Online sales likely to remain high post-pandemic

Over half of all retail sales around the world will still be online after the Covid-19 pandemic, new research suggests.

Ecommerce consultancy Wunderman Thompson Commerce surveyed more than 28,000 consumers across 17 countries on their current and future shopping habits for its Future Shopper Report 2021.

Almost three-quarters (72%) said that online shopping came to their rescue in 2020 and 73% said ecommerce would be more important to them in 2021. One contributing factor for 60% of global shoppers was becoming more comfortable using digital technology, while 41% said they are frightened about shopping instore in the wake of Covid-19.

Online marketplaces saw their popularity rise during the pandemic, with 42% of all online spend globally going to sites such as Amazon, Alibaba,, Mercado Libre and eBay.

While not everyone is happy about their dominance, two-thirds (64%) of consumers said they are excited by the prospect of buying everything through one retailer or marketplace in the future.

At the same time, however, more than half (56%) of global consumers supported the idea of Amazon paying more taxes — rising to over two-thirds (69%) in the UK and 70% in the US.

Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said: “Ecommerce can no longer be treated as the supplementary sales channel. Global shoppers have clearly stated that, in the future, it will be their primary channel for retail purchasing.

“For some organisations, and particularly marketplaces, they are reaping the rewards of investing in a strong online presence, while the news has been littered with stories of businesses who have not identified these changing demands going bust.”

Fletcher added: “2021 and beyond will usher in an era of more diverse online offerings, with marketplaces, direct-to-consumer brand sites and social commerce all having a key role to play. Businesses must ensure that this more complex online landscape complements their overall retail offering which needs to span digital and physical.”