E-commerce’s share of retail sales reached new heights across key markets in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and this looks sets to continue, according to a WARC Data analysis of monitoring by national statistical organisations.
In both the UK (28%) and China (25%), online sales accounted for one-quarter of all retail sales last year, both up from 18% in 2018. Indeed, UK penetration rose 8.4 percentage points in 2020 alone, equating to a six-year leap in just 12 months when previous growth rates are considered.
The EU excluding the UK also reached a new peak of 20%, while the United States saw its quickest year-on-year growth ever to hit 13% in 2020.
E-commerce has a lower penetration in Japan, Canada and India, but its share of retail sales also reached new highs.
While shopping online became more popular during 2020, e-commerce’s growth in share was also inflated by a challenging year for in-store retail, which was severely hindered by national lockdowns.
E-commerce’s penetration is set to grow further, as consumers form habits around the new shopping formats they utilised in 2020. WARC’s survey of over 1,000 marketers finds that improving the online customer experience is the main focus for brands in 2021. As shopping online becomes easier and brands grow their e-commerce advertising budgets by an expected 24%, further growth in online shopping is likely.
This gives retailers and brands a clear opportunity to attract and engage new audiences – it would be valuable to focus on the consumers with a 20–80% probability of purchasing, known as the “movable middle”. Emotionally and creatively engaging consumers will also be vital, something Nike is doing via its membership programme. Better customer experiences need to be underpinned by a clear mapping out of the customer journey, though.