The acceleration of ecommerce throughout the globe over the course of 2020 was hard to ignore, as consumers shopped online often out of necessity, and brands were forced to rapidly change their strategies as a result.

From consumer behaviour to demand prediction to retention, the events of the last year have altered or sped up almost every facet of online retail.

We’ve rounded up a selection of stats to try to illustrate how the pandemic has impacted, and continues to impact, the ecommerce industry, dating back to April 2020. We’ll update this post regularly as the world of online shopping continues to evolve throughout 2021.

Click the contents below to jump between sections…

  1. Latest
  2. Ecommerce penetration
  3. Grocery
  4. Amazon and marketplaces
  5. Fashion and department stores
  6. Customer experience
  7. China
  8. Black Friday and Singles Day 2020

You can also read Econsultancy’s marketing and advertising stats roundup, again looking at the impact of Covid-19.

1. Latest

British consumers spent £113 billion online in 2020

A June 2021 report from Ofcom has found British consumers spent a total £113 billion online throughout 2020, a rise of 48% on the year before. Online sales in the food and drink category experienced the highest rise of all, up a massive 82% year-on-year, while the household goods category saw a 76% spike. Online share of spending on household goods grew from 17% in Q1 2020 to 42% in Q2 2020 alone.

The online spending power of under-18s has also risen since the first lockdown began in March 2020, driven somewhat by the increased adoption of digital pocket money apps and pre-paid bank cards. According to research, this trend is continuing into this year – teenagers spent 68% of their money online in March 2021 and just 32% offline.

Meanwhile, spend on online entertainment and visual media, which includes streaming services and video games among other products and services, grew to £5.6 billion over the course of the year. Of this surge, audio subscription streaming increased by 23%, driving revenue for the sector up by 19% to £1.3 billion. Audio subscription streaming through platforms like Spotify and Apple Music now accounts for 87% of online audio revenues, up from 84% in 2019.

Overall, the amount of time an average UK adult spent online per day in 2020 was 3 hours and 37 minutes, rising to 4 hours and 34 minutes in 18-24 year olds. This is a substantial half an hour more than the next most digitally focused population in Europe – Spain – which recorded an average 3 hours and 6 minutes online every day.

TikTok sees 553% growth in shopping on its app

Research from Bazaarvoice, released in May 2021, confirms TikTok has seen a 553% growth in shopping on its app since the start of the pandemic.

Similar platforms have also experienced exponential ecommerce booms throughout the period as a result of both increased user engagement and further investment in social commerce capabilities. Pinterest, which introduced shoppable product pins in late 2018, followed by a Shop tab in early 2020, has seen a 356% rise in shopping, ranking it second among the top social apps analysed in the study. Meanwhile, Instagram and Facebook saw growth of 189% and 160% respectively, making TikTok’s gains even more significant by comparison, at nearly 3x higher.

However, while TikTok saw the sharpest increase in shopping activity, a smaller proportion of its users (24%) actually make purchases on the app compared to other platforms like Instagram, through which 64% of its users have bought at least one product since the pandemic began. Additionally, forty-five percent of Facebook users have shopped on its site, thereby also surpassing TikTok in this regard.

From a consumer perspective, more than three-quarters of UK consumers surveyed by Bazaarvoice feel ‘more influenced’ to shop on social platforms than they did a year ago and nearly half have chosen to try a new brand for their go-to products thanks to something they saw on social media. Perhaps most notably of all, the number who claim to ‘always’ be shopping on social media has risen by 164% year-on-year.

Online retail sales declined 5.6% month-on-month in April 2021

The ONS has reported a 5.6% month-on-month decline in online retail sales for April 2021, while overall retail sales for the month jumped 9.2% as consumers returned to brick-and-mortar stores.

As a result, the total proportion of online sales as a percentage of all retail fell from 34.7% in March 2021 to 30% in this most recent set of statistics, fuelling speculation over the end of the recent ecommerce boom.

Online sales through department stores saw the largest drop on a month-on-month basis, falling 22.4% against March 2021, followed by online food purchases, which includes grocery and takeaways (-11.4%), as consumers resumed shopping in-store at supermarkets. In contrast, the textile, clothing and footwear category fared fairly well by comparison, seeing a 6.3% dip but retaining a 30% online share of sales.

April 2021’s ONS figures, despite continuing a downward trend in online, remain much higher than early 2020 levels reported before the onset of coronavirus. Total retail sales, including offline, were 10% higher on amount spent and quantity bought than February 2020. Furthermore, the proportion of online sales, although having dropped from record peaks of 36%, are still at a healthy 10 percentage points higher than the 20% share recorded pre-pandemic.

Amazon is now on course to become the UK’s largest retailer by 2025

Thanks in part to a surge in sales during the pandemic, Amazon is now on course to become the UK’s largest retailer by 2025, Charged Retail reported from findings from Edge by Ascential. It is predicted that the ecommerce giant’s total sales will outpace that of Tesco in the next four years, at £77 billion versus £76.1 billion respectively, thereby bumping the popular supermarket off the top spot.

Amazon’s compound annual growth rate over this period is also expected to be much higher (at 16.3%) than Tesco’s (at 3.5%), which is somewhat due to the marketplace’s gradual increase in share of the UK grocery sector since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Growth in Amazon’s grocery category in 2020 alone rose 17.6%.

As ecommerce becomes an ever more popular way of purchasing food products and groceries, this will no doubt give online-only retailers like Amazon gain the edge over those with brick-and-mortar stores and omnichannel offerings. In fact, data suggests that 57.4% of added sales between now and 2025 will take place online, helping the retail sector accelerate by £123.6 billion to reach a £500 billion market value.

Sainsbury’s sales are predicted to rise 4.5% to £42.2 billion by 2025, which will rank the supermarket as the third largest retailer by that time, while Asda is likely to come in fourth place with total sales of £26.7 billion.

Zara owner Inditex sees online sales up 67% in Q1 2021

Inditex, owner of fashion brands Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear, has posted better than expected results for the month of May. In a financial statement, the brand revealed sales were 5% up between May 1st and June 6th 2021 on the same period in pre-pandemic 2019, and up 102% versus the same period in 2020.

Over the first quarter of 2021 (1st February-30th April), online sales improved 67%, which comes as good news for fashion retail sector as many brands recover from record lows last year. Inditex also stated that 84% of its stores were operating as usual by the end of the first quarter, resulting in a 24% loss in trading hours. As of the 6th June, 98% of its stores had reopened following a much wider lifting of coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks.

The gradual reopening of its brick-and-mortar offering, as well as strong online performance, has no doubt had a positive impact on total sales for the group, which have been recorded at €4.9 billion (£4.2 billion) – a 48% rise on Q1 2020, but a decline on Q1 2019 (€5.9 billion).

The group has said that the spring/summer collections across its brands have been well-received by its customers. As lockdowns continue to loosen in some major markets, it would be unsurprising to see online and offline revenue for Inditex, and other omnichannel fashion retailers, begin to pick up pace in the coming months.

43% of global consumers are now interested in shopping for clothing online using VR/AR technology

The ease at which consumers can shop online has been thrown into the spotlight thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, particularly when it comes to browsing products that often need to be tried on, or tried out, before purchasing. YouGov’s international omni-channel retail report, published in May 2021, has found 43% of global consumers are now interested in shopping for clothing online using VR/AR technology, sparking opportunity for brands to invest in such technological solutions to meet this pent-up demand.

In general, the younger the consumer, the keener they are to shop using these methods, the survey indicates. More than half (52%) of 18-24 year olds expressed an interest in using VR/AR when shopping for fashion online, declining to just over one-third of over 55s (34%). A similar trend can be found across other categories too – younger cohorts are becoming increasingly interested in such shopping methods when it comes to browsing technologies/ home appliances and video games.

Geographic location also has an impact on the likely take up of VR/AR technologies when applied to online shopping. Mexican shoppers appear, on average, to be the most enthusiastic about this approach, followed by those in the UAE and APAC regions, while consumers in the US are the least interested.

2.Ecommerce penetration

Walmart’s US ecommerce sales rose 37% year-on-year in Q1 2021

US ecommerce sales for retail giant Walmart rose 37% year-on-year in Q1 2021, and 49% across its international markets, according to a financial statement.

The sharp increase in the retailer’s international ecommerce earnings was perhaps the most surprising figure of all, given its recent divestments of Asda in the UK and Seiyu in Japan. Meanwhile, consistent growth in its US online revenue for the quarter has meant Walmart’s ecommerce sales in the region have more than doubled in the last two years.

One of its brands, Sam’s Club, a membership-only retailer, saw a particularly strong increase in ecommerce sales over the period, jumping 47%. Overall Sam’s Club membership ‘reached an all-time high’, and income (across all channels) grew 12.7%, according to the statement. Consequently, as with other membership-based retailers, Sam’s Club appears to have bucked the recent trend of consumers abandoning brand loyalty in favour of price or convenience.

