16. April 2021

How logistics surfed the e-commerce wave in 2020

Growth in online retail shows no signs of stopping, with order numbers continuing to rise. Last year saw an incredible boom in e-commerce, which ended in the best Christmas trade of all time. This was mainly due to the constantly growing number of online customers.

Picavi Blog Record Year

Peak season in e-commerce: the boom that keeps on going

As the pandemic has continued into 2021, so has the peak season of e-commerce. But record orders pose a major challenge to online retailers and logistics companies. What can logistics specialists learn from this ongoing boom? How did the sector overcome the challenges of 2020? And what is predicted for this year?

2020: a record year for e-commerce

To get an idea of the development of online retail in 2020, just look at the numbers. This period saw a massive rise in orders. During the first lockdown in Germany between early March and late April alone, online purchases rose by 30%. According to figures from AfterPay Insights, the rise persisted into the summer holidays before weakening slightly. In December, Christmas trading saw e-commerce grow by 67%, breaking all records. This ongoing peak is above all down to so-called heavy shoppers: people who make five or more online purchases per month. The peak of e-commerce growth in December 2020 also saw the proportion of heavy shoppers among online customers reach a record high. At this point, this group made up one in four online shoppers.

 

Marked growth in older shoppers

Another interesting feature of this boom was the increase in new online customers. This growth came in two waves: first in spring from March to April, then again from the start of November. The most interesting thing here is the age of these new shoppers. The fastest growing age groups here were 45 to 55-year-olds with 21% growth and 55 to 64-year-olds, which grew by 22%. This meant that throughout 2020, between 82 and 87% of all shoppers in all age groups from 18 to 64 years were making purchases online. Experts believe that customers buying online for the first time are realizing just how simple and convenient it is. As a result, the e-commerce sector can expect the customers it gained in 2020 to stick around, while growth continues throughout 2021.

 

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Particularly strong performance in food and clothing

Taking a look at individual sectors, we also see that food and clothing in particular have been fueling the e-commerce boom. Media and electronics, along with toys, tools and sports equipment, only saw a big rise towards the end of the year. This was due to significant days in the calendar like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas. 2020 saw Black Friday remain the most important day of the year for online retailers in Germany, with records being broken yet again. For travel, the pandemic brought an abrupt end to the impressive online growth of previous years, with almost negligible sales in 2020.

But the boom in e-commerce would not have been possible without logistics. Customer satisfaction with stock levels remained constant throughout the year. Satisfaction with delivery times fell briefly at the start of the peak, before increasing further as the year went on. Despite the incredible stresses caused by the e-commerce boom, customer satisfaction reached a high level even at peak periods. We can therefore say with confidence that the logistics sector has performed very well during this peak.

The boom goes on

The peak caused by the pandemic has yet to pass. As a result, the e-commerce sector is expecting further growth for this year. In a survey of online customers, only 20% said that they planned to buy less online after the pandemic. Their main reasons for doing so were related to sustainability and environmental protection. Between 85 and 90% of all online shoppers came from groups who regularly purchase either two to four or five or more items online. The more often people purchase online, the more likely they plan to do so again in future. This shows that online shopping will become routine across all segments and age groups. Experts believe this growth is sustainable and do not expect the numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. The current e-commerce peak therefore looks set to continue.

Do you want to know how to surf the e-commerce wave in logistics?

You can also find more facts and figures about international e-commerce in our online event series “Smart Logistics on Air – The Experts Lab”.

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