Online Revenue Share Of U.S. Consumer Technology Hardware Sales Rose To 61% During The Pandemic
Accelerated by temporary store closures and consumer hesitancy to shop in-store during the pandemic, online U.S. consumer technology hardware revenue share rose to 61% during the 12 months ending March 2021, from 48% in the previous 12-month period (ending March 2020). According to NPD’s Checkout data, online revenue during the year ending March 2021 grew 62%, a more than $36 billion increase. Over that period, online technology revenue share peaked at 68% in Q2 2020, during the height of lockdowns, and despite declining from there remained above the long-term trend at 57% in Q1 2021. This was a full seven percentage points above Q1 2020, and 14 points above the pre-pandemic share in Q1 2019.
In-store revenue mix was in line with historic levels as the four largest categories – notebooks, TVs, tablets, and headphones – made up 43% of in-store sales over the 12 months ending March 2021, the same as the previous 12 months. However, online those categories saw a revenue share increase from 33% to 37%. For notebooks, tablets, and headphones we saw a dramatic shift from in-store to online purchasing resulting in higher category online sales than in-store, a reversal of prior trends. TVs were the outlier with the majority of revenue remaining in-store despite lockdowns and growth in online sales.
“While technology hardware sales have moved online at a more rapid pace than other general merchandise categories, the acceleration of this change, and the passing of the 50% milestone as a consequence of the pandemic, represents an important shift,” said Stephen Baker, vice president, industry advisor for The NPD Group. “That said, there remains substantial opportunity for in-store retailing and growth in buy-online-pick-up in-store (BOPUS) activities that will need to be fulfilled by retailers at the local level. As evidenced by the continued dominance of TV buying in-store, physical presence benefits categories where product features cannot be demonstrated as effectively online.”
While the growth in online presented challenges to physical retailers in some cases, much of the online revenue increase was actually a result of retailers selling through online channels or using their stores for BOPUS transactions. BOPUS revenue accounted for 12% of all online consumer tech revenue over the 12 months ending March 2021, an increase of two percentage points from the previous period. In fact, between BOPUS transactions and normal product deliveries, sellers with a retail store presence saw their overall share of online sales increase 10 points during the pandemic.