Doug McMillan, CEO of Walmart says he expects many consumers to resume shopping in person, which could impact the spike in ecommerce growth moving forward: “In the U.S., customers clearly want to get out and shop… We anticipate continued pent up demand throughout 2021.”

Global ecommerce sales rose to $26.7 trillion in 2020, making up 19% of all retail sales

Analysis from UNCTAD has found global ecommerce sales rose to $26.7 trillion in 2020, making up 19% of all retail sales (up from 16% in 2019). This increase in share, which the UN has called ‘dramatic’, is reflective of the huge worldwide shift towards online shopping since the onset of coronavirus.

Zooming in, it appears some markets saw a more notable jump in ecommerce sales than others. Data shows that the Republic of Korea experienced the most growth in share, where the proportion of online sales rose from one in five (20.8%) to more than one in four year-on-year (25.9%). For context, China came in at one percentage point lower for total ecommerce penetration in 2020.

The UK also saw big growth compared to regional counterparts, growing from an overall 15.8% online share of retail sales to 23.3%, placing it third in a list of growth in seven major economies which also includes the US, Australia, Canada and Singapore.

Singapore’s ecommerce growth marks it as one to watch as its ecommerce infrastructure develops at a rapid pace. While just over one in every ten retail sales are now made online in the country (11.7%), this figure increased from a tiny 5.9% in 2019.

Kingfisher’s online penetration has grown to 18% from 7% in mid-2019

Online sales penetration across Kingfisher’s brands (which include Screwfix and B&Q) has soared from just 7% in mid-2019 to 18% by the end of 2020, diginomica reports.

In an interview, the retailer’s CEO, Thierry Garnier, revealed just to how extent Kingfisher’s online channels have benefitted from changed shopping behaviours brought about by the pandemic. Its group ecommerce sales rose 158% year-on-year in 2020 to £2.3 billion, with click and collect becoming the fastest growing fulfilment channel, according to its data.

This is thanks to 10 million new customers shopping with Kingfisher brands since the onset of the coronavirus. Recent surveys conducted of their customers showed that 18-35 year olds were driving a large chunk of overall sales, with 20% carrying out DIY projects for the first time, 55% increasing the amount of DIY they have done and 65% feeling more confident in their DIY skills.

B&Q alone experienced a 117% jump in online sales during 2020, while Screwfix performed even better at a 146% increase.

Mobile transactions saw the biggest shift for the retail giant. Sales on mobile devices now account for 62% of Screwfix’s ecommerce sales, while it accounts for 56% of online orders across all Kingfisher brands – more than a 200% increase year-on-year.

Mother’s Day 2021 saw 47% increase in online revenue for brands compared to the year before

Data from Visualsoft reveals that, in the two weeks leading up to Mother’s Day 2021, brands saw a 47% increase in online revenue compared to the equivalent two weeks in 2020. Meanwhile total ecommerce orders across the period were up 25% year-on-year.

While advice about social distancing was circulating in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day 2020, initial UK lockdown restrictions were officially imposed the day after the event. This meant the majority of those purchasing gifts had already done so via a mixture of offline and online methods. In 2021, with the country under lockdown for the entire duration of the fortnight, it is clear that consumers have had no choice but to turn to the internet to send their tokens and cards.

Dean Benson, CEO at Visualsoft commented: “consumers have adapted to this way of life and with consumer confidence a lot higher than this time last year, online retailers have reaped the benefits, seeing a dramatic increase in Mother’s Day revenue.

… This year, retailers who provided a seamless shopping experience, last-minute delivery options and personalised Mother’s Day products stood to win.”

UK January online retail sales grow 74% year-on-year

IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Results for January reveal that UK online sales grew 74% year-on-year in January 2021, which is the largest rate of growth since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020.

Typically, online sales in January are fairly restrained as consumers recover from the Christmas shopping frenzy that occurs in November and December. However, a lockdown announcement for the new year caused a record-breaking growth in sales, with results also far above the 3, 6 and 12-month rolling averages – 46.4%, 44.9% and 41.3% respectively, according to analysis.

Omnichannel retailers were the biggest winners in January, seeing a 99.8% year-on-year rise in sales across their online channels compared to their online-only counterparts, which experienced a smaller (but nevertheless impressive) 31.2% growth. Meanwhile, mobile ecommerce sales soared 169.1%.

Data shows a multitude of categories benefitted from increased online shopping across the month, including health and beauty, which saw sales up 102% year-on-year, and beer and wine (up 105% year-on-year), despite many consumers partaking in the Dry January initiative. Electrical sales remained very high – up 206% – and there was even some promising news for fashion retailers as clothing sales grew 22%.

UK online sales accounted for a record 35.2% of all retail in January 2021

Data from the ONS has found UK online sales in January 2021 accounted for 35.2% of all retail, a record that beats even last May’s high of 34.1%, when the coronavirus crisis was at its first peak.

While retail sales volumes were predictably down 8.2% on December 2020, the proportion of online spending was higher in January than it was in the busiest two months of the retail calendar, November and December, which saw online account for 31.8% and 29.6% of retail sales respectively.

Amid a third national lockdown, 50% of textile, clothing and footwear sales came through online channels in the first month of the year, declining to 37.4% for department store sales and 31.5% for household goods stores. Although online made up just 12.2% of food sales (including grocery) in January, it saw the highest year-on-year growth of 143.5% compared to the same month in 2020.

With little sign of lockdown restrictions lifting any time before spring, it is possible this trend will continue and perhaps experience even higher record proportions of online sales in results published over the next few months.

Since the pandemic began, 46% of UK consumers purchased a product online that they had previously only ever purchased in store

A 2021 report from Retail Economics and Natwest has found that, since the pandemic began, nearly half (46%) of UK consumers have purchased a product online that they had previously only ever purchased in store.

As a wave of new consumers have adapted to online shopping over the last year, the research attempts to determine to what extent these changes will become permanent in the next year and beyond. When asked directly, 32% of consumers surveyed said they expect to continue with their new ecommerce habits in the future, a figure that rises to 40% in 45-54 year-olds.

More affluent households are also more willing to stick with the change. Data shows a positive correlation between those that believe their online shopping behaviours will become permanent and the amount of money they are prepared to spend on products. This is particularly true for higher earners aged between 25 and 44.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents from households earning £96,000 or more per year agreed or strongly agreed that they are likely to spend a higher proportion of their income on retail products online than in store, even after the pandemic subsides. By comparison, just 31% of households earning less than £19,000 said the same.

Once lockdown has lifted once more, it is likely that the increased trend of shopping at retail parks will continue as a more convenient and safe way of shopping at physical stores in instances where online shopping isn’t an option. Reasons typically cited are better parking facilities than at high street counterparts, as well as larger in store and outdoor spaces which enable safer social distancing.

The UK is the third most shopped market for international online purchases in the past year

Research from cross-border ecommerce brand eShopWorld has found the UK to be the third most shopped market for international online purchases in the past year, behind China and the US.

The survey of more than 22,000 consumers in 11 countries revealed 20% of non-UK shoppers made a purchase from a UK-based ecommerce site during this period. Australia, the US and Germany came out on top as the biggest international markets buying from our nation’s online businesses, with 37%, 29% and 26% of respondents from these countries, respectively, having bought from such websites recently.

As a whole, more than two-thirds (68%) of consumers living in the regions analysed had made at least one cross-border ecommerce purchase in 2020, demonstrating the huge potential for the growth of ecommerce beyond home markets.

The combination of Brexit, its subsequent customs changes and the reopening of local brick-and-mortar retail stores in many regions, could impact the appetite of international online shoppers for UK products this year and beyond.

Tommy Kelly, CEO of eShopWorld said of the findings, “[Consumers] are increasingly embracing international ecommerce as more retailers and brands eliminate friction by offering convenience within the buying journey, and adding capabilities such as click and collect, return to store and guaranteed delivery date. People are still restricted in their ability to travel and shop in person around the world, and cross-border ecommerce continues to be an attractive alternative for these shoppers.”

Global consumer mobile spending is expected to reach $270 billion by 2025

Global consumer spending on mobile is expected to reach $270 billion by 2025, having been accelerated by increased mobile activity during the pandemic, according to SensorTower’s 2021-2025 Mobile Market Forecast report. This figure is almost 2.5 times the $111 billion spent throughout 2020 (+30% on 2019), reflecting mobile’s continued dominance over other devices.

The compound annual growth rate across mobile app stores is also predicted to be very healthy over this five-year period, at 21% and 17% respectively on the App Store and Google Play. Meanwhile, app downloads for the 2020 calendar year rose 24% to 143 billion – the highest levels seen since 2016 – and are forecast to reach 230 billion by 2025.

UK consumers led the way last year in spending in Europe, totalling an equivalent $2.9 billion, closely followed by Germany ($2.8 billion) and France ($1.7 billion). By 2025, mobile consumer spend in these regions is expected to grow by 181%, 164% and 170% respectively to equal a collective $20 billion.

