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The Rise of Online Retail & Ecommerce

2020 was a year like no other, as the effects of the pandemic forced many of us to stay at home. So, as we get ready to return to a new version of normality, what has changed in the lives and shopping habits of UK customers, and which of those changes is likely to stick?

A recent Retail Week Connect Report on Ecommerce researched ‘exactly how today’s consumers like to shop online, and where, and what they expect as standard from retailers’ ecommerce strategies’. Read the top findings below…

Going Online
Online shopping is increasing dramatically, with UK customers spending £141.33 billion online in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 34.7% according to eMarketer. Edge by Ascential predicts that by 2025, 57% of global sales will take place online.

While online shopping involves primarily B2C businesses and is more similar to bricks and mortar retail, ecommerce sales – including B2B, B2C, C2C – also saw a 46% increase year-on-year. Read this article to brush up on the differences between online retail and ecommerce.

Online shopping

The Rise and Rise of Marketplaces
Where is your first port of call when searching for a product? For 34% of customers, that buying journey starts online on a large marketplace such as Amazon or eBay.

When we look at the whole buying journey, and include smaller and independent platforms such as Trouva and Etsy, that percentage increases, with 73% of customers shopping via online marketplaces. 46% of customers even say that they are less likely to shop with a retailer if its products are not available to buy on these types of channels.


Retail Accelerated
Several leaders in the retail industry also commented on the way that the events of the last year accelerated buying behaviours that would otherwise have taken years to take hold.

AO Founder and Chief Executive John Roberts said in May that the coronavirus crisis had accelerated five years of online shopping behaviour changes “into only five weeks”. John Lewis Partnership Chair Dame Sharon White echoed that sentiment when unveiling a new strategy in October for the John Lewis and Waitrose parent group, saying “five years of change in the past five months” was key to a more digital-led operational structure.

Meanwhile, Hobbycraft Head of Digital Experience Jennifer North commented in March 2020 that the retailer’s “ecommerce operations aged three years in three weeks”.

Retail accelerated

While the long-term effects of the pandemic on retail and ecommerce remain to be seen, the evidence points to a more and more digitally connected society. Retail is changing, perhaps faster than ever before, and moving to on ‘online first’ approach, where customers can begin their buying journey from the comfort of their sofa and then decide whether to make that purchase online or in a physical store.

Read the full Ecommerce 2021 Retail Week Connect Report here.


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