NEW YORK—As e-commerce sales continue to be top of mind for most everyone in retail, the question of whether e-commerce will eventually overtake or completely replace physical store sales comes up in many industry discussions. CBRE, a leader in commercial real estate services and investment, said it has studied this question extensively and found that “demographic variables, usage of internet, ease of payment and infrastructure access will play the largest roles in determining the future of e-commerce penetration.”

The organization recently outlined in a post several key trends below that it said will mark both medium- and long-term e-commerce growth.

For example, digital-impacted retail sales (a segment that includes purchases made online and purchases made in-store by consumers who used a digital channel to research or browse) are expected to rise even higher. Digital-impacted sales are forecast to total more than $2.4 trillion and account for more than 58 percent of total retail sales by 2023.

“It is difficult to predict where e-commerce’s share of total retail sales will peak,” CBRE said. “The answer will depend heavily on several factors. A ceiling, if it does exist, will vary significantly by digital channel, geography and category. South Korea has an e-commerce penetration rate as high as 35 percent, so the U.S. still may have a lot of potential growth.”

Across categories, soft goods like apparel and digitally driven goods like electronics have shown higher e-commerce growth than other categories like health and beauty, which consumers still prefer to purchase in-store. Price point is also an important determinant of e-commerce penetration, with luxury, off-price, discount and value retailers showing greater resistance to online growth than mid-priced brands. Though newer technologies, such as virtual reality and facial recognition, may make online purchases easier across all categories, the ceiling for e-commerce growth is likely to differ by category.

Though reliable data on e-commerce share by U.S. regional markets is very limited, e-commerce buying patterns are expected to vary among urban, suburban and rural consumers. These variations reflect different levels of access to physical store networks, lifestyles and distribution costs for retailers. Online grocery growth, for example, is likely to reach higher levels in urban centers than in suburban and rural areas, given downtown consumers’ limited access to large supermarkets. At the same time, other categories will see lower e-commerce growth in the cities than in the suburbs, since urban consumers have easy access to dense physical store networks.