Zooming in, SensorTower forecasts that consumer spending on non-game apps, such as streaming service and ecommerce apps, will overtake that of games on the App Store by 2024, while non-game app spend growth will surpass growth from mobile games on Google Play. Overall, non-game apps will account for 49% of all revenue made across both stores by the end of 2025.

2020:

Shopify’s Q4 2020 revenue rose 94% year-on-year amid ecommerce boom

Shopify’s fourth quarter 2020 revenue rose 94% year-on-year to $977.7 million, the company announced in February. This figure helped boost Shopify’s overall revenue to $2.9 billion (+86%) across the full financial year.

Its Subscriptions Solutions revenue rose 53% in Q4 2020 alone, due to a number of new merchants joining the platform, the statement explained, likely in a bid to capitalise on the golden quarter rush, . GMV also grew 99% year-on-year to $41.1 billion, as many businesses saw record online sales of goods over the period. In 2020, its merchants’ Black Friday weekend sales reached over $5.1 billion versus $2.9 billion across the same event in 2019.

Shopify has been heavily investing in its product by developing its software, support capabilities and fulfilment processes, as well as introducing Alipay as a payment method. In April, the launch of ‘Shop’, its mobile shopping assistant, allowed customers to personalise their shopping experience to enhance discovery, use accelerated checkout, take advantage of Shopify’s own buy-now-pay-later scheme Shop Pay, and track their orders. Shop garnered 100 million registered users by the close of 2020 and has 19 million Monthly Active Users as of early 2021.

Shopify has also expanded its ‘partner ecosystem’ considerably – a total 42,200 of its partners referred merchants to Shopify in the past year compared to 24,500 in 2019 (an increase of 72% year-on-year). This is not to mention the brand’s recent partnership with TikTok, which helps retailers that use it advertise and sell on the popular social network. TikTokers are now able to shop with more than 800,000 Shopify stores as they scroll through the app, offering much greater promise of visibility for Shopify retailers in the months and years ahead. So far, this partnership has launched in the US and is being rolled out in Europe and ROW early this year.

Uber Eats revenue from online orders was up 224% year-on-year in Q4 2020

Uber has announced that revenue acquired from online food delivery was up 224% year-on-year in Q4 2020 (19% quarter-on-quarter) to $1.36 billion, with delivery bookings rising 128%.

This coincided with the continued rollout of the newly designed Uber mobile app, which now integrates its ride hailing and food delivery services in an attempt to incrementally increase user and revenue growth across both of its offerings. According to its financial statement, the app now drives more than 10% of Uber Eats first-time orders. Meanwhile, the number of restaurants enlisted on the Uber Eats platform rose 75% in the final quarter of last year, indicating a huge growth in interest from both retailers and customers in this arm of Uber’s business.

Additionally, monthly active platform consumers grew 19% quarter-on-quarter to 93 million, with the average customer spending $60 per month across five or more transactions.

Despite the successes of its food delivery service, the number of people booking rides through its app has been hit dramatically by continued restrictions imposed by regional governments. Ride bookings fell 47% in Q4 2020, resulting in a 52% year-on-year decline in ride revenue over the period. High demand for delivery has therefore partly made up for the shortfall in ride hailing over the past year, however, despite Uber’s total revenue rising 13% quarter-on-quarter, it declined by 16% across the whole of 2020.

UK online sales growth hits 13-year high at +36.6% year-on-year for 2020

Total online sales growth in the UK rose by 36.6% year-on-year in 2020 – the largest growth seen since 2007, according to data from the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.

After unprecedented uptake of online shopping out of necessity, local and national lockdowns throughout November and December (traditionally the busiest shopping period of the year) helped to boost the overall yearly figure to even loftier heights. Online retail sales in December remained slightly higher than the year average at +37%, while Black Friday events caused November to take the crown for peak performance at +39%.

Multichannel retailers saw a particularly bumper year for online sales, seeing them surpass the rate of growth of online-only competitors for the first time since 2017 (+57% year-on-year vs. 9.1%). Categories that experienced the greatest success over 2020 were garden (+222.5%) and electricals (+90.8%), the former of which is typically sold by multichannel retailers. However, online sales of clothing performed quite poorly, up just 1.3% in 2020 compared to growth of 8.2% the year before.

There was also good news for mobile commerce, which saw a huge 73% year-on-year uplift after many stagnant years.

Cross-border ecommerce sales grew by 82% year-on-year in 2020

Data from eShopWorld has revealed that cross-border ecommerce sales grew 82% year-on-year in 2020, as globally optimised retailers cashed in on new opportunities.

Sales analysis shows international online shopping slowed quite dramatically in March 2020 before picking up at speed again in April and remaining high throughout the rest of the year. In April alone, cross-border sales exceeded 100% year-on-year growth before peaking at +141% in July.

A survey of over 22,000 consumers from 11 different countries found that 52% claimed to have made six or more cross-border purchases online since the beginning of 2020. Respondents cited lower cost (such as taxes and shipping) and better availability of products than in their home region as key purchase drivers.

The Phillipines ranked highest in the top 10 growing markets for international online sales, experiencing a whopping 258% year-on-year growth in 2020. This was followed by Morocco, Chile and Puerto Rico at 215%, 211% and 203% growth respectively.

US ecommerce penetration accelerated by 10 years in 90 days in Q1 2020

The rate of ecommerce penetration in the US grew by 10 years in a 90-day period in 2020, reaching around 33%, according to data from McKinsey.

The result of this acceleration, brought about by rapid digital transformation, has caused the gap in corporate profits between the best and worst performing brands to widen further than ever before. In total, McKinsey predicts the top quintile of industries that has fared well over the course of the pandemic could accumulate $335 billion additional profit, while the quintile that has fared the worst could lose $303 billion.

Organisations that have invested in superior customer experiences, following the shock of the coronavirus outbreak, have emerged stronger than they did before it began. It is thought that these brands have seen triple cumulative shareholder returns against other companies, according to analysis.

These figures are despite very volatile retail performance over the past year, with April seeing the largest drop in US retail sales ever recorded. Fifty percent of American households are reported to be actively reducing their household spend, while a further 20% have abandoned past brand loyalty in favour of others that were more convenient, inexpensive or had better stock availability.

Digital Transformation Monthly – 2020 in Review

3.Grocery

2021:

Online grocery sales slow as shoppers return to stores

Online grocery sales growth slowed to 25% year-on-year in April 2021, down from 92% the previous month as a lift on retail restrictions encouraged more consumers in store. Nielsen data, analysed by the BBC, indicates the number of visits to brick and mortar grocery stores grew by 3%, and till sales rose 4.6% during the month as a result.

In the four weeks to 24th April, customers spent $8 billion at supermarkets versus £1.3 billion on online grocery slots.

An article from Internet Retailing offers further insight into Nielsen’s findings – product categories that were hit the hardest by the pandemic are now seeing some of the best performance, reflecting a gradual change in consumer lifestyle as lockdown eases. Fresh food and deli sales were up 28% year-on-year, followed by health and beauty products (27%) and bakery (15%). Interestingly, the reopening of online hospitality hasn’t impacted alcohol sales as much as initially expected – purchases of this category in supermarkets remained strong at 9% up on April 2020.

Supermarket brands with no online presence, such as Lidl and Aldi, have reaped the most rewards in the 12 weeks to 24th April, seeing sales grow 18.2% and 10.4%, while those with strong online grocery offering saw growth in the low single figures.

Despite online grocers continuing to see much higher year-on-year growth than they did before the pandemic began, it is likely that the trend will continue downwards as many consumers return to old shopping habits.

59% of UK grocery shoppers are more price sensitive than they were before the start of the pandemic

A March 2021 survey conducted by Pricer has found 59% of UK grocery shoppers are more price sensitive than they were before the start of the pandemic, thanks to continued financial uncertainty among consumers. In contrast, just 15% said their price sensitivity had not been impacted by the coronavirus.

Nearly one half (49%) claim to have switched to cheaper own-brand products since the onset of coronavirus, while just over one in five (22%) continued to shop their preferred branded products. However, 60% of those surveyed now say they are more conscious of, and likely to take advantage of, promotional offers in order to make the most of their budgets.

A substantial 43% plan to continue their online booking of delivery slots and click and collect once the pandemic is over, suggesting a permanent shift in shopping habits for some customers.

But convenience is not the only new habit that grocery shoppers have picked up since March 2020. A further 55% of respondents said that they have become increasingly more mindful of purchasing locally sourced produce as they endeavour to make more sustainable choices.

Online share of UK grocery shopping reaches record 14% in January

Amid another national lockdown, and now that many supermarkets have adjusted their services to meet demand, many consumers are opting to order their groceries online this year, reports the Retail Gazette. Analysis of data from Kantar has found that online share of grocery shopping in the UK reached a record 14% in January 2021, thanks to increased spending by older demographics.

