Written by, Ljubica Gjorgievska
Updated December, 13, 2021
When the UK e-commerce market was just emerging in 2000, it was worth a paltry £1.8 billion and accounted for only 1% of the country’s total retail sales. However, nowadays, it’s the most advanced in Europe and valued at a dizzying £688.4 billion. How’s that for a glow-up?
To give you a better idea of how it’s developed so much so quickly and how much more it’ll grow in the future, we’ve compiled some of the most relevant and insightful e-commerce and online shopping statistics from the UK. These facts and figures will highlight the importance of online commerce for you and help you build your business the right way.
Let’s check them out!
The online purchase penetration rate in the UK has been growing exponentially over the past decade, rising from 62% in 2010 to an impressive 87% in 2020. This growth, coupled with the continuing restrictions imposed on citizens and shops, will only contribute to the further expansion of eCommerce in the UK in the future.
(The Office for National Statistics) (Sendcloud)
In February 2021, internet sales made up 34.5% of total retail sales. Rising from 32.9% at the start of the pandemic to 31.3% at the end of the year, the online shopping trend is only going up. In fact, estimates put the share of eCommerce at one-third of all retail sales by 2024.
Online sales in the UK increased by a staggering £15.2 billion between 2018 and 2019 alone. Further data and stats from Statista reveal:
E-commerce revenue, Statista calculates, should grow at a CAGR of 3.47%, reaching more than £80 thousand million this year. Estimations over a four year period, on the other hand, put the projected market revenue at £92,461 million.
According to the same source, user penetration will go as high as 89.6% by 2025, up from the expected 86.2% in 2021.
The latest eMarketer report also shows that even though there will be a decline of 6.3% in retail ecommerce sales in 2021, the numbers will bounce back again in the following years. According to forecasts, Britons will spend nearly £150 billion on online retail shopping in 2024.
In 2019, sales to private customers by businesses with at least ten employees amounted to almost £200 billion, up from £188.3 billion the previous year. Companies with over 1,000 employees generate most of the sales in the B2C e-commerce sector, while businesses with fewer than ten workers made £14.6 billion in website sales in 2017.
Following the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, projections regarding the UK B2C market were revised. It’s now estimated that this segment of the eCommerce market in the UK will grow at a 6.2% annual rate by 2023.
(Statista) (Wunderman Thompson Commerce)
Larger companies (i.e. those with 250 to 999 employees) generate the most sales in the B2B segment; however, sales by businesses with over 1,000 employees have pretty much the same value.
2020 was a year of many changes for everyone, especially the B2B eCommerce sector. According to the latest e-commerce statistics, 41% of B2B purchases were made online before the Covid-19 outbreak started. That number, however, jumped to 46% after the coronavirus pandemic. These figures can only mean an increase in sales and emerging opportunities for companies to establish B2B eCommerce marketplaces online.
Even though this is a substantial number, it still leaves nearly half of SMEs without a presence in the online commerce market.
Why? Well, according to 26% of polled SMEs, an eCommerce platform isn’t relevant to their business. Another 5% stated that they didn’t have the staff to set it up, while 4% said they lacked the time.
Making up an astounding £214.7 billion in eCommerce sales, wholesale was the highest-grossing industry in 2019. It was followed by manufacturing, which generated £188.1 billion, and transport and storage with £78.4 billion. Retail, one of the main driving forces on the eCommerce market in the UK, generated £60.4 billion in sales in 2019.
A study by WeAreSocial found that visiting an online retail site or shop is the most popular eCommerce activity in the UK. Browsing online for products or services also ranks high on the list (88.3%). Furthermore, 85.5% used the net to make a purchase.
(The Office for National Statistics)
The food sector saw the largest growth (143.5%) throughout the year. This increase was primarily driven by coronavirus restrictions, which forced more and more consumers to cook meals at home instead of eating out.
On a monthly level, however, online retail increased by 9.2% between January 2021 and December 2020. During this period, other non-food stores recorded a surge (31.1%). Stores for household goods and food also saw significant monthly growth (of 22.6% and 11.5%, accordingly).
