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08/12/2021

Top 10 E-Commerce Retailers and Their Digital Experience

The top retailers in the U.S. for e-commerce sales are an expected group, but what got them here is harnessing the digital experience in innovative, unexpected ways. RIS highlights the digital accomplishments helping the top ten dominate the e-commerce space.
Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
Jamie Grill-Goodman profile picture

The top retailers in the U.S. for e-commerce sales are an expected group, but what got them here is harnessing the digital experience in innovative, unexpected ways.

Amazon, Walmart and eBay are the leading U.S. retailers in 2021 by e-commerce sales, according to Statista, but Amazon still remains far ahead of the pack. In fact, if you combine the next nine retailers’ U.S. e-commerce sales below, the total is still less than Amazon’s this year.

The giant’s online sales are set to reach more than $386 billion in 2021. Coming in a distant second is retail chain Walmart, with sales expected to surpass $67 billion, followed in third place by eBay, with sales of about $40 billion.

Below RIS looks at the retailers in the top 10 and uncovers the digital accomplishments helping them dominate the e-commerce space.

Leading U.S. Companies Ranked by Retail E-Commerce Sales in 2021 (Statista)

a sign in front of a building

Amazon

E-com sales: $386.4 billion

Amazon, $319 billon ahead of Walmart, is so massive it created its own holiday. Amazon Prime Day 2021 was the biggest two-day period for its third-party sellers and Prime members in 20 countries shopped more this Prime Day than any previous Prime Day, purchasing more than 250 million items worldwide. And, speaking of Prime members, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in his annual shareholders letter that the company has surpassed 200 million Prime members, for a total in 2020 of $126 billion of value creation. He also noted that customers complete 28% of purchases on Amazon.com in three minutes or less, and half of all purchases are finished in less than 15 minutes.

“If you assume that a typical Amazon purchase takes 15 minutes and that it saves you a couple of trips to a physical store a week, that’s more than 75 hours a year saved,” he wrote. “That’s important. We’re all busy in the early 21st century.”

This year, Amazon also made it easier for music fans to shop merchandise by seamlessly tying artist merch and music together. Amazon Music integrated artist merchandise within its mobile app so that artist merchandise appears in the Amazon Music app on participating artists’ pages, side-by-side with their songs, albums, live streams and music videos.

a store front at day

Walmart

E-com sales: $67.39 billion

While No. 2 on this list, Walmart topped RIS’ list of the Top 100 Retailers for the fourth year in a row, with 14% of the retail market. Ready to share some of its retail prowess, the mega retailer recently announced it will offer some of its technologies to small and mid-sized retailers to help them navigate their digital transformation. To start, this includes Walmart’s technology to offer seamless pickup and delivery of online purchases.

Last year, the retailer launched it new membership program, Walmart+, giving members unlimited free deliveries from stores. The membership program costs $98 a year or $12.95 per month, compared to Amazon Prime’s $119 per year or $12.99 per month.

In another digital move this year, Walmart consumers can now search for tires by year, make and model of their vehicle, and book an installation appointment from Walmart’s website and mobile app. They can also track the status of their vehicle while it’s being worked on in a Walmart Auto Care Center in the mobile app, as well as receive text updates when service is complete.

a hand holding a cellphone

eBay

E-com sales: $40.47 billion

The global commerce retailer that connects millions of buyers and sellers around the world just reported Q2 2021 revenue was up 14% to $2.7 billion and has made several tech-led platform changes, including updating its policy to allow customers to buy and sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the platform, with inventory provided by trusted sellers who meet eBay's high standards across categories like trading cards, music, entertainment and art. It also began offering Terapeak Product Research for free to all Seller Hub users in its key sites, providing sellers with marketplace intelligence to help them determine what to sell, when to sell, where to sell and at what price. Additionally, eBay updated its listings to show buyers all shipping services offered by sellers, allowing them to easily select their preferred carriers, shipping costs and estimated delivery dates.

"We remain relentlessly focused on accelerating our product innovation by harnessing the power of next-gen technology and creating a more seamless experience for sellers," said CEO Jamie Iannone. "We are delivering innovative category experiences for buyers and quickly evolving in our pursuit to be the best global marketplace to sell and buy."

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Apple

E-com sales: $35.3 billion

In a time of being apart, Apple devices have been pivotal to keeping people together, and Apple posted June quarter record revenue of $81 billion, up 36% year over year. “This quarter, our teams built on a period of unmatched innovation by sharing powerful new products with our users, at a time when using technology to connect people everywhere has never been more important,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re continuing to press forward in our work to infuse everything we make with the values that define us — by inspiring a new generation of developers to learn to code, moving closer to our 2030 environment goal, and engaging in the urgent work of building a more equitable future.”

Enhancing its digital prowess, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, the global marketplace for premium podcast subscriptions, became available in June. Listeners in more than 170 countries and regions can now purchase subscriptions for individual shows and groups of shows through channels. In May, the retailer started selling the all-new iMac, the M1-powered iPad Pro, and the next generation of Apple TV 4K. And Apple Fitness+, a fitness service built around Apple Watch, introduced new workouts to keep users engaged, geared specifically toward pregnancy and older adults. 

a store front at day

Home Depot

E-com sales: $21.42 billion

Recently, The Home Depot beefed up its digital experience with the launch of new "Rent Online, Pick-up In Store" technology, allowing customers to be able to reserve and rent equipment online up to 30 days in advance. "This new online technology saves Pro and DIY customers time and trips to the store because they can conveniently check equipment availability and reserve what they need in advance to get in and out of our rental centers more quickly than ever," Richard Porter, VP of The Home Depot Rental, said of the launch.

