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Online Shopping Wrap-up 2021 (+Trends for 2022)

Ecommerce and digital marketing channels continued to grow in 2021. We review the key stats of the year and highlight 10 online shopping trends for 2022.

2021 has been a busy year for digital marketers and ecommerce managers.

With ever-more people shopping online, existing ecommerce sites and digital marketing channels got a significant boost. In parallel, we also saw the rise of new marketing channels and shopping sites.

Let’s review the most notable stats of 2021 and have a peek at what’s to come in 2022.

Ecommerce stats for 2021

While not quite as impressive as the unprecedented surge brought on by COVID-19 in 2020, this year has still been pretty great for ecommerce.

Let’s look at some key ecommerce figures globally, as well as specifically in the UK and Australia.


Across the globe, ecommerce sales are up:

  • Total revenue from global retail ecommerce will hit almost $5 trillion in 2021. That’s up from about $4.28 trillion the year before.
  • This amounts to a year-on-year growth of about 17% between 2020 and 2021.
  • The number of online shoppers has grown to 2.14 billion, compared to 1.66 billion in 2016.
  • Ecom sales now account for almost 20% of all retail sales worldwide. That number was just 14% in 2019. The 2020 pandemic and lockdowns have played a major role in this jump.
  • If we break these numbers down further, the top 5 shopping categories within ecommerce are:
    • Fashion: $760 billion
    • Toys, hobby & DIY:  $591 billion
    • Electronics & media: $542 billion
    • Food & personal care: $467 billion
    • Furniture & appliances: $363 billion

United Kingdom

While the UK accounts for a relatively small share of global ecom sales, its growth trajectory actually outpaces the worldwide average. Specifically:


We can observe similar (yet somewhat more modest) trends in Australia:

Despite some country-by-country differences, all of these numbers point to one thing:

Ecommerce sales are steadily growing across all categories...and this upwards trend is only projected to continue in the foreseeable future.

It’s certainly a great time to be selling online!

7 digital marketing channels and developments in 2021

With all the positive trends in ecommerce sales, digital retailers and brands have been turning to a variety of online marketing channels to grow their business.

Let’s look at some of the trends in the digital marketing space.

1. Shopping Ads

Shopping ads based on search intent are still some of the most direct ways to put your products in front of a relevant audience.

Google continues to dominate this space with its Shopping Ads, aka Product Listing Ads (PLAs). They’re a subset of Google Ads, which generated $147 billion in revenue in 2020.

But don’t ignore Microsoft Ads (formerly known as Bing Ads). That channel currently has a 39% market share in the US and is becoming more popular elsewhere, including the UK and Australia.

2. Paid Social

Social media is the main channel used by marketers, at least according to Hubspot. When it comes specifically to paid ads on social media, the ad spend is projected to reach almost $154 billion globally in 2021.

Here are the top 7 social media platforms when it comes to potential audience reach:

  • Facebook: 2.9 billion active users
  • YouTube: 2.3 billion active users
  • Instagram: 1.4 billion active users
  • TikTok: 732 million active users
  • Snapchat: 514 million active users
  • Pinterest: 478 million active users
  • Twitter: 206 million active users

But when it comes to the ROI of paid ad spend, the picture looks somewhat different:

  • Facebook: 40%
  • Instagram: 30%
  • LinkedIn: 10%
  • YouTube: 7%
  • Twitter: 6%

Facebook and Instagram appear to be the channels that give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to ad spend.

Experts have previously highlighted the following 6 trends in 2021 within the retail space on paid social:

  • Video ads getting more prominent
  • Interactive ads becoming the norm
  • Growth in review-based videos
  • Physical retailers increasingly relying on online channels
  • Focus on incremental testing of ad creatives
  • Return to a focus on influencer marketing

3. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a fantastic way for retailers to “outsource” their marketing to third parties. Here are some key stats about the state of affiliate marketing:

  • Affiliate marketing industry is valued at around $12 billion.
  • Since 2015, affiliate marketing revenues have been growing at a 10% annual rate.
  • Affiliate marketing accounts for about 16% of all online orders.
  • More than 80% of brands use affiliate programs to promote their products and services.
  • Amazon Associates is the largest affiliate marketing network, boasting over 900,000 active affiliates.

If your marketing budget or resources are limited, starting an affiliate program may help your brand get that much-needed exposure. But beyond mere exposure, affiliate marketing also consistently performs well in terms of ROI and customer acquisition.

4. Retargeting & remarketing

Retailers can’t ignore the power of re-engaging with existing audiences.

To that end, there are two primary ways to do so:

  • Retargeting: Using paid ads to engage non-converting visitors or social followers.
  • Remarketing: Using channels like email to re-engage existing customers.

Here are a few key stats that speak in favour of retargeting efforts:

  • Retargeted website visitors are 43% more likely to convert.
  • Retargeting ads have 10x the clickthrough rate of regular display ads.
  • Ecommerce retailers account for 27% of total industries that use retargeting. It’s the largest share, with “media” being a distant second (17%).

Many larger digital marketing channels like Facebook and Google already offer retargeting ads to retailers. But this niche has also spawned a few platforms specialising in retargeting, including:

With the right retargeting and remarketing efforts, you get a cost-effective channel to increase conversions.

5. Comparison Shopping

Here’s a curious stat from the ancient year of 2017: 80% of shoppers do a price comparison online before deciding to buy a product.

Recent years have seen an explosion in the number of different comparison sites. For instance, this 2019 guide from Shopify lists no fewer than 17 different price comparison engines.

For online retailers, comparison shopping is great news:

  • Greater visibility: Each comparison site is an extra channel for people to discover your products.
  • Lower cart abandonment: Visitors coming to your store from a comparison site are more likely to have already done the research and made up their minds.
  • Extra advertising opportunities: Comparison sites also run ads. This gives brands a chance to market to engaged customers actively looking to buy.

