Worldwide ecommerce will approach $5 trillion this year

Despite a challenging year for retail in 2020, we estimate that worldwide retail ecommerce sales posted a 27.6% growth rate for the year, with sales reaching well over $4 trillion. This represents a substantial uptick from our mid-pandemic assessment that global ecommerce would decelerate to 16.5% growth and demonstrates the remarkable extent to which consumers transitioned to ecommerce last year.

Even as total worldwide retail sales declined by 3.0% and recessionary conditions set in around the world, ecommerce managed to perform above pre-pandemic expectations in 2020.

“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 our 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.

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

As recently as 2018, worldwide ecommerce sales had not yet topped $3 trillion. We estimate 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% of all retail sales took place via ecommerce. In 2024, that figure will reach 21.8%.

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