E-commerce accounts for almost a fifth of all retail


It is a well-known fact that the outbreak of Covid-19 has boosted online sales. But a new UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) report now gives us some figures.


South Korea

According to the UN organisation, which bases itself on spending in seven major countries, e-commerce's share of total retail spendings rose from 16 to 19 per cent. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, online demand for physical goods, in particular, increased, while total retail expenditure decreased by 1 per cent. In those seven countries, e-commerce grew by 22.4 per cent to 2,496 billion dollars (2,071 billion euros). South Korea is the relative champion of online retail: relative to total retail spendings, South Koreans spent the most online (25.9 per cent).

Not surprisingly, the world's largest online retailers are mainly located in China and the United States. Alibaba, the empire of Jack Ma, is still the biggest of them all, with a turnover of 1,145 billion dollars (950 billion euros) last year. Amazon is second, with a considerable distance between the two. Shopify made the biggest progress and saw its turnover almost double. Platforms focusing on travel, such as Expedia and Booking, took the hardest hit and were knocked out of the top 10.

B2B is much bigger

Incidentally, online retail (B2C) represents only a fraction of total e-commerce. In 2019 - the figures for 2020 are not yet known - total e-commerce spending was 26,673 billion dollars (22,135 billion euros). More than 80 per cent of the total was realised through online business-to-business transactions.