Retired households increased their online grocery spend by 229% between January 2020 and January 2021, the findings suggest, proving that older generations are becoming more comfortable with using supermarkets’ online booking and delivery. They now account for 28% of the 6.4 million customers using these services so far in January. Meanwhile, parents have increased their grocery spend by £50 a month year-on-year, thanks to ongoing school closures and home working.

Across online and offline channels, shoppers spent £1 billion more with supermarket brands than they did during the same period last year, with a 23% rise in vegan products purchased as families took part in Veganuary.

2020:

Ocado reports 35% revenue growth in 2020

Online-only grocery retailer Ocado has reported a 35% year-on-year revenue growth in 2020 in a financial statement, a result that it claims reflects ‘strong demand for online grocery in the UK’ amid the coronavirus crisis. Total revenue reached £2.19 billion across the year.

Ocado attests its success to a number of different aspects of its business operation. An additional 500 staff members were recruited last year at the height of demand, and it plans to hire another 600 over the coming year. Forty percent of these recent hires have been designated roles in advanced technology, such as the operation of robotic picking systems.

Furthermore, despite the disruptive effects of the pandemic and resulting uncertainty for customers, the company also stated that it had received ‘leading customer service metrics’ in its joint venture with M&S foods. Q3 analysis from Sobeys, as cited in the results, revealed on-time delivery rates of 98.6%, a 99.6% basket accuracy upon delivery and an overall Net Promoter Score of 87%.

Looking forward to 2021, Ocado says that it will be investing an additional £30 million in technology and its online platform to continue to meet demand and increase efficiency. However, revenue predictions for the year ahead are ‘highly dependent’ on continued coronavirus restrictions, the statement concluded.

Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado Group commented: ‘The landscape for food retailing is changing, for good. As we look ahead to a post-vaccine world and a return to a new normality, Ocado Group is very well placed to enable our grocery partners worldwide to bring the best customer experience to market, responsibly, with high levels of hygiene and superior, sustainable, and proven economics.’

Tesco’s online delivery capacity doubled in H1 2020 to meet online demand

Tesco’s 2020/21 interim results reveal online delivery capacity doubled to 1.5 million weekly slots as a result of heightened demand at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. It also stated that it had served 674,000 vulnerable or shielding customers in the 26 weeks to 29 August 2020.

The report shows the brand spent £533 million on Covid-19 safety measures for its staff and customers throughout the pandemic thus far.

Tesco’s new Chief Executive, Ken Murphy said in a statement, “The first half of this year has tested our business in ways we had never imagined, and our colleagues have risen brilliantly to every challenge, acting in the best interests of our customers and local communities throughout.”

Online share of UK grocery sales doubled in December 2020

The Grocer reports Nielsen figures, published in January, which indicate the online share of UK grocery sales doubled in December 2020 to 12.5%, making last December the biggest on record for the sector.

In fact, supermarkets saw record December sales across all channels, with total sales growing 8.4% in the four weeks ending Boxing Day. Overall, customers spent £12 billion during this period, of which some £1.3 billion went through online channels. Further data shows that 8.5 million UK households, equating to a little over 30% of total households, shopped online for groceries over the festive season – 5.7 million more than in the same month of 2019.

Unsurprisingly, instore visits fell 10%, amid concerns for safety during the second wave of the coronavirus, but consumers spent on average £20 more than usual across both online and offline settings.

Lidl experienced the greatest year-on-year growth for the 12 weeks to Boxing Day at a staggering 20.9%. This was followed by Morrisons, which saw 9.2% growth, while Tesco and Sainsbury’s saw increases of 8.6% and 8.1% respectively.

These figures are despite of last-minute restrictions placed on holiday gatherings in large areas of the UK. This appeared to have caused some consumers to hold back on their spending over the last two weeks leading up to Christmas, buying less traditionally festive foods such as steak, which saw sales up 57% during that fortnight, perhaps as a last-ditch alternative to Christmas dinner. Meanwhile, sales of confectionary rose just 2%, reflecting fewer occasions for socialising and gifting this year than in previous years.

Ocado named 2020’s fastest-growing UK brand

BrandZ has named grocery chain Ocado as the UK’s fastest growing brand in its annual Top 75 Most Valuable Brands report.

The company jumped 16 places in the Top 75 list for 2020, following a 63.3% growth in brand value change since 2019, settling at number 18. Its online-only formula, unlike other brands in the sector which also have brick-and-mortar stores, places it in an excellent position for growth through digital innovation. According to the report, demand for its services during the peak of the pandemic was at 10 times it usual level for the time of year.

Others that have seen particularly fast growth this year also fall within the food category – Deliveroo, growing by 40% in brand value change in 2020, made number 29 on the list, while Just Eat grew by 19%, placing it just below Ocado at number 20.

Vodafone came out on top in the top 75 most valuable brands list, followed by HSBC, Shell, BP and BT, despite all of these brands measuring double-digit declines in brand value since 2019. In fact, just 10 brands out of all 75 experienced growth overall, highlighting the massive impact Covid-19 has had on the majority of verticals. The rest saw declines or flat growth or were new to the list in 2020.

Suburban and rural consumers drove the bulk of online grocery shopping growth during the spring 2020 peak of the pandemic

Research from GlobalWebIndex has confirmed that suburban and rural consumers helped drive the bulk of global online grocery shopping growth during the first peak of the pandemic in Q2 2020.

Pre-Covid, most consumers that took advantage of the convenience that online grocery shopping affords were millennials living in urban settings. From Q1 this year, those in the Gen Z and Boomer categories have developed more active shopping behaviours in this sector, particularly those that live outside of major population centres.

Globally, the number of internet users in suburban areas that had purchased a grocery item online in the last month rose from 30% in Q1 to 34% in Q2, and those in rural areas followed a similar trend (26% in Q1 to 30% in Q2). Meanwhile, consumers living in urban regions only drove growth of one percentage point over this period.

Latin America saw the largest shift in online grocery shopping adoption throughout this time. The percentage of those who are mainly responsible for grocery shopping in their households that had ordered groceries in the last month started at just 22% in Q1 and grew to 29% by the end of Q2 – a 31% uplift. This was followed by North America, which saw a 23% positive change.

Growth appeared slow in Europe by comparison, with only a 9% increase, however individual countries in the region varied massively. The UK saw the greatest change, and three in 10 internet users had shopped online for grocery products by the second quarter.

Ecommerce Quarterly: Q4 2020

4. Amazon and other marketplaces

Alibaba serves 1 billion active users on its ecommerce platform

In a press release announcing results for the full fiscal year 2021, Alibaba revealed it has now served a total 1 billion active users on its ecommerce platform, including 240 million customers based outside of its primary market of China. Active users in China have grown by 85 million year-on-year, or 32 million quarter-on-quarter. Additionally, mobile Monthly Active Users reached 925 million, up by 79 million on the same period to March 2020.

The year ending March 31st 2021 has marked one of the strongest performances for the retailer to date – total revenue for the group increased a huge 41% in the full year to an equivalent $109.5 billion, and revenue for the quarter alone grew 64% year-on-year.

Overall GMV rose 21% across the year, mostly driven by the home furnishing and FMCG categories, and later by apparel in the first three months of 2021. Further data also found that the longer a customer has been shopping on Alibaba platforms, the higher their annual spend and the more product categories they purchased from. Average annual spend was measured at $1,404 for the fiscal year 2021, however, retention remained high among existing Alibaba customers regardless of their basket size.

The Taobao app endured as Alibaba’s most popular social retail platform this year, and indeed the whole of China, as its livestreaming capability continued to make waves with sellers. GMV for Taobao Live climbed to $76.3 billion, reflecting the ever-growing interest in livestreaming in the region and signalling it to be the next big ecommerce trend in the West.

Amazon revenue jumps 44% year-on-year in Q1 2021

A year on from the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon’s first quarter 2021 results show just how much online shopping and streaming services have accelerated in that short time. Data from its financial statement shows revenue jumped 44% year-on-year from $75 billion to more than $108 billion, beating analysts’ prior expectations. Meanwhile, ‘other’ revenue, which primarily includes sales accrued from advertising, grew a whopping 77%.

Revenue from its subscription services, including Amazon Prime memberships, digital video, audio and ebooks rose 36% to $7.5 billion, while Amazon Web Services grew 32%. Streaming hours on Amazon’s Prime Video platform are now up more than 70% year-on-year, with over 175 million of its >200 million Prime members streaming TV shows and movies over the period.

Amazon says it expects a further 24-30% year-on-year revenue growth in Q2 2021. Following its postponement in 2020, Prime Day has been moved back to June this year, meaning the event will likely boost second quarter results.

Online marketplaces and tech giants make biggest gains in SEO visibility since the pandemic began

Big online marketplaces and tech giants are the ecommerce brands that have made the biggest visibility gains on Google (US) organic rankings since the pandemic began, dominating the top ten ranking list compiled and analysed by Searchmetrics.

Audible.com, owned by Amazon, won the battle for the top spot when it comes to year-on-year visibility growth, experiencing a 567% increase overall on 2019 figures. Verizon.com also performed very well for growth, with visibility up 102%, as did Nintendo.com (up 85%), following exponential interest in its Switch console and the release of its latest Animal Crossing title.

