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Global Ecommerce Update 2021

Worldwide Ecommerce Will Approach $5 Trillion This Year

About This Report
Even as total worldwide retail sales declined by 3.0% in 2020, retail ecommerce growth boomed to 27.6%. Ecommerce growth will decelerate substantially in 2021 to 14.3% as brick-and-mortar sales recover.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

When we last forecast our worldwide figures for retail ecommerce, the world was amid the first wave of coronavirus disruption, and we anticipated a substantial deceleration for ecommerce and dire results for overall retail. Both metrics ended up better than we first expected.

How did 2020 turn out?

Despite a challenging year for retail in 2020, we estimate that worldwide retail ecommerce sales grew 27.6% for the year, for a total of $4.280 trillion. This represents a substantial uptick from our mid-pandemic assessment of 16.5% growth. However, total worldwide retail sales declined by 3.0%, to $23.839 trillion.

Which countries and regions stood out in 2020?

All 32 national markets we cover ended up with at least double-digit ecommerce growth in 2020. Latin America saw abnormally standout growth (36.7%), despite suffering worse-than-average declines in overall retail sales (3.4% drop). Argentina’s retail ecommerce grew by an astounding 79.0% last year, a figure approached only by Singapore’s 71.1%.

How is 2021 shaping up?

Worldwide, ecommerce growth will decelerate substantially this year, despite consumers’ newfound enthusiasm for digital shopping solutions. We forecast that worldwide ecommerce growth will downshift to 14.3% in 2021, partially because of a brick-and-mortar rebound and partially because so much growth was pulled forward to 2020. We also forecast that overall worldwide retail will rebound to 5.1% growth in 2021.

Will China still lead the world in everything ecommerce this year?

Yes. China will continue to lead the world in digital buyers in 2021 with 792.5 million (33.3% of the global total); it will produce $2.779 trillion in ecommerce sales (56.8% of the global total); and it will become the first country in history to transact more than half of its retail sales digitally (52.1% of retail will be ecommerce).

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report features our latest forecasts for worldwide retail ecommerce, mcommerce, and digital buyers—as well as selected regional trends for ecommerce and an update on overall retail sales.

KEY STAT: In a banner year for ecommerce globally, Latin America stood out in 2020 with the fastest growth, at 36.7%. That was an increase from the region’s 23.2% growth in 2019.


Ethan Cramer-Flood


Oscar Bruce Jr.
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Brian Lau
Digital Apprentice
Cindy Liu
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Peter Newman
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Shelleen Shum
Director, Forecasting
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