U.S. Census Bureau
E-Stats - Measuring the Electronic Economy

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How is e-commerce defined?
A. E-commerce is defined as the value of goods and services sold online. The term "online" includes the use of the internet, intranet, extranet, as well as proprietary networks that run systems such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

Q. Does E-Stats cover the entire economy?
A. No. E-Stats covers manufacturing, merchant wholesale trade, retail trade, and selected service industries. These sectors and industries are the same as those covered by existing annual Census Bureau surveys. Sectors and industries not covered include agriculture, mining, construction, and utilities as well as non-merchant wholesalers and parts of the service sector.

Q. Is the value of e-commerce included in the estimates of total economic activity provided in your ongoing surveys?
A. Yes.

Q. Are e-commerce sales of retail businesses with both a physical and internet presence, commonly referred to as "brick and click" businesses, included in the Electronic Shopping and Mail Order Houses industry estimates?
A. If the "brick and click" business has a separate business unit set up for internet sales and is not selling motor vehicles, then its e-commerce sales are included in the Electronic Shopping and Mail Order Houses industry estimates. Otherwise, the e-commerce sales are included with the NAICS industry classification for the brick part of the company.

Q. What is the difference between merchant wholesalers and non-merchant wholesalers?
A. Merchant wholesalers take title to the goods they sell and include wholesale merchants, distributors, jobbers, drop shippers, and import/export merchants. These businesses typically maintain their own warehouse, where they receive and handle goods for their customers. Non-merchant wholesalers arrange for the purchase or sale of goods owned by others and do not take title to the goods they sell. Examples of non-merchant wholesalers include manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, agents, brokers, commission agents, and electronic marketplaces.

Q. Are the sales of online marketplaces (eMarketplaces) included in the e-commerce estimates?
A. Only sales from eMarketplaces that take title to the goods they sell are included. Generally, most eMarketplaces arrange for the purchase or sale of goods owned by others and do not take title to the goods they sell. This type of eMarketplace is considered to be a non-merchant wholesaler and would be excluded from the estimates in this report.

Q. What other types of "Nonstore Retailers" (NAICS 454) are there in addition to Electronic Shopping and Mail Order Houses?
A. NAICS 454 also includes Direct Selling Establishments and Vending Machine Operators. Direct Selling Establishments typically go to the customers’ location rather than the customer coming to them (e.g., door-to-door sales, home parties) and includes businesses such as heating oil dealers making residential deliveries and mobile food services.

Q. Can the e-commerce categories be separated into B2B and B2C?
A. Although the surveys did not collect separate data, one can approximate relative shares by using some simplifying assumptions. If one assumes all manufacturing and wholesale is entirely B2B and all retail and service is B2C, then more than 94% of total e-commerce was B2B.

Q. Is the value of e-commerce exports included in these reports?
A. Yes. E-commerce activity with foreign customers and affiliates is included, but it is not separable.

Q. How do you account for firms that go out of business?
A. Our surveys are updated each year to add new businesses and to delete ones no longer in business. Once we receive notification that a firm has ceased operation we drop it from our survey. Results are included up until the point the firm ceased operation.

Q. How many businesses were surveyed for this report?
A. Approximately 125,000 plants and firms were surveyed.

Q. How frequently will E-Stats be published?
A. We plan to publish the E-Stats E-commerce Report annually in March.

Q. Why were the previously released 1999 e-commerce estimates revised?
A.  The revisions reflect changes in data collection methods, improved editing associated with having two years of data, expanded follow up of businesses with inconsistent year-to-year reporting, and in the re-imputation of manufacturing plants that did not report in 1999. See the Explanatory Notes section of the 2000 E-Stats report for additional details.

Source: US Census Bureau  |  E-Stats - Measuring the Electronic Economy