Meanwhile, Apple.com, Amazon.com and Ebay.com dominated the top three places for absolute visibility increase from Google.com in the US, despite experiencing lower levels of year-on-year growth than some others in the top ten.

Notably, there were no fashion ecommerce websites that made it to the list in 2020, reflective of the reduced sales performance this sector experienced at the peak of the pandemic. Analysis shows Macy’s lost more than 20% of its search visibility year-on-year, but this bad news didn’t translate to every fashion brand – ASOS.com, Lyst.com and H&M (hm.com) made the biggest overall gains in this category at 176%, 100% and 79% respectively.

Amazon sales grew 38% in 2020 to $386.1 billion

Amazon’s latest financial statement, released in February, has revealed that sales grew a total 38% throughout 2020, reaching $386.1 billion. Meanwhile, sales of its web services (AWS) accelerated 29.5% to $45.4 billion vs. $35 billion last year.

In Q4 2020, usually the most lucrative time of year for Amazon, the company’s sales increased by 44% year-on-year to $125.6 billion, marking its first ever $100 billion quarter. This was no doubt aided by fresh stay-at-home restrictions across the globe as a second wave of the coronavirus began taking its toll. In the same quarter, 175,000 full-time and part-time employees were hired by the marketplace giant to help keep up with demand, compared with just 50,000 hired in Q4 2019.

It claims that the 2020 holiday season was ‘the best ever for independent businesses selling on Amazon’, with worldwide sales averaging 50% higher year-on-year and exceeding $4.8 billion in sales alone over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend. US small and medium-sized businesses sold close to one billion products via the marketplace in the last quarter.

Amazon says it expects revenue to reach between $100-$106 billion in Q1 2021, an unsurprising deceleration from the previous quarter where events like Black Friday and Christmas drove the bulk of consumer spending, but still up to 40% higher than in the same period of 2020.

This comes as Jeff Bezos announces his stepping down from the role of Amazon CEO, instead taking a position as Executive Chairman. The company has confirmed that its current AWS lead, Andy Jassy, will replace Bezos as CEO sometime in the second half of this year.

Alibaba posts 37% rise in revenue for Q4 2020, with its cloud computing services growing 50%

In early February, Alibaba posted its financial results from Q4 2020, which revealed a 37% year-on-year rise in revenue to RMB221.1 billion (or US$33.9 billion).

The company’s overall core commerce grew a total 38% over this period, with the Tmall marketplace faring particularly well – it reached 19% growth in physical goods GMV and a 60% rise in the number of international brands and sellers on its Tmall Global platform. As a result, Tmall Global also experienced triple-digit growth in the purchases of products shipped and warehoused overseas.

A portion of its success can be attributed to its record 11.11 Singles Day sales, expanded last year to continue for 11 consecutive days, which created RMB498.2 billion in sales (US$74.1 billion) – an increase of 26% on the same event in 2019. Alibaba also claimed over 470 of its brand sellers made RMB100 million or more during the holiday.

Customer engagement also rocketed. Taobao Live generated more than RMB400 billion (US$61.8 billion) over the course of 2020, highlighting the huge and growing influence of livestreaming on online shopping in the APAC region. Moreover, views of recommended pages displayed on the Taobao app homepage grew a whopping 90% in the fourth quarter alone.

Aside from its retail achievements, Alibaba’s cloud computing business saw a huge 50% year-on-year boost in Q4 2020, making these services profitable for the company for the first time.

UK online reselling jumped in 2020, according to data from top second-hand sites

The Guardian reports online reselling in the UK saw a substantial boost in sales and traffic throughout 2020, according to information collated by top second-hand sites like MusicMagpie.

Sales at the aforementioned brand, which now resells many other products outside of old music, rose 22% over the course of last year to around £120 million. Sales of second-hand books via the site grew by a massive 75% in this period, while products like preowned smartphones and games consoles saw sales increase by one-fifth.

The most popular items sold included the series of Harry Potter books, Michael Bublé CDs, PlayStation 4 consoles and old versions of the iPhone.

MusicMagpie’s sales figures follow the same trend as similar sites such as eBay which saw a 30% growth in revenue between March and June last year alone. Meanwhile, Depop, a site for selling pre-loved fashion, has grown its user base to 18 million since the end of 2019 and ‘experienced record sales’ in the summer, according to the Guardian’s report.

This suggests shoppers are taking a more sustainable and cost-friendly approach to their online shopping behaviours since the coronavirus crisis began, something which could continue past the pandemic as consumers cement their habits.

35% of all UK online purchases during first UK lockdown were made via Amazon

A report from Wunderman Thompson Commerce has revealed that Amazon’s share of the UK ecommerce market rose to 35% during the first lockdown, up from 30% at the end of 2019, highlighting the retailer as one that has benefitted most from the pandemic.

One fifth of the 2000 UK consumers surveyed claimed that their intention to purchase from Amazon after the coronavirus outbreak ends had increased, even though a similar number (21%) said that they were concerned about the company’s growing dominance in the industry.

Sixty-one percent of respondents cited free delivery as a key purchase driver, followed by availability (57%) and price (53%), while the most sought-after change to consumers’ online shopping experience was free returns.

Amazon marketplace sellers thought to have sold an additional $95 billion worth of products in 2020

Marketplace Pulse has estimated Amazon marketplace sellers sold an additional $95 billion worth of products last year than they did in 2019. That’s around $295 billion in total.

Taking its place amongst the winners of the pandemic – which include brands like Walmart, Etsy and Target – Amazon is also predicted to have sold $180 billion worth of products (worldwide) in first-party sales (Amazon Retail), up from $135 billion in 2019 and $117 billion in 2018.

Amazon’s GMV – Gross Merchandise Volume – is thought to have increased by 42% year-on-year in 2020, with its marketplace arm accounting for 62% of its total global GMV (although this equates to just a 2% increase in total share since last year).

March was a particularly notable month for the marketplace as the coronavirus began to overcome multiple regions of the globe. Products sold via the platform accumulated a 46% share of the top 100 most searched queries related to Covid-19 as consumers rushed to buy essentials and safety equipment like PPE and sanitiser. Meanwhile, more than half of new US Amazon sellers joining the marketplace across the month were located in China, an increase of 39% on the same period in 2019.

Amazon: Lessons and Success Stories

Amazon sales up 37% year-on-year in Q3 2020

A press release outlining Amazon’s Q3 financials has confirmed that the company’s net sales grew 37% year-on-year worldwide, totaling $96.1 billion for the period and surpassing estimates of $92.7 billion. North American net sales were up by 39%, while international net sales rose by 37%.

Sales of its subscription services grew 33% year-on-year, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) grew by 29%. Total profits were up by 200% to $6.3 billion compared to the same quarter the year before, beating Amazon’s previous record of $5.2 billion profit back in Q2.

While Prime Day, which took place from October 13-14, wasn’t included in these results, the company hailed it as the “two biggest days ever for small and medium businesses in Amazon’s stores”. $3.5 billion in sales were made during this event alone, equating to a 60% uplift compared to 2019’s event. Prime members also saved $1.4 billion on goods across the two days, according to the statement from Amazon.

Looking ahead to Q4, sales are expected to reach between $112-121 billion, or to grow between 28-38% year-on-year, as customers opt to do much of their holiday shopping online.

Ebay’s Q3 revenue rises 25% year-on-year in 2020

Ebay’s Q3 2020 financial statement has revealed that its revenue rose 25% to $2.61 billion compared to the same period in 2019, beating expert estimates of $2.48 billion. In the quarter ending 30th September, the marketplace also reported that its number of annual active buyers increased by 5% to total 183 million globally.

With Amazon’s sales expected to rise further as the year draws to a close, these strong growth figures are in line with an accelerated trend in one-stop-shop online marketplace shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ebay expects its Q4 2020 earnings to reach up to $2.71 billion, boosted by holiday purchases and has raised its full-year sales outlook to the region of $10.04 to $10.11 billion. This equates to a 19-20% total revenue growth across 2020, where original forecasts predicted a 14-16% growth.

5. Fashion and department stores

Online fashion retail sees 10.9% month-on-month sales growth in March 2021

A year on from the start of the first UK lockdown, March marked the return of (all retail) sales levels higher than pre-pandemic figures for the first time since December, due to a 0.6% month-on-month boost in online retailing prior to restrictions easing.

Data from the ONS indicates ecommerce sales accounted for 34.7% of all retailing for the month, down from 36.2% in February but significantly higher than March 2020 figures where the portion of online sales was measured at less than one-quarter – 23.1%.

Online sales in the fashion and textile category have been picking up notably since the same period last year, with March 2021 seeing 78.2% higher online sales than March 2020. This is 10.9% up on last month, which is a promising sign of pent up demand as summer fast approaches.

