Computer & Communication Industry Association
PublishedJuly 10, 2023

New Research Suggests Omnichannel and E-Commerce Boom Benefited Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Most

Washington – Surprising findings in a new study of U.S. Census Bureau data by NERA Economic Consulting suggest a direct link between the resurgence and growth of small and medium-sized retail businesses in the 2010s and increased adoption of e-commerce technology in retail. The findings debunk misconceptions that the rise of omnichannel and e-commerce has primarily benefited large retailers and stifled smaller businesses.

The study, commissioned by the CCIA Research Center, indicates that retail SMBs enjoyed significant and disproportionate benefits from the adoption of digital and e-commerce technologies. U.S. Census data demonstrates that the increase in growth rates for small retailers  in the 2010s — among the largest experienced by small firms in any sector of the U.S. economy — corresponded with a dramatic rise in e-commerce sales and closely mirrored the rise of information & internet technology companies. The study also found that while small and medium-sized retailers saw substantial corresponding growth from investment in new tech, large firms did not enjoy the same effect. Similarly, Census data shows that the “omnichannel” trend — whereby retailers sell both online and through physical stores — is a rising tide that lifts all ships: omnichannel retailers saw explosive online sales growth while brick-and-mortar sales also grew.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated for tech policy that advances competition and innovation for over 50 years.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Chief Economist & Director of Research Trevor Wagener:

“Rigorous analysis of U.S. Census data refutes the misconception that the rise of omnichannel and e-commerce have harmed smaller retailers. In fact, retail SMBs have benefited disproportionately from increasing use of digital retail tools and marketplaces. Before the 2010s, retail was dominated by the ‘Big Box Effect’ whereby homogeneous large retailers outcompeted smaller retailers. In the 2010s, the ‘E-commerce Effect’ reversed the trend, as widespread availability of digital tools and marketplaces reduced barriers to entry and provided diverse smaller retailers with cost-effective means to compete against incumbents at scale around the world.”