Looking Back at Ecommerce in 2021

We all know that the ecommerce industry boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers avoided crowded retail stores and made purchases from the comforts of their own homes. If you and your ecommerce business haven’t experienced the boom firsthand, you’ve likely heard about the spike in online sales.

Throughout 2022’s first quarter, new reports and statistics have emerged that put real numbers behind what ecommerce companies experienced throughout 2021. We’ve aggregated those reports and statistics to bring you 8 takeaways from the year as they relate to ecommerce.

1. Brands Did Big Ecommerce Business

Ecommerce spending with U.S. brands totaled $871 million, which was a 14% increase from the prior year. Of course, ecommerce spending with U.S. retail brands grew at a 32% rate in 2020 during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While that level of growth was and is unsustainable, 14% growth in 2021 indicates continued online success for American brands.

2. D2C and B2B Grew Even Faster

The 14% ecommerce growth that U.S. brands experienced is impressive, but B2B ecommerce grew at 17.8% (from $1.39 trillion to $1.63 trillion) and direct-to-consumer ecommerce grew 17% in 2021. The growth of D2C ecommerce was largely driven by millennials.

3. The Growth of Ecommerce Hiring Surpassed Growth in Sales

After the incredible growth of ecommerce in 2020 that was driven by the pandemic, ecommerce businesses staffed up in 2021 to bring more capacity to their teams. Ecommerce hiring grew 21% in 2021 after growing at only 8% in 2020.

4. Out-of-Stock Messages Didn’t Stop Holiday Shoppers

As ecommerce businesses experienced late in November and December, Americans spent a record $204.5 billion in online purchases during the holiday season. Online shoppers received 6 billion out-of-stock messages during the holiday season due to inventory and supply chain issues, which makes the overall ecommerce spending numbers all the more impressive.

5. Carriers Came Through in the Clutch

There were worrisome headlines about carriers’ collective ability to deliver during the holiday season in 2021. The carriers came through in the clutch, though, with the United States Postal Service announcing a holiday delivery success rate of 96.9%.

6. Spending Increased Globally

Total ecommerce transactions around the world reached $4.9 trillion in 2021. They are expected to reach $7.5 trillion by 2026, largely driven by investments in omnichannel fulfillment.

7. Returns Spiked, Too

Ecommerce customers bought more in 2021 — and they returned more as well. Consumers returned 20.8% of all that they purchased via ecommerce last year, which represented $218 billion in initial spending. In 2020, consumers returned 18.1% of all they bought via ecommerce.

8. Expect Growth to Continue

According to the latest reports and studies, there’s no ecommerce slowdown in sight. Online sales grew 10.4% year-over-year in January 2022, and ecommerce sales in the U.S. are expected to surpass $1 trillion for the first time this year. That $1 trillion will make up an estimated 15.9% of retail sales overall.

How Will You Solve Shipping?

As your ecommerce business plans for more online sales, how it will it solve shipping? The right technology partner can help you import orders from different selling channels, shop for the best rates, print shipping labels in real-time, track shipments to their final destinations, and even manage returns. At ShipEngine, we provide those services — plus more.

Contact us to learn more about what ShipEngine can do for your ecommerce business, or sign up for a free ShipEngine account to start exploring.

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