Meanwhile, other retail categories saw huge online sales growth compared to March 2020, particularly food stores (up 105%) and household goods stores (up 99.7%), although month-on-month changes since February were relatively minor at +0.2% and -0.7% respectively.

One quarter of shoppers purchased apparel from websites outside of their home country in 2020

Data from eShopWorld shows one quarter of shoppers (surveyed across 11 countries) purchased apparel from websites outside of their home market in 2020, rising to 31% among younger consumers in the Gen Z and Millennial age brackets. This marks apparel as the most sought-after ecommerce product, cross-border.

This is despite the fact that UK online clothing sales over much of the course of last year, with a few exceptions, have been much lower than levels seen before the pandemic. As a result, these figures from eShopWorld highlight the importance of offering and investing in cross-border ecommerce capability for clothing retailers, particularly as they begin recovering post-Covid.

Footwear was the next most popular product, with 15% of shoppers making an international purchase of this category, while children’s clothing came third (14%).

In Singapore, 36% of consumers bought apparel from outside of their home market, making it the top global market for cross-border online clothing purchases in 2020, according to analysis. This was followed by Russia (32%), Chile (31%), France (29%) and Mexico (28%).

So far, total cross-border ecommerce is up 74% year-on-year from data reported in the first four months of 2021, implying that momentum amongst international shoppers is still very high.

Boohoo Group sees 41% year-on-year rise in revenue in Q1 2021

In a full year financial statement ending 28th February 2021, Boohoo Group announced its revenue rose 41% year-on-year to £1.745 billion, beating its revised estimates of 36-38%. International revenue for the Group grew faster than that of its home market over this period, at 44% versus 39% respectively. It also reported a 28% increase in active customers, totalling 18 million.

The past year has seen the Group absorb a number of struggling multichannel fashion retailers including Debenhams, Oasis, Warehouse, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton, which will undoubtedly help boost its overall performance moving forward. As coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, and consumers return to brick-and-mortar shops, Boohoo says it expects its total revenue growth for the next year ending February 2022 to reach around 25%. This also accounts for additional factors such as a predicted increase in returns following an unusually low return rate at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.

Thanks to its strong performance, the Group has acquired a third distribution centre, with a fourth expected to begin operation in the second half of the calendar year.

Sales through In The Style’s app increased more than 400% in the year ending 31st March 2021

Online-only fashion retailer In The Style has revealed sales through its mobile app increased more than 400% in the year ending 31st March 2021, making up 55% of its total sales for the period compared to just 19% the year before.

This rapid growth was partly due to a strategy of exclusivity surrounding the app, which allows users early access to its most coveted collections, like recent collaborations with influencers Stacey Solomon and Jac Jossa.

In the company’s quarterly statement, CEO Adam Frisby commented: “Our collaboration model creates a strong customer connection, drives highly efficient customer acquisition marketing metrics, and gives us exposure to a broad range of customers.”

Meanwhile, total revenue grew 130% year-on-year to £44.5 million, and the number of new customers In The Style acquired rose by 19%, following a particularly strong 2020 holiday season. These figures are reflective of the strong performance other online-only fashion brands have experienced since the onset of coronavirus.

UK consumers most likely to buy clothing online than any other product post-pandemic

Despite the poor sales in the clothing and apparel sector (both online and offline) over the last year, UK consumers are more likely to buy clothing through online channels than any other product category post-pandemic. This is according to a spring 2021 report from MiQ.

Appetite for online fashion is, unsurprisingly, highest in 18-25 year olds, with 51% of the cohort stating they were more likely to buy clothing after the coronavirus crisis subsides, compared to 50% of consumers aged 26-35 and 40% of those ages 56-65. Although interest in online fashion falls in correlation with age, all cohorts cited clothing as their top category for online shopping after the pandemic.

Consumers of all age groups also ranked beauty, personal care and consumer electronics as other products they were more likely to purchase online in the future. Meanwhile, a substantial 34% of over 65s stated they aren’t interested in shopping for any of the 8 listed product categories online once life returns to normal. This suggests that new digital shopping behaviours will be less permanent for this age group in the long-term than they will be for their younger counterparts.

The high interest in shopping online for clothing post-pandemic indicates that brick-and-mortar high street retailers in this sector could continue to struggle, even once all restrictions are lifted in physical spaces. Now more than ever, multichannel fashion brands must ensure they create enticing offline experiences to capture footfall.

Boohoo sales up 40% in four months to December 31st

Boohoo’s sales grew by 40% year-on-year in the four months to December 31st 2020, the company has announced in a press release. This follows and includes sales from the Group’s successful relaunch of Oasis and Warehouse as online-only brands after it acquired them earlier in 2020.

During the period, total sales amounted to £660.8 million, £357.2 million of which came from UK consumers. While US sales were lower at £167.7 million (equivalent to US$229 million) over these four months, revenue growth in the region soared even higher at +52% year-on-year.

Thanks to its success last year, where many other fashion retailers have struggled, Boohoo Group has also recently bought the brand and website of former high street giant Debenhams, as well as Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton. Notably, these brands have little in the way of an overlapping demographic with its core brands Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, demonstrating the Group’s strategic ambition to widen its appeal to slightly older consumers.

The retailer says it now expects revenue for the financial year ending 28th February to be 36-38% up year-on-year, a figure significantly higher than its previous estimates of 28-32% growth. However, the company believes Brexit may cause some ‘cost headwind, predominantly from higher distribution and administrative costs’, which could have minor impact on business performance as the year continues.

Up to 70% of John Lewis sales came from its online channels in 2020

Online channels accounted for 60-70% of John Lewis sales over the course of 2020, up from 40% before the pandemic, according to details from the retailer’s report Shop Live Look 2020.

The data reveals mobile and desktop browsing of the brand’s website increased by 55% year-on-year, while tablet traffic declined by a whopping 41%, reflecting wider trends in device popularity across the retail industry.

Evenings remained the most popular time to browse, but online orders were more spread out throughout the day, peaking between 11am and 4pm, whereas they were typically placed between 7pm and 10pm in 2019. Meanwhile, the number of John Lewis purchases destined for home delivery rose a quarter on last year, quadrupling in the case of Waitrose.com orders, and 55% more products were sent to others as gifts.

Some of the most popular items bought by John Lewis customers over the last 12 months included beauty tech (such as electronic facial devices) – up 178% – chess sets (up 121%) and nostalgic toys, like Scalextric kits (up 100%).

However, sales of products such as suitcases, high heels and clutches and ‘party handbags’ all saw dramatic declines of 69%, 62% and 56% respectively thanks to customers’ dramatic lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic.

Next online sales up 36% year-on-year over Christmas period 2020

Online sales for the UK fashion and department store Next were up by 36% year-on-year over the nine weeks to 26th December 2020, it announced in January. As a result, total full-price sales were just 1.1% down on the same period in 2019, as online sales compensated for profit lost from closed brick-and-mortar stores.

The week commencing 6th December saw the consumers purchase the most via Next’s online channels, reaching nearly £80 million in total value, before dropping off slightly the week after, suggesting that much of the public opted to get their Christmas shopping done earlier than usual (as predicted).

Childrenswear, loungewear, sportswear and home were the top performing online categories over the festive period, while workwear and occasionwear were, naturally, the least popular among Next customers. The company also reported returns rates were much lower than usual at 21% compared to 35% during the same nine weeks of 2019.

Next says it predicts full-price product sales to decline by 14% over January in the midst of another national lockdown. However, it has adjusted its forecast pre-tax profit from £365 million (estimated in October) to £370 million for the full year.

M&S online clothing and homeware sales grew by 47.5% in Golden Quarter

In a trading statement, Marks & Spencer has revealed that, despite like-for-like sales falling 7.6% over the ‘Golden Quarter’, online clothing and homeware sales grew by 47.5% year-on-year to £353 million. This figure rose to 62.2% for the month of November 2020 during the second national lockdown, before dropping off a little in December to 47%.

The press release indicated that these sales were ‘heavily biased’ towards sleepwear and leisurewear thanks to Covid-19 having a continued impact on consumers’ lifestyles. Overall, full-price sales of clothing and homeware for the brand declined by a modest 4.8%, while online sales doubled in comparison to the same period the year before.

Online-only fashion retailer In The Style sees 169% increase in sales in Q4 2020

The Retail Gazette reports a 169% increase in sales for online-only fast fashion retailer In The Style in the 13 weeks to 31st December 2020. Total sales for the quarter were £13.5 million, while sales through its dedicated mobile app rose by more than 500%, according to its data. In fact, in-app sales accounted for more than half of all sales for the brand over this period.

It wasn’t just sales that saw a huge boost for In The Style over the 2020 holiday season. The number of first-time customers increased by 45%, while a 50% improvement in conversion rate was also recorded and order volumes grew by 95%.

The brand has seen a continued healthy performance since the coronavirus crisis began, and its particularly strong Christmas trading could indicate even bigger sales results on the horizon for its more well-known competitors like Boohoo Plc.

