Retail e-commerce sales reached $97.3 billion during the second quarter of 2016 and represented about 8.1% of total retail sales for the quarter, according to data released by the Census Bureau.
That figure — adjusted for seasonal variation, but not for price changes — represents a 4.5% increase in e-commerce retail sales over the first quarter this year, and a 15.8% jump year-over-year.
On an unadjusted basis, e-commerce sales for the quarter were estimated to be $91.2 billion, a 5.7% increase from the first quarter of 2016. The undadjusted figure translates to e-commerce representing 7.5% of total retail sales for the quarter.
The latest e-commerce figures arrive shortly after the Census Bureau indicated that total retail sales were pretty flat from June to July, and grew only 1.9% in July 2016 from the year ago period. But e-commerce numbers have been a bright spot amid a stagnant in-store sales year, with e-commerce sales rising 14.1% since July 2015.
The contrast between flat retail sales numbers and e-commerce show how online continues to eat into traditional brick-and-mortar sales, with e-commerce's growth appearing to come at the expense of store sales. The numbers are emblematic of the "share wars" occuring in today's hypercompetitive retail environment, where the growth of e-commerce is coming at the expense of brick-and-mortar.
With such rapid growth in online sales, big-box retailers are desperately trying to boost their e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities, as e-commerce giant Amazon casts its long shadow over the space.
The story of Wal-Mart is a case in point: Like many other retailers, Wal-Mart has been aggressively trying to build its e-commerce capabilities to rival Amazon. The retailer recently said it was planning to add 1 million products per month to the existing 11 million products on Walmart.com. Just this month, Wal-Mart struck the biggest deal in e-commerce startup history with the $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet, the year-old e-retailer that wants to be the second-biggest e-commerce player behind Amazon.
But it's easier said than done: While Wal-Mart's online sales have been growing — up 7% in the first quarter — the retailer's online presence still remains far behind Amazon's. Amazon, by comparison, dominates e-commerce and continues to grow its business at a rapid pace: Its latest Q2 earnings report boasted net sales of $30.4 billion, with many forecasts suggesting it will continue on this path.