Development of the e-commerce market in Poland and the world in 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and the related unexpected freezing of many branches of the economy (including traditional trade) had a major impact on the acceleration of both the global and Polish e-commerce. In 2019, online sales worldwide reached $3.5 trillion, accounting for about 14.1% of total retail sales. It is estimated that in 2020, e-commerce’s share of global sales exceeded 16.5% and reached $4.2 trillion, which is a record value and a historically exceptional growth, year-on-year.
Development of e-commerce in Poland
Poland is still at an early stage of e-commerce development. The value of online sales still constitutes a relatively small proportion of total sales. As a result, the COVID-19-induced increase in e-commerce development in Poland was even more dynamic. Available data indicates that the retail e-commerce market in Poland in 2020 reached about PLN 70 billion. This represented (according to various estimates) an increase of about 30 to even 40% compared to 2019. In addition, Polish e-commerce in 2021 may reach a value close to PLN 100 billion, which (even after taking into account relatively high inflation) would mean another year of very strong growth, despite the reopening of brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce is now in a completely different place in Poland than in 2019. According to the Gemius report “E-commerce in Poland 2020” from mid-2020, it shows that in 2020, as many as 73% of Internet users made purchases online. In 2019, it was 62% and in 2018 only 56%.
The Impact of Coronavirus on E-commerce
The coronavirus pandemic has been key in consolidating and accelerating changes in the industry. Due to the lockdowns and restrictions on traditional retail, there has been a permanent shift in shopping habits. According to recent studies, an all-time high of 84% of Polish internet users made purchases online in 2021.
Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic on the E-commerce Market
The rapid growth of the e-commerce market in Poland in 2021 is confirmed by the latest available data from GUS for April and May 2021. In April 2021 compared to March 2021, a growth of approximately 6.2% was recorded in the value of retail sales through the Internet in current prices. The share of this sales increased from 9.5% in March to 10.8% in April. Although the value of retail sales through the Internet declined by 7.8% in May (the share in total sales dropped from 10.8% in April to 9.1% in May), it is assumed that this is a temporary statistical effect of the reopening of shopping centers.
Future of Online Retail in Poland
By 2024, an average annual growth of at least several percent is expected in online retail sales, year over year. This estimate is made regardless of the situation related to the coronavirus pandemic and the possibility of lockdowns. According to PwC estimates, the value of online retail should exceed PLN 160 billion by 2026. This means that the online channel will have an average share of at least 15% in the value of retail sales in Poland. It is estimated that the fastest growth will be in the sale of food products and health and beauty products.
Brick-and-Mortar vs Online Retail
Despite the reopening of brick-and-mortar retail, a remarkably dynamic market is expected. This is because consumer behavior underwent very fast and permanent changes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trends in the e-commerce industry in Poland
Estimates of the expected rate of growth of the e-commerce market in Poland are diverse, but the direction of development is unambiguous. The trend is very strong and is attracting more and more market participants. They are striving to make each stage of online shopping even more convenient. In addition, it is important not only for the development of e-commerce platforms, but also for the entire value chain. It is important for the so-called “customer experience” to be comfortable and attractive compared to brick and mortar shopping. Most importantly, the trend of the increasing importance of retail eCommerce is unthreatened. It meets the definition of a “real trend” rather than a “temporary anomaly”. The changes driven by it are irreversible and impact all areas covered by the STEEP acronym: Social, Technological, Economical, Environmental, Political. These are the most important and significant trends for the economy and socio-economic conditions.