E-commerce in 2021: A Review of Key Statistics

Karl Reynolds

12 min read

2021 has been a crazy year for many of us that work with e-commerce, and there’s no better way to reflect on the past 12 months than with hard data, facts and figures – and we’ve also created graphs, charts and maps for each individual topic.

We’ve gathered 14 of the most interesting and insightful statistics from around the world that helps to tell the story of 2021. It can also be a huge help to us in predicting how the e-commerce landscape will look in 2022 and beyond.

You’ll discover the top reasons why people shopped online throughout the year, the impact of COVID-19 on each e-commerce segment up until 2025, the main reasons why consumers abandoned their carts, how to identify and target new regions for expansion in 2022, and much more.

1. COVID-19 increased global e-commerce revenues by an additional 10% in 2021

impact of covid on ecommerce

Coronavirus has impacted all areas of our lives, including how we shop. The closure of brick and mortar stores has seen global e-commerce revenue increase by 10% year-on-year above the 15% that we saw from 2018-2019. Whilst this growth is extremely positive for e-commerce as a whole, it will bring with it increased competition.

2. Impact of COVID-19 on each e-commerce segment

covid ecommerce growth

Growth of 21% in the food and personal care e-commerce segment shows how our habits were forced to change by the pandemic, with consumers avoiding in-store purchases and making essential purchases online instead.

Also, the toys, hobby and DIY segment saw significant growth of 9% as we looked to escape the boredom of various lockdowns.

3. Global e-commerce growth anticipated to continue past 2021

global ecommerce revenue by segment

As we’ve seen with the impact of the pandemic, making long term predictions can be very difficult. Despite this, Statista anticipates that the 10% growth rate that we’re currently experiencing will be the long-term trend.

This overall 10% increase is fuelled by growth in each segment, but it’s interesting to note just how much each area is predicted to grow up until 2025. Particularly the relatively slower growth of the furniture and appliances, and electronics and media segments.

4. Amazon dominates as the world’s top online marketplace

Top online marketplaces 2021

Whilst we’re all familiar with the popularity of Amazon, their sheer global dominance over other marketplaces is staggering, with eBay a very distant second, and Mercado Libre, who are very popular in South and Central America, occupying third spot.

5. Google was the first choice search engine around the world during 2021

popular search engines by region 2021

Expanding to new markets is always risky, so knowing the most popular search engine in specific regions can mean the difference between success and failure. Google dominates the US, Europe, Australia and much of South America, but Bing is still popular in some very specific regions around the world.

With Google being so widespread, there are huge opportunities for retailers to expand beyond their domestic markets by using Google Shopping.

6. Facebook was still the world’s most popular social networking site in 2021

most popular social networking sites 2021

Despite quite a lot of negative press about its influence around the world, Facebook remains the primary choice of social network globally. But just as it’s important to know the preferred search engine in specific countries, it’s also key to understand the most popular social media platform, with the huge markets of China and Russia being dominated by domestic social networks.

7. Digital wallet payments accounted for almost half of online transactions in 2021

popular payment methods 2021

Whilst it comes as no great surprise that global e-commerce is dominated by digital and mobile wallet payments, there are some really interesting differences between regions around the world. For instance, Europe’s use of ‘buy now pay later’ schemes is significantly higher than any other region, and people in the Asia Pacific regions use credit and debit cards far less than North Americans.

Knowing the preferred payment methods of your target market is another crucial factor that companies need to get right before expanding, as it directly impacts conversion-rates and cart abandonment.

8. Cross-border e-commerce continued to take off in 2021

cross-border ecommerce 2021

Limiting your web shop or brand to a single region could be harming your business. Buying products from different regions around the world has never been easier, and the vast amount of retailers have found it profitable.

Effective expansion into new markets also poses significant risks. As well as cultural differences, retailers may have no idea who their competitors are and how they compare based on price. Not knowing this can undermine the whole expansion and result in failure if retailers don’t ‘look before they leap’ and gather intelligence on new regions before entering them.