In 2021, retailers can get listed on multiple comparison websites to increase exposure. Here are some of the best ones:

Most of these go beyond mere price comparisons to add merchant site reviews, product user reviews, and more.

6. Email Marketing

Email marketing remains a powerful tool for retailers in 2021. Here are some recent stats:

  • Global email marketing market was estimated to have a value of 7.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to more than double to about $17.9 billion in 2027.
  • Over 4 billion people use email on a daily basis.
  • In late 2020, 78% of marketers said email was key to company success.
  • Over 60% of retail and ecommerce companies now personalise emails based on users’ prior shopping behaviour (up from only 38% in 2019).
  • 80% of marketers would rather lose social media than email as a marketing channel.

In 2021, email marketing saw the following trends:

  1. Deeper email personalisation to appeal to specific audiences
  2. AI-powered email strategy optimisation
  3. User-generated content being increasingly incorporated into emails
  4. Making emails much more interactive
  5. Increased focus on privacy and communication about it
  6. Better cross-platform optimisation of emails for all devices

Email isn’t going anywhere. Serious retailers can’t afford to neglect this crucial marketing component.

7. Marketplaces

Last but absolutely not least: Third-party online marketplaces remain the dominant way for retailers to reach audiences and sell products in 2021. Exactly how dominant? Let’s see:

There’s no question that marketplaces will continue to be the primary means for retailers to gain exposure and increase sales in the years to come.

To stay ahead of the curve, grab our free eBook about selling on marketplaces.

10 online shopping trends to watch in 2022

Put simply: The world will continue to move online.

New digital channels will pop up. Existing ecommerce sites and marketplaces will keep on growing as a whole. The opportunities offered by online shopping to both consumers and retailers are simply too great to be ignored.

Here’s a round up of 10 major trends within ecommerce and digital marketing we’ll see in 2022.

1. Use of VR and AR

We’ve reached a point where augmented and virtual reality can competently mimic a physical shopping experience. AR and VR may soon become the standard way for consumers to experience and compare products before purchasing online.

2. Live shopping experiences

Buyers are turning to real-time shopping options. This may take the form of pre-sale consultations via live video with customer service representatives or even outright live shopping streams a la TV Shop.

3. Rise of social commerce

Social media is moving beyond being a mere marketing channel. Many social media platforms are experimenting with ways to provide an end-to-end shopping experience of their own.

For instance, TikTok has piloted its new TikTok Shopping concept in the US, UK, and Canada. Now, it continues to expand its reach and feature mix. We can expect more social platforms to move in that direction.

4. Focus on voice

Voice-assisted shopping is becoming more than just a weird gimmick. Voice recognition and reproduction technologies are at a stage where they’re starting to be a truly useful element of online shopping.

From voice chatbots to help with support to the use of voice assistants during the product research and comparison stage, we’ll be sure to see voice playing a more prominent role.

5. Ethically conscious shopping

Social and ethical concerns will play an ever-growing role as consumers become more socially-conscious. This will push more companies to focus on the environment, sustainability, and ethical business practices.

We can expect to see new purpose-driven brands that turn to eco-friendly packaging, improved working conditions, and more.

5. Omnichannel selling

Today, customer journeys rarely begin and end in a single shop.

Instead, customers move through multiple sites before reaching the final point of sale. They may start with a Google Search, visit a comparison site, and check out a few marketplaces before finally placing an order.

As such, companies must incorporate an omnichannel selling mentality when setting up their marketing strategy, conversion tracking, and so on.

6. Shopping convenience

In 2021, online shoppers have access to more options than ever before. To stand out, companies will race to make the checkout process faster and offer a growing variety of payment methods.

One major sub-trend here is the rise of “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL).” Multiple companies already offer their own versions of this payment model. BNPL is growing at a 28% year-on-year pace and may well become the primary way to pay for goods.

7. M-commerce

Smartphones are now the primary way to shop online. That’s why so-called “m-commerce” is emerging as its own distinct focus area.

Marketplaces and retailers of the future will have to design the entire shopping experience around mobile users, from the ground up. This includes responsive design, navigation menus optimised for touch-screens, streamlined checkout, and more.

8. Hyper-personalisation

Online sellers have access to ever-more detailed customer data across numerous touchpoints. Going forward, they’ll be even better able to design shopping experiences that are tailor-made and targeted towards buyers’ individual preferences.

9. Subscription-based models

Ecommerce is notorious for low customer loyalty. Consumers can comparison shop with ease and there’s little reason to stick with a specific retailer or marketplace.

To mitigate this, sellers will turn to subscriptions to incentivise long-term customers. These subscription models may offer rewards like free shipping, member discounts, and access to exclusive products.

10. Direct-to-consumer sales for niche products

Some products may not have mass appeal. Fortunately, with access to vast global audiences, many small retailers can now sell directly to passionate consumers of niche products.

By cultivating a well-targeted following, these retailers can bypass larger ecommerce sites and marketplaces altogether. This direct-to-consumer (D2C) model actually bucks the general trend towards multi-channel presence. Instead, it allows specialised sellers to own the entire shopping experience.

Ready to conquer online shopping in 2022?

At Intelligent Reach, we help to improve your presence on major online marketplaces and digital marketing channels.

Our dedicated data feed management and content experimentation tools take the hassle out of listing your products on multiple platforms, and run powerful tests to prove what does and doesn't work.

If you’re already using a data feed management platform, we make switching providers a truly hassle-free experience.

Want to thrive in the crowded world of ecommerce in 2022? Book a demo today!


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