors, Walmart, but its brand name and global reach are still huge. Target.com offers the same products online as in-store selections, including online exclusive deals. Offering same-day delivery options, order pickup, drive-up, and free 2-day shipping, Target checks off a lot of services that consumers expect from online retailers.

Recently, the company launched Target Plus, an online marketplace for third-party sellers to sell their products on the website. Merchants can take advantage of Target’s large market share of more than 200 million monthly visitors. Customers can still enjoy their Target benefits, such as returns and RedCard savings, when purchasing an item from Target Plus, making it a good deal for both seller and buyer. However, currently, Target Plus operates on an invite-only basis, so not everyone is qualified to be a Target partner. The company does plan to open the marketplace for applications in the future, although we expect the same stringent qualifications as those of Walmart Marketplace. Target and Walmart are reputable retail brands that enjoy a relatively large market share, so they must ensure that the vendors using their names in their marketplace are likewise credible and legitimate.

Consumer Behavior and Preferences in Online Shopping in 2023

Influencers Do Influence

About a quarter of social media users have bought a product based on an influencer’s review, according to HubSpot’s Consumer Trends Report. This percentage is higher if we focus on Gen Z, which rises to 40%. For this age group, influencers’ reviews and recommendations carry more weight in their purchase decisions than those of their friends and family.

Frequency of Online Shopping Varies by Income Level

Unsurprisingly, people with household incomes over $100,000 shop online more frequently. Consumers in this group buy something online approximately once daily, with more than 82% using Amazon Prime.

Overall, about 57% of consumers in the US shop online at least once a week.

Consumers Shop on Mobile Devices and Use Voice Search

As we’ve mentioned, technology is playing a vital role in eCommerce. Retail mobile commerce sales in the US amounted to $431 billion in 2022. Americans use their smartphones more frequently than tablets for these mCommerce purchases. In 2022, 92% of US shoppers between 30 and 49 purchased something online using their smartphone.

AI voice assistants are also rising, with more than 33 million customers using smart speakers to shop online. Health and beauty products and household supplies were the top products bought using voice search.

Clothing is the Most Popular Product for Online Shopping

Clothing and shoes emerged as the product categories that are more frequently bought online rather than online. According to a Statista report, 43% of consumers bought clothing online, while 33% bought shoes online. Consumers reported convenience, lower prices, and a more varied product range as the main reasons they preferred purchasing certain products from online marketplaces rather than in-store.

Future Outlook for Online Shopping

Even if eCommerce growth has slowed a bit since the resumption of in-store shopping, the upward trend of online shopping tells us that eCommerce is not merely a fad. Innovations in technology will continue to optimize online shopping experiences and streamline business operations for online sellers. Consumers will continue to shop online, fueled by cheaper prices, more options, and the convenience of delivery and digital payments.

For online sellers who need top-notch assistance in managing their Amazon, eBay, or Walmart online accounts, tools like Threecolts, JungleScout, and Helium10 are very useful. Maximize profits with these seller tools that can automate your tasks and help you in your product research and pricing.