The COVID-19 pandemic changed many things, from our personal daily routines to many small business processes to the way the world operates in general.

One of the major shifts occurred in our buying and selling habits. The lockdown forced many brick-and-mortar stores to close temporarily (and some permanently), which meant buyers and sellers alike had to figure out how to meet the majority of their goals by shopping online.

In fact, ecommerce businesses got quite a boost as a result of the lockdown. Online shopping statistics suggest that over two billion people are expected to shop online in 2021.

Online Shopping Statistics in 2021

Although retail sales dropped dramatically in 2020, online retail sales soared.

According to Statista, “In 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide.”

To get a feel for the growth that occurred, let’s take a look at online sales before the pandemic.

In 2018, global online sales reached $2.8 trillion.

In 2019, ecommerce sales accounted for 14% of retail purchases worldwide, and global sales reached $3.35 trillion.

Global online shopping statistics indicate that 22% of sales will be conducted online by 2023–that’s nearly a quarter of worldwide sales, up 8% in only four years.

Online Shopping Trends

So what trends should ecommerce business owners be aware of for the upcoming months?

For grand-scale businesses like Walmart and Target, online ordering and curbside pickup are highly-utilized options for those who still don’t feel comfortable entering the store. Target reported that nearly $700 million of sales “came from their drive up service alone, which increased 500% year-over-year from 2019, and those sales didn’t negatively impact their in-store pickup.”

Also in 2020, the shopping categories that saw the most online purchases included essential goods, entertainment, and home projects. But the most purchased online by far was groceries. By halfway through 2020, online grocery sales totaled $7.2 billion, and nearly 80% of shoppers in the U.S. turned to online grocery shopping as a result of the pandemic.

With curbside and delivery options expanding, the momentum that online grocery shopping has experienced will continue into 2021.

Ecommerce Potential in the USA and Canada

In Canada, ecommerce spending grew by over 72% in 2020, making it the fastest-growing market, while spending in the U.S. grew by over 33%. Ecommerce is predicted to grow steadily over the next couple of years as the pandemic winds down. It’s estimated that by 2022, ecommerce sales in the U.S. will reach $859 billion.

However, ecommerce is not expected to replace in-person retail completely. As online retailers stay competitive by adopting new features, ecommerce will continue to evolve to suit the needs of consumers.

Impact of COVID on Ecommerce

While grocery ecommerce increased as a result of the pandemic, so did other online shopping categories, such as medical supplies, baby products, and cleaning supplies. Some categories that saw dramatically less spending than usual included jewelry, clothes, and travel spending.

Online shopping statistics during COVID also indicate that spending on subscription and convenience services increased over the last year as certain necessities weren’t as easily accessible in person.

According to BigCommerce, “Marketing research company Nielsen has identified six key consumer behavior thresholds tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and their results on markets.”

Those include:

  • Buying for proactive health care;
  • Buying for reactive health management;
  • Pantry preparation and stockpiling;
  • Quarantine preparation;
  • Restricted living; and
  • A new normal.

As shoppers return to brick-and-mortar stores, ecommerce growth may not be quite as explosive as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that we’ve seen firsthand how essential online shopping can be, we can expect that ecommerce will continue to grow and evolve to fit the ever-changing needs of a global market.

online shopping statistics 2021

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Meghan Bliss