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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How are e-commerce shipments/sales/revenues defined?

E-shipments are online orders accepted for manufactured products from customers, including shipments to other domestic plants of the same company for further manufacture, assembly, or fabrication where price and terms of sale are negotiated over an Internet, Extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other online system. Payment may or may not be made online.

E-commerce sales/revenues are defined as the sales of goods and services where the buyer places an order, or the price and terms of the sale are negotiated, over an Internet, mobile device (m-commerce), extranet, EDI network, electronic mail, or other comparable online system. Payment may or may not be made online.

2. Does E-Stats cover the entire economy?

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, and construction as well as non-merchant wholesalers and parts of the service sector.

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


4. Where are e-commerce sales tabulated for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers?

The Census Bureau categorizes e-commerce divisions of companies with physical storefronts as part of the electronic shopping and mail-order houses industry (NAICS 4541) as long as they do not primarily fulfill e-commerce orders from their stores. Companies provide separate information on their brick-and-mortar stores and their e-commerce divisions. For example, if an electronics store has online and brick and mortar sales, the online sales would be tabulated as part of the electronic shopping and mail-order houses industry and the brick and mortar sales would be tabulated in electronics and appliance stores (NAICS 443). This is similar to how companies would split reporting between two distinct brick-and-mortar divisions, such as a company that owns grocery stores and department stores.

5. What is the difference between merchant wholesalers and non-merchant wholesalers?

Merchant wholesalers take title to the goods they sell and include wholesale merchants, distributors, jobbers, drop shippers, import/export merchants, and manufacturers' sales branches and offices. 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 agents, brokers, commission agents, and electronic marketplaces.

6. What other types of Nonstore Retailers (NAICS 454) are there in addition to Electronic Shopping and Mail Order Houses?

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.

7. Is the value of e-commerce exports included in these reports?

Yes. E-commerce activity with foreign customers and affiliates is included, but it is not separable.

8. How do you account for firms that go out of business?

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.

9. How frequently will E-Stats be published?

We plan to publish the E-Stats Report annually in the Spring.

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