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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic and lockdown significantly accelerated the rise of online commerce, compressing years of projected growth into a few months.

The big picture: Stuck at home for weeks on end, we turned to the internet and delivery to meet our consumer needs. That's been a boon for many tech companies, but it's not yet clear whether consumers will return to the real world once the pandemic ends.

By the numbers: Data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that U.S. e-commerce retail sales for the second quarter of 2020 rose to $211.5 billion, up 31.8% from the first quarter and 44.5% from the same period last year.

  • E-commerce in the second quarter reached 16.1% of all retail sales, up from 11.8% in the previous quarter.
  • That means that as a share of total retail sales, e-commerce grew as much in three months as it had over the past five years combined.
  • In the U.K., which had a stricter lockdown than the U.S., e-commerce penetration was even greater.
  • The retailer Target experienced 195% year-on-year growth in its e-commerce sales in the second quarter, while Walmart nearly doubled its online sales.

What they're saying: "This was a time when the digital shopping shows what it is really capable of," Biju Dominic, chairman of FinalMile Consulting, said in a briefing on Thursday. "The question is whether this trend will continue after COVID."

The bottom line: Q2 2020 may be looked back upon as a lockdown aberration, but over the long run, more and more of our economic activity will migrate to the internet — just like the rest of our lives.

Go deeper

Nov 9, 2020 - Sports

How the coronavirus pandemic helped fuel 2020's golf boom

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With the Masters' first-ever November start just three days away, it's a great time to look back on 2020's golf boom.

Why it matters: Golf was a physical and mental safe haven for millions of Americans with cabin fever this year, and even moderate retention of the sport's newcomers could help buoy an entire industry for years to come.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.