E-commerce 2020: An Overview of the Year

Pandemic drives retail e-commerce to highest levels

E-commerce saw unprecedented growth in 2020 around the globe under lockdown conditions associated with the pandemic, this holds true for the United Kingdom as well. In fact according to the Office for National Statistics internet sales account for 36% of total sales in November 2020 (the most recent numbers available). Internet sales as a percentage of total sales was higher across the entire year than any previous year even over the summer where there was a slight decline in online sales. 


It is of significance to note that this decline over the summer months corresponds to the easing of restrictions and the reopening of brick and mortar stores; this could be a forewarning that the increase in online sales is only because people are being left without any other option with the periods of lockdowns and shop closures. The only way to be sure of this is to continue to follow the numbers in 2021. However, on average it takes people about 2 months to form a habit so it is quite possible that the habit of online shopping is now becoming cemented in people’s psyche.


Most popular products and services bought online in 2020

Goods and services ranked by share of individuals who purchased online in Great Britain in 2020

Clothes, shoes, and accessories


Deliveries from restaurants, fast-food chains or catering services


Printed books, magazines or newspapers


furniture, home accessories or gardening products


Computers, tablets, mobile phones or accessories


Children's toys or childcare items


Cosmetics, beauty or wellness products


Cleaning products or personal hygiene products


Consumer electronics


Sports goods


Food or beverages from stores or from meal-kit providers


Medicine or dietary supplements


Physical copies of films or series


Physical copies of music


Bicycles, mopeds, cars, or other vehicles or their spare parts




Statista has published information based on the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey which shows the pattern of online purchasing in the UK in 2020. This showed that  this year 55% of the population purchased items online. The most popular item purchased was clothes, shoes and accessories, followed by food related purchasing in the form of deliveries from restaurants, fast food chains and catering services. Printed books, magazines or newspapers as well as furniture, home accessories or gardening products were also very popular. This pattern is not surprising as the services and products that were most popular are directly related to staying at home and keeping oneself occupied. Services and products that were the least popular with online customers were bicycles, mopeds, cars or other spare parts, which only less than 10% choosing to purchase these online.  

What will be interesting for any sales enablement companies in the UK is whether these patterns are mirrored in 2021, so far it seems like tiered lockdown and the pandemic will continue to affect purchasing behaviour. However, in the near future online shops will need to develop strategies to retain any new customers and attract repeat business.  The question that people will need to answer is whether the experience of shopping online is preferred to the old style brick and mortar shops. Especially when it comes to those areas which have seen the most growth in the UK such as, clothing and food. 

It is always useful for online sales management service in the UK and indeed anyone associated with e-commerce to know what has happened in online retail and to what extent these patterns can be used to plan ahead for the upcoming year. So with this brief overview hopefully there are some insights gained about e-commerce in 2020 to guide business going forward.


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