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The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about rapid changes in customer behaviour, and forced businesses to adapt to greater online demand.

In this collection of stats, we look at the impact of Covid-19 on online retail, including how retailers have used online to offset lower store sales, which sectors have been in demand, and how ecommerce has grown since 2019.

US Online Retail Sales 2020

The pandemic drove US shoppers online, with data from Digital Commerce 360 putting total online retail sales reaching $861.12 billion in 2020.

This is 44% higher than 2019, and nearly triple the growth rate between 2018 and 2019 (15.1%).

Digital Commerce 360 estimates that the Covid effect drove an extra $174.87bn in revenue during 2020.

covid-19 ecommerce stats

Ecommerce as a Proportion of Total Retail Sales (US)

In 2020, ecommerce accounted for 21.3% of all retail sales in the US, up from 15.8% in 2019 and 14.3% in 2018.

Ecommerce as a Proportion of Total Retail Sales (UK)

In the UK, ecommerce accounted for 27.9% of all retail sales throughout 2020, according to ONS data.

covid-19 ecommerce stats sales as percentage of retail

For several quarters in 2020, online sales accounted for a higher proportion of retail, reaching 32% in Q4 during the Christmas shopping season.

The trend has continued into 2021, with online sales reaching 34.4% of all retail in Q1 2021, a record level.

Search Demand for Key Ecommerce Sectors

The increased demand for products online was reflected in search volumes for different sectors.

Generally speaking, people were looking for items to entertain them at home, for essentials to keep them going, and products for home improvement.

Some products categories were in less demand, with ‘going out’ fashion and beauty experiencing a drop in demand.

Data from Pi Datametrics shows some of the fastest growing sectors, measured by search volume for products within these categories.

The data shows peaks in demand at different times of the year, for homeware and electrical especially.

Ecommerce Platforms Report Strong Growth

Two of the major ecommerce platforms reported strong growth during the year, thanks to new merchants looking to sell online and existing merchants expanding their ecommerce operations.

Shopify reported revenue growth of 84% year on year, with subscription revenue rising by 55% as more merchants began to use the platform.

Meanwhile, BigCommerce reported total annual revenue run-rate of $181.2 million, up 41% year on year.

Top Google Product Searches

The top product searches reflect people’s priorities during lockdown, with home comforts and entertainment the most popular product searches.

COVID-19 and Digital Transformation

The change in online demand led many businesses to speed up their digital transformation so they could sell to and communicate with customers on digital channels.

A survey by Twillo of enterprise decision makers in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Spain, France and Italy found that the pandemic accelerated digital transformation by at least six years.

The survey found that 97% of respondents agreed that digital transformation programmes had accelerated – somewhat for 29% and a great deal for 68%.



Graham Charlton is a content specialist. He's been involved in ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously worked for for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and SaleCycle.

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