Amazon dominates e-commerce during the pandemic—but Walmart is catching up

The pandemic, and Americans’ turn to e-commerce during it, have hastened the death of brick-and-mortar. J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, and Pier 1 Imports have all announced their file for bankruptcy since the onset of the virus. 

E-commerce isn’t just growing during the pandemic—it’s exploding. Around 1 in 2 U.S. adults increased their online buying levels during the pandemic, finds a Fortune-Civis Analytics poll conducted between May 22-27 among 2,045 U.S. adults. This surge in online shopping appears to be speeding up the trajectory for e-commerce by years.

Before the pandemic hit, Target and Walmart were already plowing billions of dollars into e-commerce investments in an attempt to catch up with Amazon. While the Seattle-based e-commerce juggernaut leads online sales during the pandemic, Walmart and Target have further solidified their No. 2 and No. 3 spots.  

Walmart and Target have each expanded their customer base beyond those who purchased from them during the 2019 holiday season. A total of 28% of U.S. adults bought from Walmart during the past holiday season, and 18% from Target, according to a Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll conducted in January. Since the onset of the pandemic, 41% and 23% of U.S. adults have purchased online goods or services from Walmart and Target, respectively.

And while Amazon’s buyer growth was flat, with 2 in 3 U.S. adults buying from its platform during the same periods, its overall sales are surging. And Amazon share price is up 48% year-to-date. 

As a result of its booming e-commerce business, UBS gave Walmart (WMT) an upgrade this week to a Buy rating from Neutral and a price target of $135.

Among U.S. adults, 48% increased their online purchases since lockdowns were issued in March. That’s a 37% increase among Americans age 65 or older and 58% among those aged 35 to 44. Now, 93% of Americans shop online, up from 84% in January.

As the locks ease, the question is, how many Americans will return to their old shopping habits? Those who hold onto these new online shopping habits could spell trouble for traditional businesses. 

*Methodology: The Fortune-Civis Analytics survey was conducted among a national sample of 2,045 adults in the U.S. between May 22-27. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.

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