Fashion ecommerce 2020: Which trends are disrupting the industry?

61% of fashion retailers say they are planning to reduce the number of SKUs in their inventories

The pandemic’s impact on the fashion industry, particularly in store, has led to significant amount of left over stock and periods of heavy discounting by retailers as they try to shift it, greatly affecting overall revenue. A December 2020 report from Business of Fashion and McKinsey observes the ways fashion retailers are making fundamental changes to their strategies going into 2021 to resolve the issues that have been brought to light more plainly than ever before.

When asked what strategies they would employ to avoid future overstock, 61% of fashion retailers said they were planning to reduce the number of SKUs in their inventories. A further 60% hope to improve analytics for consumer insights so that they can better predict demand, while 55% said they would implement a more agile supply chain.

Combined with other methods such as moving to a seasonless assortment and reducing the number of collections they produce, these retailers hope to make their business operations more cost effective and environmentally friendly moving forward.

ASOS UK sales up 18% year-on-year to August 31st 2020

ASOS UK sales have risen by 18% year-on-year to £1.18bn, according to the brand’s full year financial statement ending August 31st 2020. International retail markets, which include the European, US and ROW regions, performed even higher at +20% during the same period.

The statement also revealed that the company has seen a 3.1 million rise in its active customer base, which now totals 23.4 million across the world, reflecting increased brand engagement spurred on by the pandemic.

This news comes despite issues with the retailer’s supply chain when Covid-19 first hit, as well as huge volatility in sales across the fashion sector throughout the spring when lockdowns were enforced on much of the Western world. The brand also said it continues to remain cautious about the financial impact the crisis is having on its core 20-something customer base, which could affect sales and basket sizes over the festive period and in the longer term.

Nick Beighton, ASOS CEO, added to the statement: “I am pleased by the improvements we have made this year but there is still more for us to do to continue our progress. Whilst life for our 20-something customers is unlikely to return to normal for quite some time, ASOS will continue to engage, respond and adapt as one of the few truly global leaders in online fashion retail.”

International online sales of luxury goods increased by 170% year-on-year in August and September 2020

International online sales of luxury goods increased by 170% year-on-year in August and September 2020, according to analysis from eShopWorld.

As retail begins its slow recovery on a global scale, the cross-border luxury market appears to be faring well following sales performance in July 2020 that was 40% above those seen in the lead up to Christmas 2019 (a period which is usually the strongest in the calendar alongside new year discounts).

Luxury has been one of the most hard-hit sectors of the industry as consumers rein in their spending and focus on essential items throughout the pandemic. The closure of physical stores, as well as shoppers’ reluctance to splash out and other unpredictable online behaviours has caused experts to predict drops of 40-60% in experiential luxury and 25%-45% in personal luxury sales year-on-year.

Despite this gloomy outlook, the late summer growth figures indicate that brands are altering their marketing strategies to prioritise digital, thereby bringing luxury online experiences to those outside of their usual domestic markets. CEO of eShopWorld, Tommy Kelly, explained, “In the current climate, there is incredible opportunity for luxury beyond the traditional channels and markets, particularly as older shoppers have become more comfortable with online, while digital natives are, of course, already there.”

6. Customer experience

54% of global shoppers find browsing for new products more enjoyable online than in-store

As consumers become more and more accustomed to making online purchases, fifty-four percent of global shoppers now prefer online window shopping to browsing instore, according to April 2021 research from Bazaarvoice. The study, conducted on more than 8000 consumers worldwide, has found that they not only enjoy browsing for items online, but also find it less of a hassle.

Indeed, data shows that almost two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed found browsing online easier than doing so inside a brick-and-mortar store, while a further 61% said they discovered new items more frequently online than in store. Analysis of responses revealed the top three reasons for better product discovery online were convenience (55%), greater choice (46%) and the ability to research items and any corresponding reviews (45%).

The report suggests most of this online product discovery is happening on mobile devices. Forty-six percent of consumers claimed they spend their time window shopping on mobile, versus 26% on desktop and 10% on tablet.

However, it seems consumers are significantly more likely to make an impulse purchase, as well as spend big, in store than they are when online shopping.

As in store retailing ramps up, these findings sound a clear warning for retailers with high street presences, particularly when it comes to ease of browsing and product discovery in store.

Volume of online chat with UK brands has risen to its highest since the pandemic began

HubSpot’s Industry Benchmark Data has found that, as of March 2021, online chat interactions with brands have risen to their highest since the pandemic began.

Results show total conversation interactions across more than 103,000 of HubSpot’s brand customer base are 23% higher than the January 2020 benchmark, even higher than during the 2020 golden quarter (up 15% on January 2020). This suggests that, more than ever, UK consumers prefer an on-demand interaction experience and companies should prioritise this demand in order to communicate with their customers.

Website traffic also reached its peak in March. Total visitors to brand websites increased by 64% vs January last year and 40% on December 2020. Meanwhile, fifty-six percent of all marketing emails were opened in March, recording the highest open rate since the start of the pandemic. This equates to a 28% increase in open rates since December 2020.

These figures combined paint a positive picture for UK marketers as they navigate ways in which they can engage more with their customers during these unprecedented times. New methods of communicating with shoppers appear to be becoming more effective as email open rates and online traffic increases, although the rise in chat interactions could indicate that there is more brands can do to improve on customer experience.

Buy now pay later firms see a rise in interest over coronavirus

Several buy-now-pay-later firms have confirmed they have seen a rise in interest and usage of their services, particularly in the US, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reports.

Afterpay, a service based in Australia, told Reuters that it had seen the number of active users from the US more than double, reaching 6.5 million by the fiscal year end June 2020, while its sales in the region saw threefold year-on-year growth throughout Q3 2020. More than half of its US customers are between 25 and 40 years old, the report reveals. A similar company, Affirm, based in San Francisco, also claimed its revenue rose 93% to $509.5 million for the year ending 30th June 2020.

It is perhaps unsurprising, in such a volatile year for the economy, and with job security uncertain, that consumers are turning to buy-now-pay-later services to help spread the cost of their online purchases. However, data suggests they are becoming increasingly unlikely to meet repayment deadlines.

In a study conducted by Credit Karma for Reuters of 1038 US consumers, almost 40% of those that have spread their payments online have missed more than one payment, and as a result 72% have had their credit score lowered. More notably, 42% of respondents have said they had used a buy-now-pay-later plan before, indicating interest in the service is becoming more and more prevalent among Millennial consumers.

Over 70% of D2C brands have, or will, integrate subscriptions into their ecommerce strategies

Data released in Bold Commerce’s Subscription Trends 2021 report indicates that over 70% of D2C brands have – or will soon – integrate subscriptions into their ecommerce strategies. Furthermore, over half (54%) of respondents claim subscriptions account for 20% or more of their overall sales.

Subscription-based retailing is a proven way to improve loyalty and customer lifetime value – both of which have been badly affected by new shopping behaviours necessitated by the virus. Indeed, fifty-seven percent of brands that have implemented such loyalty programmes have measured their customer lifetime value at a year or more, while just 35% of those without said the same.

Twenty percent of retailers that have so far included discounts as a way of incentivising the purchase of subscriptions have reported month-on-month growth of over 50%. Meanwhile, one-quarter of brands that offer additional benefits as part of a subscription package, such as free shipping or early access to new collections, are seeing the same level of growth compared to 1 in 10 brands that don’t. This suggests brands need to think about more than just discounting if they want consumers to take out a subscription, as other perks appear more influential on overall uptake.

At the moment, industries that are seeing the highest growth (25% or more month-on-month) in subscription services are not all what you might expect. Sporting goods ranked first according to the survey, with 69% of brands in this category citing this level of growth, followed by the Industrial/B2B (60%) and Automotive (57%) sectors. Other up-and-coming industries with modest monthly subscriptions growth of 10% or more include food and beverage, technology and fashion.

More than two-thirds of European consumers have expressed interest in ‘shoppertainment’

Following China’s ecommerce success in this area, more than two-thirds of European consumers have expressed an interest in ‘shoppertainment’ – i.e. online shopping via livestreaming, interactive games and video content – according to a 2021 Forrester and AliExpress report.

Shoppertainment has proven to be beneficial for consumer engagement and sales (particularly impulse buys) and has been accelerated by the boom in online shopping over the past year. Previous research from Forrester forecasted a 45.7% compound annual growth rate in shoppertainment in China alone by 2023, but the pandemic has shifted the goalposts and made it more likely that this will be achieved much sooner.

Now regions in the west have begun experimenting with the idea of shoppertainment, and European consumers are especially excited for the future of this concept, particularly those in the 18-34 age category. Twenty-eight and twenty-seven percent, respectively, believe they will be able to take advantage of cheaper deals and a wider product offering by participating in shoppertainment, although one in five did admit they were concerned about the quality of the products featured in these initiatives.

