Coronavirus BRIEFING

Worldwide Ecommerce Is on the Rise, Despite Retail Downturn

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Ecommerce managed to perform above pre-pandemic expectations in 2020, despite a 3 percent downturn in total worldwide retail sales. Worldwide retail ecommerce sales posted a 27.6 percent growth rate for the year, with sales reaching well over $4 trillion, according to new analysis by eMarketer. This represents a substantial uptick from eMarketer’s mid-pandemic assessment that global ecommerce would decelerate to 16.5 percent growth and demonstrates the remarkable extent to which consumers transitioned to ecommerce last year.

“We anticipate that consumers will maintain many of their newfound digital behaviors in 2021,” said Ethan Cramer-Flood, eMarketer forecasting writer at Insider Intelligence and author of eMarketer’s new report, “Global Ecommerce Update 2021. “However, with so much growth shifted forward into 2020—and with a full year of relatively normalized brick-and-mortar commerce—2021’s growth rate will decelerate to some degree, despite the enduring enthusiasm for ecommerce,” he said.

eMarketer forecasts that worldwide growth this year will be 14.3 percent, which is a relatively low number compared with 2019’s 20.2 percent and last year’s 27.6 percent, but it still represents $611 billion in additional ecommerce sales.

As recently as 2018, worldwide ecommerce sales had not yet topped $3 trillion. eMarketer estimates that the $4 trillion line was easily breached in 2020, $5 trillion will be achieved by 2022, and $6 trillion will be reached by 2024. In 2020, 18.0 percent of all retail sales took place via ecommerce. In 2024, that figure will reach 21.8 percent.