Despite the growth of online retailing, there’s still room for improvement. The number of e-commerce website visits that turned into purchases decreased by 0.07% between the second and third quarter of 2020.
Moreover, the conversation rate of internet shoppers declined further from the third quarter of the previous year, when 3.88% of visits to eCommerce websites translated into purchases. Retailers would do well to take note of this fact and try to upgrade the shopping experience on their websites and platforms.
According to a Statista survey on internet shopping statistics, 55% of households purchased clothes, accessories and shoes online in 2020, making this the most popular retail category among online shoppers. The least popular were bicycles, mopeds, cars or other spare parts, which were bought over the web by only 8% of households polled.
With ecommerce net sales reaching £12,721.6 million in 2020 alone, Amazon.co.uk takes the top spot among British online stores. The retail giant is followed by Tesco and Argos.co.uk, which generated £4,638 million and £4,154.6 million in sales, respectively.
A survey carried out in February 2021 discovered that as many as 93% of UK residents had made purchases from Amazon in the last year. 86% of them specifically used the Amazon UK site.
What’s the reason behind this trend? The most likely answer: the coronavirus crisis.
Namely, 43% of Amazon users cited the closure of non-essential shops during the lockdown, with 40% reporting that they’d bought items from Amazon that they’d previously get in physical shops.
Argos topped the list of multichannel retailers with a score of 87 out of 100, online shopping facts demonstrate. The criteria, Statista explains, was based on the provision of essential technologies used by multichannel retailers, i.e. ones that sell both in-store and online. Furniture retailer B&Q was ranked second, followed by Schuh and British electrical retailer Currys PC World.
(Parcel and Postal Technology International)
Accounting for 35% of UK parcel deliveries by volume, Royal Mail is Britain’s most commonly used shipping provider. It’s followed by Amazon Logistics and Hermes with a 15% and 10% market share, accordingly. Along with USP (8%) and DHL (7%), these top five carriers deliver 75% of all shipments in the country.
With over 80% of the population having access to a smartphone, the popularity of these devices for shopping on the go is more than expected. Namely, it’s estimated that 62% of Brits use their smartphones to buy goods on the internet.
In the third quarter of 2020, 5.74% of eCommerce visits via desktop turned into purchases, a much higher percentage than the 2.9% rate for mobile. However, considering that mobile now accounts for 43.98% of all online traffic in the UK, mobile sales are bound to go up.
Surprisingly, even though tablets hold a mere 6.46% share of internet traffic, 4.41% of all eCommerce website visits on these devices (or twice as much as mobile) lead to purchases.
According to Statista, one-third of all online shopping in the UK was realised via a mobile device. Retail sales through mobile are estimated to reach £105.28 billion by 2024, growing at almost double the rate of the eCommerce sector, which expanded by 6.7% in 2019.
Downloaded 307.3 times by Android and 285.4 thousand times by British iPhone users, Shop was the leading shopping app as of January 2021.
Looking at the number of daily users, retail mobile app statistics show different results. On iPhones, Amazon was ranked first with 2.3 billion DAUs, while Wish was the most popular on Android, with 262.7 thousand Google Play store users accessing the app every day.
Online banking is one of the most popular ecommerce activities among British consumers. Additionally, the number of online banking users in Great Britain has been growing exponentially since 2007, when it was used by only 30% of individuals. The banking industry has always been one of the first to adopt new technologies, which coupled with the growing number of online users is a guarantee of further growth in the future.
(The Fintech Times)
Digital wallets have finally overtaken debit cards as the most popular method of payment in the UK, eCommerce statistics tell us. Actually, Worldpay’s 2021 report indicates that debit and credit cards make up 29% and 21% of online payments—a much lower share compared to digital wallets. What’s more, the report estimates that by 2024, digital wallets will account for 40% of all internet shopping in the country.
