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The top 5 places people start their online shopping search

Flippa used survey data from Jungle Scout to analyze the top sites where U.S. online shoppers begin their search.

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Young Black woman with an iPad and a credit card in her hand.

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Almost everyone shops online, and how people shop online is different from how they typically search the internet.

Only 6% of customers haven't shopped online, according to a 2023 report by Jungle Scout, a platform for e-commerce sellers. For the majority of American consumers clicking "add to cart," the search starts in a few places. Flippa used survey data from Jungle Scout to analyze the top sites where U.S. online shoppers begin their searches. Jungle Scout surveyed 1,000 residents from various backgrounds in August 2023 as part of a quarterly survey series.

Consumers spent $1.034 trillion online in 2022 and more than $834 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, which comprises over 15% of retail sales, per the Census Bureau. The COVID-19 pandemic caused more people to turn to online shopping—pre-pandemic, only about 11% of retail sales came from e-commerce—and shoppers needed trusted tools to help them buy goods they couldn't touch or evaluate in person.

The importance of reviews spiked with online shopping growth. Consumer online ratings and reviews increased 87% during the first year of the pandemic, according to a McKinsey analysis of industry data. While McKinsey acknowledges the problem with some reviews being fake or manipulated, relatable reviews from peers give more credibility to products—and broadcast bad products—helping shoppers cut through marketing messages to understand how well products really work.

A 2023 PowerReviews survey found that at least 4 in 5 (82%) consumers trust product ratings and reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family. Reviews help people better manage the unknowns of buying an unfamiliar product online.

People start with trusted vendors and social media platforms when shopping online

A bar chart showing the share of U.S. survey respondents who started their online shopping searches at five different destinations.

Flippa

Amazon's position as the country's top internet retailer, per Retail Info Systems industry news, makes the megastore a natural starting point for most online shopping searches, but Amazon has many techniques to drive that traffic.

According to Jungle Scout, 3 in 5 (61%) consumers have access to Amazon Prime—a membership service known for its free delivery, content streaming, and special shopping days—and they shop at Amazon to take advantage of that subscription. Product badges for bestsellers, small business goods, and climate pledge-friendly items help consumers prioritize how they want to shop.

While social media platforms aren't as popular first stops as top online retailers, the social sites have been upping their e-commerce games and often show people targeted advertisements for products they're in the market for. More consumers are using social media to find not just reviews but also user-generated photos and videos showing how the products actually look and work. Sixty percent of consumers rely on these images and videos, according to the PowerReviews survey.

Although consumers may use storefronts and other marketplaces for early product searches, that doesn't necessarily mean they ultimately shop there. Price still plays a significant role in many shoppers' buying decisions, so they may search on several sites to compare prices and find the best option.

Story editing by Rose Shilling. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Ania Antecka.

This story originally appeared on Flippa and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.