While many people are familiar with the United States Census, which is taken every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution, there are actually over 100 different surveys conducted by the US Census Bureau each year. In this educational series, SBB Research Group summarizes key information from Census.gov about these lesser-known—but highly important—surveys.
What is the E-Commerce Statistics (E-STATS) Report?
The E-Commerce Statistics (E-STATS) report is conducted by the United States Census Bureau to measure the value of goods and services sold online. Its goal is to measure the electronic economy in particular and excludes companies with physical storefronts as long as they do not primarily fill e-commerce orders from their stores. These companies are asked to provide separate information for their e-commerce divisions. Agriculture, mining, construction, agents, brokers, and electronic markets that participate in wholesale trade are all excluded as well.
E-commerce exports are included in the E-STATS report. Foreign customers and affiliates are also included but are not separable from domestic data.
Firms that go out of business are dropped from the survey on an annual basis in the spring of each year. Results of e-commerce provided by these firms are included until the company ceases operations completely.
The data for the E-STATS report is compiled from data in four separate surveys:
The Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS) targets all US firms with paid employees that are primarily engaged in retail trade.
The Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) provides sample estimates of statistics for all manufacturing establishments with at least one employee.
The Annual Wholesale Trade Survey (AWTS) conducted yearly to provide detailed industry measures of sales, inventories, operational expenses, and purchases for wholesale trade activities.
The Service Annual Survey (SAS) provides comprehensive data of service activity in the United States.
These surveys use different measures of economic activity, such as:
Shipments for manufacturing
Sales for wholesale and retail trade
Revenues for service industries
What is the Data Used For?
The statistics collected in the E-STATS report are primarily used to provide the business community and policymakers of the United States with relevant economic metrics, which inform business and policy decisions.
How E-Commerce Shipments, Sales, and Revenues Are Defined
E-commerce shipments are online orders for manufactured products.
Payments may or may not be made online, but price and terms of sale must be negotiated over one of the following:
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network
Other online systems
E-commerce sales/revenues require the buyer to place an order online (though payments do not have to be made online) through the following mediums:
Mobile device (m-commerce)
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI network)
Other online systems
As with all US Census reports and surveys, estimates provided by the sample surveys are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error.