Electronics, fashion and cosmetics are some of the biggest product categories that consumers are most interested in exploring through shoppertainment, especially through livestreaming. They have also expressed their desire to be able to shop practically and quickly through these sorts of channels, aside from being entertained. Features such as the ability to place orders, get vouchers, see estimated delivery times and read returns policies were the most popular with survey respondents, as was content that was 10 minutes or less in length.

47% of British consumers have had issues with parcel delivery since the onset of coronavirus

An October survey of more than 2000 British consumers, commissioned by Citizens Advice, has found that nearly half (47%) of British consumers have had issues with the delivery of parcels since the first lockdown began in March 2020.

With the UK having been in full or partial lockdown for much of this year, 51% say they feel more reliant on having products delivered to their homes. The increased numbers of people now shopping online, whether for necessity or convenience, seems to have thrown retailers’ logistical issues into the spotlight.

Of all respondents, a whopping 96% claimed to have ordered products that require parcel delivery since March. Three in 10 of these have experienced shipping delays, making it the biggest issue cited by consumers. A further 18% said they had lost out financially due to a home delivery gone wrong or missing, with 40% of those losing out by more than £20.

As a result, nearly one in four have lost confidence when ordering goods from online stores – something that could have a larger impact as people begin their Christmas shopping.

Citizens Advice has said views of its webpage providing advice on parcel issues had more than doubled to 208,000 between March and October this year compared to just 94,000 over the same period last year.

Customer Retention Best Practice Guide

US shopping app downloads slow to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3 2020 after a Q2 spike

US shopping app downloads slowed to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3 2020, following a spike in Q2, according to Sensor Tower’s Mobile Retail Trends Analysis, published in Q4.

Across the Apple App Store and Google Play, shopping app downloads in the region surpassed 150 million. The ranking of most downloaded apps remained mostly unchanged throughout Q1-Q3 in 2020, with Amazon, Wish and Walmart remaining in the top three, in that order, as they did last year. However, three new retail apps entered among the remaining seven spots, mirroring their successes in the US market this year – Shop (by Shopify) rocketed to fourth place overall, while fashion retailer SHEIN ranked number seven and Nike crept in at number 10.

Sensor Tower data also revealed that US app download growth for top brick-and-mortar retailers between Q1-Q3 this year was almost double that of top online-only retail apps (+27% vs. +14%). Downloads for stores that also have a brick-and-mortar presence also dropped off less sharply over the Q3 period compared to those of online-only retailers.

This suggests US consumers found a new way to shop with their favourite high street stores this year under unprecedented circumstances. Customers who favour flexible shipping policies and contact-free pickup particularly reaped the benefits of apps from these kinds of retailers.

7. China

Pinduoduo’s MAUs increase by 74.6 million quarter-on-quarter in Q3 2020

Chinese ecommerce platform Pinduoduo increased its monthly active users (MAUs) by 74.6 million in Q3 2020 compared to the previous quarter, to a total of 643.4 million. Its number of annual active buyers also rose by 36% to 731.3 million compared to the same period in 2019. At just five years old, this makes Pinduoduo the fastest ecommerce company to have surpassed 700 million active buyers.

Gross merchandise value (GMV) reached a whopping 1.5 trillion yuan (+73%), while its revenue climbed 89% year-on-year to 14.2 billion yuan ($2.1 billion US) as Chinese consumers continued to favour online shopping after its peak of the outbreak in the region. A twenty percentage point decrease in sales and marketing expenses helped to boost this figure further.

This success follows innovative action taken by the company to extend its offering to consumers. In August, Pinduoduo launched its grocery delivery service Duo Duo Maicai to meet growing demand amidst the fallout from the pandemic.

What’s behind the success of China’s social commerce app Pinduoduo?

China’s annual luxury online penetration increased from 13% in 2019 to 23% in 2020

A post-Covid boom in China’s luxury market could result in 48% growth by the end of 2020, according to a report from Bain. If the results reflect this, total luxury sales for the year could reach 346 billion RMB, and as growth continues, mainland China is likely to have the largest share in the luxury market sales by 2025.

Much of this growth has been spurred on by younger consumers in the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts, who are much more likely to use the internet to research and purchase luxury goods than their more mature counterparts. Gen Z is the only generation to cite online sources for all three of their top three favourite places to research luxury fashion. China’s annual luxury online penetration increased by a total 10 percentage points between 2019 and 2020 alone to 23%, driven by these changes in shopping habits.

As of October 2020, luxury beauty ecommerce sales had grown by 60% alone since the same month the year before, making a particularly popular luxury vertical amongst Chinese consumers. More impressively, luxury fashion and lifestyle ecommerce sales in China saw an equivalent increase of 100%, although this started at a relatively small base in 2019 due to overseas purchases having been preferred up until this point.

Ecommerce penetration is still quite low for luxury fashion and lifestyle in China– it’s predicted to grow from 5% in 2019 to 7% in 2020 – whereas penetration in luxury beauty far outstrips any other category (expected growth 28% in 2019 to 38% in 2020).

Bain believes online luxury retail has changed permanently since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with most brands predicting online penetration of the sector in China to reach anywhere between 20%-25% within the next three years.

8. Black Friday & Singles Day 2020

Third party sellers on Amazon saw a 60% growth year-on-year in Black Friday weekend sales

In a blog post on 1st December, Amazon revealed that sales performance on Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, helped the 2020 holiday season become the ‘biggest yet’ for the company.

Black Friday promotions saw third-party sellers grow their sales by 60% year-on-year, surpassing $4.8 billion worldwide. Amazon also claimed that more than 71,000 small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) selling through the marketplace had made more than $100,000 during the holiday season at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, SMEs based in the US have seen an average of 9,500 products sold via Amazon every minute since October. Record sales levels have enabled independent businesses using the platform to create an estimated 2.2 million new jobs around the globe.

Best-sellers in the US so far since the 15th October (the beginning of the company’s Holiday Dash deals event) have included several Amazon branded items including the Echo Dot and Amazon Smart Plug. Ancestry and DNA services like 23andMe have also been popular with shoppers, as has Barack Obama’s latest book ‘A Promised Land’.

Self-care, toys and pets were among the biggest trending categories in the region as people began searching for gifts earlier than usual. Skincare, pyjamas and LEGO kits also shared the spotlight with consumers preparing for more time indoors in the lead up to Christmas. The company also reported more customers signing up for its Amazon Pharmacy service as a convenient way of receiving their prescriptions.

UK retailers see a 23% increase in online store sales on Black Friday, YoY

Analysis from Nosto has found UK sales in online stores soared 23% on Black Friday 2020. This was accompanied by a 35% rise in online store visits and a 2% increase in conversion rates compared to numbers from the same event in 2019. However, there was a 4% decline in average order value, likely due to heavier discounting than usual to get consumers to part with their cash amid financial uncertainty.

Globally, pet supplies and home and garden came out on top compared to other verticals, seeing a 60% and 52% increase in online sales respectively. The majority of the remaining categories analysed saw growth compared to last year’s Black Friday results, except for fashion and accessories, which experienced a 4% decline despite a 7% uplift in traffic. This category also saw a 5% decrease in conversion rate and a 3% drop in average order value.

Overall, global online consumer behaviour changed quite significantly over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend. In 2020, there was a 24% increase in the number of pages viewed and a 20% increase in the time spent on any one page. Meanwhile, bounce rate dropped by 2%, suggesting that shoppers, more than ever, are making more purposeful and considered purchases during the event.

Interestingly, there was also a 30% uplift in the number of product recommendations shown, indicating that retailers have put in place additional measures to ensure a personalised experience for visitors and a greater chance of conversion and/or upselling.

Ecommerce Best Practice Guide

Alibaba’s Singles Day sales event breaks records

November 11th 2020 saw Alibaba pull in record sales during one of the largest retail events in China – Singles Day. Purchases made in the 11-day campaign period covering the unofficial holiday topped $74 billion, a new high for the company and a 26% increase on 2019’s event.

In its press release, the ecommerce giant said that more than 470 brands using Alibaba made 100 million yuan in gross merchandise value (GMV) as a result of the shopping festival. The platform also claimed it had processed 583,000 purchases per second during the peak of activity across the campaign. Of the quarter of a million brands that participated, 31,000 originated from outside of the Chinese market. 2,600 of these were joining the event for the first time.

Digital tools came into their own during the Singles Day event this year. According to Alibaba’s data, its AI customer chatbot dealt with 2.1 billion questions, and more than 30 livestreaming channels on Taobao Live (Alibaba Group’s livestreaming tool) made over 100 million yuan in GMV.

Rival JD.com made 271 billion yuan (US $40.9 billion) in sales throughout the holiday, while major omnichannel retailer Suning.com exceeded 5 billion yuan (US $­756 million) in omnichannel GMV across its ecommerce platform, Tmall shop, and livestreaming outlets 19 minutes after midnight on November 11ththe South China Morning Post reported.

With Black Friday just around the corner, the significant growth in purchase activity during China’s biggest shopping event of the year could indicate what is to come for online retailers this festive season, particularly for those with outstanding digital capability.