According to a recent study conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the e-commerce industry. The study revealed that online sales accounted for nearly 19% of total retail turnover in 2020, a significant increase from the previous year’s 16%. This surge can be attributed to the widespread lockdown measures implemented worldwide, which forced people to stay at home and rely heavily on online shopping.

The study collected data from national statistical offices in major economies, and the results were eye-opening. South Korea emerged as the leader in online sales, with a share of 25.9%, up from 20.8% in the previous year. China closely followed with a 24.9% share, while Britain accounted for 23.3% and the United States accounted for 14.0%. These numbers indicate that e-commerce has become a crucial component of the retail industry, with a significant portion of consumer spending now occurring online.

In 2019, global e-commerce sales reached an estimated $26.7 trillion, a 4% increase compared to the previous year. This figure includes both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, highlighting the substantial role e-commerce plays in the global economy. In fact, it represented approximately 30% of the world’s economic output for that year.

The impact of the pandemic on leading B2C e-commerce companies has been a mixed bag. The UNCTAD report highlighted a significant decline in gross merchandise volume (GMV) for platform companies that offered services such as ride-hailing and travel. Expedia, for example, dropped from 5th place in the 2019 rankings to 11th place in 2020, while Booking Holdings fell from 6th to 12th place. Even Airbnb, which went public in 2020, experienced a drop in rankings from 11th to 13th place.

However, despite the challenges faced by certain service-based companies, the overall GMV for the top 13 B2C e-commerce companies increased by 20.5% to $2.9 trillion in 2020. This growth outpaced the 17.9% gain observed in 2019. The rankings by GMV remained relatively consistent, with Alibaba in China leading the pack and Amazon in the United States closely following.

The UNCTAD study serves as a clear indication of the immense growth and impact of e-commerce, particularly during a time when online shopping has become the primary method of purchasing goods and services. As the world recovers from the effects of the pandemic, it is anticipated that the share of online sales in total retail turnover will continue to rise. This underscores the importance for businesses to adapt and invest in their online presence to stay competitive in an increasingly digital marketplace.

For more information on the UNCTAD study and its findings, please visit their official website here. Additionally, for tips and strategies on how businesses can optimize their online presence and thrive in the e-commerce industry, you can refer to this helpful article here. These resources provide valuable insights for individuals and businesses alike who are seeking to navigate the evolving landscape of online retail.