The UK may be one of the most advanced e-commerce markets in the world, but even there, online shopping still hasn’t reached everyone. Last year, 84% of Britons made at least one purchase on the Internet, according to estimates from Statista Digital Market Outlook. While the penetration rate technically doesn’t show how frequently a country’s population shops online, both penetration rate and intensity of e-commerce often go hand in hand. According to eMarketer, 27.5 percent of retail sales were already happening online in the UK – one of the highest rates among developed countries.
E-commerce is traditionally considered to do well in densely populated and highly developed markets, like the UK and also Japan, where market penetration stood at 77 percent in 2020. Larger and more diverse markets tend to move slower. The U.S., where penetration was also at 77 percent, only chalked up 14.5 percent of retail sales to e-commerce.
China – a huge e-commerce growth market - turns these expectations on their head, however. According to eMarketer, 44 percent of retails sales are already happening on the internet in the country even though a third of the population does not (yet) shop online. The big urban-rural divide might be to blame in creating an intense online shopping behavior among city dwellers while broadband connections let alone e-commerce have not yet reached all Chinese.
Other emerging economies, like Brazil and India, are catching up more gradually as penetration rates for e-commerce remained low. Southern European nations Italy and Spain also exhibited low rates of online shopping.