(The Fintech Times)
BNPL spending in Britain is projected to increase from £9.6 billion in 2020 to an impressive £26.4 billion by 2024. On top of that, BNPL transactions in the UK will rise by 29% in the following four years, acquiring a 10% share of the market, or double what they held in 2020.
Last year, the total value of digital payments stood at $188.3 billion (around £136.51), an annual increase of 19.7%. The average value per yearly transaction was estimated at $3,294 (£2,388).
The percentage of PayPal mobile app users on both iOS and Android phones has been declining since February 2017. Namely, the lowest recorded number of PayPal MAUs was in April 2020, when about 2.05 million monthly users were recorded.
While the PayPal app is on a downswing, e-commerce facts and stats reveal that Apple Pay is experiencing the opposite. Based on a Statista survey, 61% of people used Apple Pay in the last year, making it the most popular payment app in the UK. Furthermore, 32% used Google Pay, and 12% opted for Samsung Pay when settling tabs in shops, restaurants, and other points of sale.
The younger generations seem to be the least patient—67% of millennials say they’d abandon a purchase if the payment procedure is too complicated, whilst 51% of Gen Zers wouldn’t use retailers who ask them to enter their payment credentials with every visit.
Apart from ease of use, UK shoppers also appreciate security and privacy, with 59% of them putting these factors first when choosing an online payment method.
(Statista) (The Office for National Statistics)
Judging by the demographics of online shoppers, almost all UK residents between the ages of 25 and 34 made a purchase online in 2020. Young generations weren’t far behind: 16-24 year-olds had an online purchasing penetration rate of 96%, while 95% of both 35-44 and 45-54 year-olds shopped on the web.
Unsurprisingly, older Brits (65+ years old) had the lowest percentage of online shopping at 65%. However, seniors might just be an untapped market for online sellers. The ONS estimates that 10% of Brits over the age of 65 use the internet at least once a week, whereas the number of seniors taking part in online retail has doubled since 2012.
It’s time to put stereotypes aside. In 2020, an equal proportion of men and women made purchases online. Looking further back across UK online shopping statistics, the percentage of men making purchases on the net has always been higher, particularly in 2009, when 66% of British men shopped online, as opposed to just 57% of women.
Cited by 55% of online shoppers in a Statista survey, the ability to compare prices was the primary reason for making purchases online. Another 52% of respondents mentioned the variety of options available, whereas 44% said it was cheaper to buy items online than in-store.
The airline sector has the highest cart abandonment rate or 87.87%. This segment is closely followed by travel (81.31%) and finance (77.97%). One of the main reasons why people abandon travel bookings is that they weren’t planning on making a purchase in the first place— 39% said they were just looking, and 37% were only comparing prices.
According to a 2019 survey, 61% said they wouldn’t complete the purchase because the delivery costs were too high. Other reasons for high cart abandonment rates in the UK include slow delivery times (cited by 41%), previous unpleasant experience with the retailer (22%), and loyalty to their preferred carriers (17%). A quarter said they’d abandon a cart if the retailer didn’t offer their preferred method of delivery.
Barclays estimates that UK shoppers abandon carts each worth £30 every month, leading to billions in lost sales over the year. The most commonly abandoned items range from women’s clothing, left in baskets by 29% of shoppers, and men’s clothing and entertainment items, abandoned by 26%. Other goods include women’s knitwear, headphones, watches, and books.
A Signicat survey reveals that more than half of respondents have backed out of completing a payment procedure through an online finance app. 40% of them were concerned about the amount and nature of the personal info required, whereas 34% complained of the length of time it took to complete the forms. 28%, on the other hand, wanted an online-only option and didn’t appreciate being asked to provide info over the post or through a visit to a physical branch.
Even though Britons are willing to pay more than £150 for orders, they bargain on the shipping cost and expect it to be less than £15. Additionally, 29% don’t want to pay a shipping fee for orders of £150 or higher.
Another thing shoppers want from their online retailers in the UK is same or next day delivery, especially if the order is placed before 4.43 p.m.
