E-commerce still growing: accelerated digitalisation of businesses and consumers
Position paper - Digital, Technology & Payments
23 September 2021
Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce today jointly published the 2021 European E-commerce Report. In 2020, total European e-commerce grew to €757 billion euros, up 10% from €690 billion euros in 2019.
2020 was an exceptional year, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent important role of e-commerce for both society and economy. This is also reflected in the growth figures, which remained significant (10%), but dropped slightly compared to 2019 (14%). COVID-19 gave a significant boost to e-commerce sales, but the sharp decline of online sales in the tourism and services sector (events, tickets, etc.) contributed to holding back overall growth.
The pandemic had a massive impact on developments in the retail sector. The lockdown accelerated the existing trend towards the digital and green transition of stores. Their investments in digital and omnichannel, which were originally planned over several years, were carried out in just a few months. E-commerce was a lifeline for consumers, as government restrictions such as forced shop closures, prevented them from buying what they needed in stores. While e-commerce has not fully compensated the losses that many brick-and-mortar SMEs experienced, it has absorbed a large part of the economic shock. However, further work is needed to ensure the wider retail sector can optimally benefit from the solutions offered by the digital transformation.
Luca Cassetti, Secretary General of Ecommerce Europe, commented: “The past year has exposed the importance of digital transformation. E-commerce has proven to be exceptionally well placed to facilitate the digitalisation of retail and create a seamless shopping experience for consumers. Physical stores opened up new online sales channels, SMEs have been able to access new markets through e-commerce, and merchants have increasingly adopted omnichannel commerce solutions, such as click-and-collect, to accommodate the ever-changing health requirements and consumer needs. However, the transition is not yet completed. Policymakers need to recognise the potential of digital commerce and invest more in new technologies and digital skills while creating a harmonised, channel-neutral and future-proof legislative framework”.
Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce, commented: “The retail and wholesale sector is going through a significant transformation process. Government restrictions and rising consumer demand accelerated digitalisation. Consumers who were hitherto unfamiliar with buying online or on their mobile devices have become accustomed to it, and are likely to continue to use this and a mixture of channels. Before the pandemic, 70% of retailers and wholesalers had no facilities for online sales, and those physical stores who did have an online presence overcame the challenges better. But the problem remains, and we are calling on governments and EU policy makers to support the digital transformation of the sector, address unjustified manufacturer restrictions on selling on online platforms, and create a regulatory framework that provides for a channel-neutral and future-proof policy environment”.
Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce would like to thank the Centre for Market Insights of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences for preparing this report.
To download the light version of the report, please click here.