As the twenty-teens came to a close, marketers everywhere turned their sights to forecasting ecommerce growth in the coming decade. Their predictions looked promising, with ecommerce positioned to continue its steady upward climb.
- In 2019, ecommerce was forecasted to account for more than 22 percent of all global retail sales by 2023, a sum of more than $740 billion [A].
- This would be the largest 10-year increase of the global ecommerce market to date. Online shopping has grown from constituting 1.75 percent of all retail sales in 2003 [F] to 5.1 percent in 2013 [G].
But with 2020 shaping up to be history’s greatest curveball in the form of a calendar year, the picture is rapidly changing. As a global pandemic forced much of the economy out of public spaces, consumer shopping habits changed in big and unpredictable ways.
Here are some coronavirus online shopping statistics that suggest that ecommerce will grow even faster than experts have predicted:
Online shopping surges due to coronavirus lockdowns
The coronavirus pandemic provided a moment for online-shopping to truly shine. As people around the world were confined to their homes for several months, online retail saw explosive growth.
- U.S. daily ecommerce sales grew 49 percent faster between April 1 and 23, 2020 as opposed to the weeks in March before the pandemic gained widespread attention. [C]
- Amazon.com was earning roughly $11,000 per second during March and April 2020, as opposed to $4,722 per second in 2019. [E]
- Americans were the most likely to have noted an online shift in their shopping habits due to the pandemic. 71 percent of U.S.-based respondents reported shopping more online, compared with 65 percent of Brits and 53 percent of Germans. [B]
COVID-19 and the rise of food ecommerce
Certain market sectors that had been steadily growing prior to COVID-19 suddenly saw skyrocketing traffic. Over two thousand consumers in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany were asked if there were any items they deliberately purchased online instead of in-store due to the coronavirus pandemic [B]. The changes were most pronounced when it came to food:
- 31 percent of Americans reported having ordered takeaway because of the pandemic, and 24 percent had ordered groceries online.
- 19 percent of Brits had ordered takeaway, and 30 percent had ordered groceries online .
- This trend was less pronounced in Germany, where just 16 percent of respondents had ordered takeaway online and only 10 percent had ordered groceries online.
The pandemic-fueled growth of online grocery shopping had a tremendous impact on the ecommerce performance of major online retailers.
- March 2020 set a 30-day record of $4 billion USD in terms of online grocery sales. This record was immediately beaten the following month, when online grocery sales in April 2020 reached $5.3 billion USD. [C]
- Walmart saw a 74 percent growth in ecommerce sales in the first 4 months of 2020. [D]
- Target saw a 141 percent growth in ecommerce sales during this same period. [D]
- From March 16 to April 12, Amazon hired 175,000 additional workers for their Whole Foods Market team, increased their online order capacity by 60 percent, and expanded the locations at which they performed pick-up and delivery from 80 to 150. [H]
- In total, online grocery sales are projected to grow 40 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 [L]
Which other products saw growth due to COVID-19?
Groceries were far from the only products that saw more online purchases during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Online book sales doubled in April 2020 compared with the weeks before the pandemic. [C]
- Online electronic sales grew by 58 percent in the same time period. [C]
- Online apparel sales grew by 34 percent on the whole. But not all types of clothes saw more purchases. Loungewear and pajamas saw 143 percent more purchases, while sales of pants (-13%), jackets (-33%), and bras (-12%) all saw declines. [C]
- In China, disposable cleaning projects were purchased online 34 times more often during the coronavirus lockdowns. [I]
- Online pet food sales in the U.S. increased from 36 percent of pet owners to 45 percent of pet owners during the COVID-19 lockdowns [J]
- Survey data shows that 75 percent of baby care product ecommerce businesses saw increased revenue during April 2020 [K]
- 65 percent of surveyed ecommerce cosmetics brands saw increased revenue in April 2020, with 1 out of 5 of those who saw growth reporting revenue jumps of more than 51 percent. [K]
Will COVID-19 have lasting effects on our online shopping habits?