Almost nine out of ten shoppers in the UK will have to deal with a company’s return policy at one time or another, seeing as how more than half regularly send items back, while 32% do so occasionally. On top of that, over half of them check the terms and conditions before making a purchase, so a clear policy is a must.
Shoppers in the UK have specific expectations of return policies, eCommerce facts and surveys indicate. In fact, 56% believe that the retailer should handle the return and pay the fee, while 30% want the carrier to pick up the item from their home or office.
Despite the growth of instant messaging services, mobile messages are still a thing. More than half of polled online buyers prefer to get tracking notifications via SMS, while 54% use email for the same purpose and 35% rely on the courier’s app. Surprisingly, only 17% opt to receive tracking info via popular messaging platform WhatsApp.
Today, British shoppers are willing to wait 6.7 days for standard delivery, 2.5 days longer than before the outbreak started. In addition, consumers have turned to local retailers, choosing them over international companies since lockdowns were initiated. Today, only 32% of UK shoppers would buy from a foreign company, a decrease from the 45% who did so before the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the other things that the pandemic has affected are holiday shopping habits. During the 2020 festive season, nearly a third of UK consumers stated that they were interested in shopping through apps, while 17% wanted to buy presents through social media.
A 2020 report from ChannelAdvisor found that during the peak of the pandemic, 42% of British online buyers planned on shopping more online in the future. Even after the situation stabilised in August 2020, as many as 55% stated they expect to shop more online in the future.
Online retailers in the UK have gained new customers thanks to the pandemic. While only 9% of consumers said they’d made purchases from different physical shops than before the pandemic, almost 30% have changed online retailers. There’s a similar trend in future expectations as well. 29% expect to try out new online retailers, compared to just 14% of customers who will turn to new physical stores for their shopping needs in 2021.
When it comes to fashion and food items, omnichannel retailers are winning over pure-play retailers. 56% of online shoppers will buy clothing, shoes and accessories from omnichannel retailers in 2021, increasing from the 48% who did so in 2020.
What’s more, 48% plan on buying food items from omnichannel retailers, compared to 19% and 14% who will shop at food retailers and Amazon, respectively.
The latest online shopping trends reveal that 39% estimate that they’ll be spending more on non-food items in 2021, whereas 50% believe that their expenditure will be more or less the same.
Furthermore, 30% of surveyed consumers think they’ll spend more on Amazon this year, as opposed to 58% who don’t believe that they’ll spend beyond their 2020 budgets.
The ability to order online and pick up the goods in-store is a highly-desirable facility among British consumers. However, UK online shopping statistics show that only 47% of retailers are ready to meet this demand. The number of click and collect transactions is expected to grow by 5% annually in the coming period, though, which will hopefully be enough to meet rising consumer expectations.
Despite the growing demand for eco-conscious shipping, currently, only one per cent of online retailers in the UK offer this option. Research further suggests that online shoppers are more concerned about waste than carbon emissions, demonstrating another reason why retailers should focus on environmentally friendly packaging.
Providing convenience and variety, subscription boxes are among the hottest trends on the British consumer goods market right now. According to a YouGov survey, 14% have made a purchase from a subscription box company in the last year. In terms of category, food boxes are the most popular (33%), followed by meal ingredient services (22%) and beauty and make-up products (20%).
Can a business survive without an eCommerce presence nowadays? Probably not. As technology, shopping habits and needs are becoming symbiotic, online retail is the present—and future—of countless companies in Britain and around the globe.
Whether you have an online shop or are planning on expanding your services through e-commerce channels, take note of these online shopping statistics from the UK and make sure that you aren’t falling behind on the latest trends since it could cost you a pretty penny.
As a writer for Don’t Disappoint Me, my job is to collect relevant key information and interpret it into a wide range of content. I also have an MSc in Marketing, so I am always trying to expand my knowledge and discover new and exciting areas of digital marketing, SEO and web traffic building. I am a nature enthusiast, so when I’m not researching and analyzing, I love to go hiking with my dogs, camping, or snowboarding. I am a bookaholic as well and have an ongoing obsession with crime TV shows and movies.