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Worldwide ecommerce growth drops to single digits, while overall retail muddles through

We began tracking ecommerce on a global scale in 2010, and until last year, worldwide ecommerce sales growth had always exceeded 20% per annum. In 2021, growth dropped to a still-healthy 17.1%. In 2022, however, deceleration will be severe. We estimate just 9.7% growth this year.

Total retail sales growth around the world will also be in the doldrums, but not excessively so by historical standards. Overall retail will expand by 4.7% this year, not much slower than the usual rates seen throughout the 2010s. Between 2012 and 2019, retail growth ranged from 4.6% to 7.8% per year, whereas ecommerce growth ranged from 20.7% to 28.3%.

The current downturn will manifest mostly in the digital realm. Ecommerce sellers will need to adjust to a slower-growth environment. Overall retail, meanwhile, will chug along at typical low to mid-single-digit rates.

Consumers around the world will spend $1.301 trillion more on retail goods this year than they did in 2021. That leap will not match 2021’s increase, which was buttressed by a huge rebound in growth in most countries. Nonetheless, it will be one of the larger increases on record, thanks to the huge base from which that 4.7% growth will emerge.

For ecommerce, the historical comparisons will be less impressive. There will be $505.08 billion of new digital spending—a large figure, to be sure, but still the smallest leap since 2016. Ecommerce remains a growth driver for retail, though not like it was before.

The good news is that the rapid deceleration in ecommerce growth should tail off after this year. We expect that a slightly healthier global economy in 2023 will lead to a very mild rebound, after which growth should remain in the high single digits for several years. The days of 20% or faster growth are over for digital sales, but the bottom will not fall out completely.

Ecommerce will account for almost a fifth of total retail sales in 2022, an all-time high. However, this figure continues to be skewed by China, where an outsize 45.3% of retail sales will be transacted digitally. Since China generates more than half of all the ecommerce sales in the world, it distorts the true picture of ecommerce globally. If we exclude that megamarket, ecommerce’s share of retail around the rest of the world will be 12.5%.

Read the full report.