The retailer also rolled out mixed cart selling, which enables associates to more efficiently and effectively serve the total project needs for a customer, as products from both the website and store can be added to a single transaction. In addition to adding new digital experiences, The Home Depot extended its multi-year cloud partnership with Google Cloud in June to expand on the retailer's digital transformation and further blend its physical and digital environments. In 2020, with 86% growth in digital sales, The Home Depot relied on Google Cloud's flexible and scalable technology infrastructure to meet the unprecedented surge in online customer demand.

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Target

E-com sales: $18.64 billion

Target’s Q1 2021 comparable digital sales jumped 50% on top of a 141% hike in Q1 2020. The retailer’s not-so-secret key to success has been leveraging its stores as fulfillment hubs for its vastly expanded digital business. “We placed the physical store more firmly at the center of our omnichannel platform and we created a durable, sustainable, and scalable business model that puts Target on a road of our own,” CEO Brian Cornell said earlier this year.

Sales in same-day services, order pickup, Drive Up (Target’s curbside pickup service) and ship have accounted for the bulk of its digital growth, and these options grew to well over half of Target’s digital sales in the first quarter.

While same-day delivery has more than doubled since Q1 of 2019, sales through these services accounted for less than a third of Target’s digital sales. Drive Up has been a standout for Target's digital experience. This parking lot pickup service only accounted for about 5% of Target’s first-quarter digital sales two years ago, but that ratio expanded to more than 30% this year. Target continues to expand the assortment available for Drive Up and has earmarked capital investments to make Drive Up even more convenient.

a sign in front of a building

Best Buy

E-com sales: $18.11 billion

Even before the pandemic, Best Buy had “assumed digital penetration was going to increase,” Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said earlier this year. “One of the greatest things was all of the supply chain investments we have been putting in place for literally four years,” she continued. “We flexed all of those up to meet that large-scale demand. But we also put the customer in control [of how they wanted the order fulfilled.] It did not matter to us. We just need to agnostically meet that customer wherever they are. That is going to be the future of retailing. I don’t think people will revert back to their 2019 behaviors.”

Best Buy said during its Q1 2022 earnings call that sales originating online continue to be much higher than pre-pandemic – it’s seeing 33% of  domestic sales, compared to 15% two years ago in Q1 2020. Active My Best Buy loyalty program members have also grown considerably, and members are using the program more than last year and two years ago. Earlier this year, the electronics retailer began piloting a new membership program called Best Buy Beta in 60 stores, which provides customers benefits like exclusive member pricing, unlimited Geek Squad technical support, up to two years of protection on most product purchases, free standard shipping and delivery, and free installation on most products and appliances, for $199.99 per year.

“To be clear, what we are piloting is not in direct competition with Amazon Prime, Walmart+ or, frankly, any other membership programs in the market today,” Barry said. “It is playing to our unique strengths and what customers want from Best Buy.

a building that has a sign on the side of a road

Costco

E-com sales: $15.29 billion

Costco currently offers online ordering and delivery through its own channels and additional third parties, and director, EVP, and CFO Richard Galanti has said that around 45% of its members have used e-commerce. 

Showcasing how the club retailer continues to meet consumer needs, Costco and Uber Technologies recently entered a delivery pilot with 25 locations across the state of Texas. Costco warehouses will be available to Uber users via Uber and Uber Eats mobile apps. The move is Uber's first pilot with a food wholesaler in the United States.

"One thing we know to be true is that people across the United States are looking for convenient and affordable ways to stock their pantries without leaving home — especially for last-minute must-have items," said Raj Beri, Uber's head of grocery delivery. "Today's announcement with Costco is an important step towards marrying the magic of wholesale retail with on-demand delivery in the palm of your hand.”

In addition to groceries, Costco Logistics continues to drive big and bulky sales, with U.S. e-commerce sales on these items up 53% during Q3 2021. Costco Logistics fulfilled about 70% of all U.S. big and bulky orders, and the retailer continues to add some new big and bulky vendors.

a car parked in a parking lot in front of a building

The Kroger Co.

E-com sales: $15.13 billion

The big news for Kroger’s digital experience this year was that after two years in the making, it finally opened its first U.S. Ocado customer fulfillment center (CFC), followed by a second. The first automated warehouse facility with digital and robotic capabilities, also known as a "shed,” cost $55 million, but is expected to help with Kroger’s rapidly growing digital business. Kroger had more than 1.3 billion digital customer interactions in 2020, a 30% increase over the prior year. Kroger plans to open 20 CFCs to help the grocer meet digital demand by introducing robotics technology, allowing for next-generation automated storage and retrieval.

The grocer also partnered with Drone Express to experiment with drone deliveries in the Midwest this spring. The test promised product bundles, such as baby care and s’mores packages, delivered as quickly as 15 minutes of placing an order on the Kroger website.

a kitchen with a dining table

Wayfair

E-com sales: $14.16 billion

“Our approach is to invest in every area of the company, trying to get differentiation,” Wayfair’s co-founder and CEO Niraj Shah said at NRF 2021. “Which also ties in with our vision of using technology in every area of the company. That is the recipe that helps you win.”

Having an open mind toward innovation and not letting your vision be impaired by the current reality has helped Wayfair not only establish an e-commerce foothold, but to position itself as a market leader. Case in point, in April, Wayfair announced it was seeking to hire approximately 1,000 technologists to its engineering organization globally over the next year. Positions include software engineers, infrastructure engineers, product managers, experience designers, analysts, and data scientists. The roles will help drive a wide range of solutions, from cutting-edge machine learning and data science techniques that help customers find just the right product among more than 22 million items, to next-generation merchandising that fuels beautiful, inspiring product imagery, to platforms that enable suppliers to reach consumers more effectively and grow their businesses.

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