While it easy to say that COVID-19 has irreversibly changed the global economy in many ways, it is hard to predict exactly how far reaching these changes will be.
The dust hasn’t quite settled on the horizon of ecommerce. But current online shopping statistics have led us to these educated guesses:
1. People around the world will increasingly purchase essentials online.
- While only 16 percent of Americans reported that they were likely to buy pet food online before the pandemic, 28 percent say they will likely continuing buying pet food online after the pandemic. [J]
- 70 percent of Chinese shoppers born after 1995 reported that their habits shifted from only ever shopping online for themselves, towards shopping online for essentials for the whole family as a result of COVID-19. [I]
2. Ecommerce brands will need to work hard to build loyalty among their consumers.
- In 2019, frequent online grocery shoppers reported having purchased from an average of 1.8 retailers in the past 12 months. In 2020, they reported having shopped with an average of 2.3 retailers. [L]
- Even some of the most recognizable names in fashion, from J. Crew to Nieman Marcus, filed for bankruptcy in the wake of COVID-19, suggesting a powerful brand is not enough to generate online sales.
3. Ecommerce brands will increase spending on advertising and brand protection.
- An April 2020 survey of leading ecommerce businesses revealed that 88 of 150 planned to invest more money into their ecommerce channels as a result of COVID-19. [K]
- 59 percent of these businesses plan to expand their social ad spending, 54 percent expect to invest more in brand protection, 35 percent plan to work on their SEO and build out organic content, and 33 percent expect to invest in offline marketing channels. [K]
[A] Estay, Beatriz (2019). “Ecommerce Research: How Many People Shop Online?” Study by BigCommerce and Kelton Global. Summarized here: https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/online-shopping-statistics/#5-essential-online-shopping-statistics
[B] Kunst, Alexander (2020, June). “Shifting to online purchases because of the COVID-19 pandemic 2020, by category.” Summarized by statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1107859/shifting-to-online-purchases-because-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-by-category/
[C] Fareeha, Ali (2020, May 20). “Ecommerce trends in charts during the coronavirus pandemic.” Survey by Adobe Analytics. Reporting by Digital Commerce 360. https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2020/05/15/quarantine-pajama-party-apparel-sales-driven-by-lounge-wear-rise-34-in-april/
[D] Davis, Sarah and Toney, Lauren (2020, July 2). “How Coronavirus is Impacting Ecommerce.” Analysis by ROI Revolution. https://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2020/07/coronavirus-and-ecommerce/
[E] Neate, Rupert (2020, April 15). “Amazon reaps $11,000-a-second coronavirus lockdown bonanza.” Published by The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/15/amazon-lockdown-bonanza-jeff-bezos-fortune-109bn-coronavirus
[F] “History of Ecommerce” (2008). Published by eCommerce-Land.com. https://www.ecommerce-land.com/history_ecommerce.html
[G] “Global Retail and E-Commerce Sales Forecast 2013-2018.” (2015, January 2). Published by eMarketer. Summarized by Marketing Charts. https://www.marketingcharts.com/industries/retail-and-e-commerce-49733#
[H] Landry, Stephanie (2020, April 12). “New ways were getting groceries to people during the COVID-19 crisis.” Published to the Amazon Company News Blog. https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/new-ways-were-getting-groceries-to-people-during-the-covid-19-crisis
[I] Yang, Vivian and Kidron, Ella (2020, June 8). “4 new shopping trends revealed in post-lockdown China.” Published by the World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/4-new-shopping-trends-in-post-lockdown-china/
[J] Browne, Michael (2020, May 27). “Pandemic spurs online pet food purchases.” Published by Supermarket News. https://www.supermarketnews.com/winning-pet-care/pandemic-spurs-online-pet-food-purchases
[K] Woodburn, Brogan (2020, May 12). “The Day After COVID-19: Preparing for the future of ecommerce.” Published by Red Points. https://blog.redpoints.com/en/ecommerce-after-covid-19
[L] Redman, Russel (2020, May 11). “Online grocery sales to grow 40% in 2020.” Published in Supermarket News. https://www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/online-grocery-sales-grow-40-2020