Online shopping confuses bananas

The mantra of 2022 should really be: “No one knows anything.”

It is amazing how little we understand how the pandemic has changed our lives and our country. It is not clear whether the US economy will hot or notor if big cities like New York will be forever scarred. We are not sure if the women’s career permanently weakened or if our mental health will be fine.

The future of our online shopping habits is unknown.

The government recently reported that America’s e-commerce boom during the pandemic was even greater than previously thought. But in 2021, this trend began to recede a little. physical stores outperform e-commerce last year, and they continue to do so this year. The trajectory of online shopping has changed from bananas to confusing bananas.

Now corporate executives, retail analysts and economists are trying to figure out how quickly we can move to a future where online shopping is the main way to shop. Will online shopping return to a fairly steady growth rate over the decade before 2020? Or has the pandemic accelerated our e-commerce lives forever?

Don’t expect a definitive answer for a long time, but the next few weeks of clues from Amazon, Walmart, and government sales data will give us a better idea.

This is not just a boring argument. Our collective buying behavior affects trillion-dollar companies, millions of retail jobs, and the health of the US economy. Uncertainty about the direction of online shopping one of the biggest questions facing the technology industry and financial markets right now.

I will try to present the shopping situation as clearly as possible.

For most of the decade leading up to 2020, Americans have been buying more and more items online at a predictable rate. According to the Census Bureau, e-commerce sales have grown by about 10-15% per year. dataeach year getting a little more out of the money Americans spend in stores.

Then online shopping became hyperactive, with our online shopping growing by at least 50 percent in the first months after the virus began spreading in the US, according to a recently revised report. government figures.

But then, last year, in-store shopping picked up speed, and online shopping has since lost ground. Many people find it a relief to wander down the aisles of a store again. High inflation can also encourage people to spend more on essentials that we still mostly bought in shops.

Other signs point to a similar online shopping growth pattern, including data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks US purchases. showed E-commerce sales rose just 1.1 percent in June compared to the same month in 2021. In-store purchases rose nearly 12 percent.

None of this is a shock. Of course, we weren’t going to continue shopping online as if it were Spring 2020. And it’s likely that online shopping is a much larger share of American spending today than it would be if the pandemic never happened.

An open question is what is happening now. Will we return to the relatively slow and steady growth of online shopping in 2019? Or will the hermit habits learned early in the pandemic continue to influence our purchases, accelerating that growth? Or maybe even slower?

All this is a big headache for everyone who sells things, but it is also important for us. Amazon said it overvalued how sustainable the online shopping mania will be and that it is spending too much on new warehouses and other things. The company is retreating, which affects the jobs of the people and communities where Amazon is retreating.

And I’m sorry to bring this up, but the golden age of online shopping may be in jeopardy. Pandemic hangover and other changes made it harder and more expensive for companies that sell products online to buy, ship, store and advertise their products. If online shopping is less rosy in a couple of years, merchants large and small may rethink how much money they spend on e-commerce features we love, like free shipping and in-store pickup.

If you thought the last couple of years have been insecure about shopping and beyond, it might get even more insecure.