9. Cost-per-click differences around the world

CPC around the world

Another reason for international expansion is being able to exploit better returns on advertising spend in other countries. Being able to satisfy unmet demand in other countries when domestic marketing campaigns reach a plateau presents a huge opportunity for retailers.

But being able to spot less competitive markets requires thorough research into the competitive situation in each market, as well as analysing the CPC relevant to your products.

10. Free delivery was the most important factor for consumers in 2021

reasons why people shop online 2021

Free delivery continues to be an incredibly important factor for consumers when it comes to shopping online. Retailers and brands need to consider if their delivery costs should be internalised and added to the price of the product, and also how much their competitors are charging for delivery.

Google presents the delivery costs for each product when consumers use their Google Shopping price comparison service, so consumers can easily see which retailers offer free delivery. So, even if you’re the cheapest on the market, you may not win the sale due to shipping charges.

At PriceShape, as well as monitoring your competitors’ prices – and allowing you to create dynamic price rules based on this intelligence – we also monitor their delivery charges. This means you’re able to take into account this information when creating price strategies to maximize revenue and win more sales.

11. E-commerce conversion rates continue to increase

ecommerce conversion rates 2021

According to IRP Commerce, average e-commerce conversion rates continued improving and have increased year-on-year since 2017. But retailers and brands shouldn’t be breaking out the champagne just yet, as that’s only roughly 1 in 51 website visitors who actually buy something.

Whilst the curve is heading in the right direction, savvy retailers are always looking for ways to improve their conversion rate, and this should be an ongoing process of continual optimization.

12. Cart abandonment continued to be a major issue in 2021

shopping cart abandonment rate 2021

Leading on from conversion rate brings us to another key metric that retailers obsess over –  shopping cart abandonment rate.

Spending time choosing the right products, crafting marketing plans, and optimizing product pages, only for two-thirds of consumers to abandon their purchases at the last moment is agonising – and it doesn’t appear to have gotten any better over the last decade. 

Retailers and brands should look to optimize their checkout process wherever they can, and remove as many purchasing roadblocks as possible. But what are these roadblocks…

13. Additional costs were the main reason for cart abandonment

reasons for cart abandonment 2021

53% of people around the world shop online because of free delivery, so it comes as no surprise that by far the biggest reason for consumers not completing a purchase and abandoning their carts was high extra costs.

Shipping costs, taxes, and additional fees really puts people off. A solution to this could be retailers covering these extra costs themselves, where possible, and recouping the loss of revenue by increasing their prices.

However, this isn’t always possible, and with the impact of Brexit meaning that extra charges can be applied to goods traveling back and forth between the UK and Europe, it’s a real concern for British retailers in particular.

14. Cart abandonment emails continued to be effective

cart abandonment emails 2021

Another way to mitigate cart abandonment is to send follow up emails. According to Campaign Monitor the average email open rate is a lowly 18%, so alongside continually optimizing your website for conversion, spending time pursuing consumers who abandoned their cart is an effective tactic.

Adding your product to their cart shows a high level of buyer intent, and abandoned cart emails can be used to offer additional discounts or free shipping to entice them into completing their purchase.

How can PriceShape help retailers exploit the statistics

Insight into how 2022 may look, based on data from 2021, is only useful if you’re able to act on it. If you’re planning on expanding into a new market, product segment, or region, then you should carry out thorough research beforehand. At PriceShape, we’ll be able to scan the market, find all of your competitors, show you which ones provide the strongest competition, their shipping charges, and even their stock status on every product.

Using this intelligence, you can make critical strategic decisions far more comfortably. You’ll also be able to decide exactly which products to start selling, and which products you’re not able to compete on.

If you’re just planning on targeting a single market, then we can show you your price position on every product. This will allow you to dynamically increase the price on products where you’re currently priced too low, and use this extra revenue to offset free shipping.

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But don’t just take our word for it, get in touch to create a free test account and we’ll show you PriceShape in action.