BOSTON—After tremendous acceleration throughout the pandemic, many retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies faced a marked slowdown of online sales growth in 2022. And while consumers are returning to brick-and-mortar shops, e-commerce is still forecast to constitute 41% of global retail sales by 2027, a significant increase from its share of just 18% in 2017, according to new research released today by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Titled Winning Formulas for E-Commerce Growth, the study highlights findings from a global survey aimed at exploring e-commerce trends from the beginning of the pandemic to this year. The survey, which was conducted in the second quarter of 2023, included respondents from 410 retail and 415 CPG companies around the world with revenues ranging from $50 million to more than $10 billion.
"While e-commerce is gradually reverting to its pre-COVID trajectory, the landscape has undergone a notable and lasting transformation," remarked Martin Barthel, a partner and managing director at BCG and a co-author of the study. "The rivalry between emerging entrants and established incumbents has heightened, driven by the purchasing patterns of Baby Boomers and Gen-X, who collectively wield substantial influence over today’s e-commerce sales.”
According to the study, e-commerce sales increased 3% in Europe and 7% in both the US and Asia in 2022. Global growth is expected to achieve a 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2027—not fully achieving the 12% to14% pre-Covid trend, but still more than double the projected brick-and-mortar retail growth of just 4%.
E-Commerce Winners and Laggards
The survey focused on six different e-commerce criteria that can serve as leading indicators of the maturity level of each participating organization:
CPG and retail respondents were then split into groups of “winners” (businesses that reported post-pandemic growth above 30% per annum and are confident of seeing the same or higher growth to 2027) and “laggards” (organizations reporting post-Covid growth of 10% or less per annum and lacking confidence about their future e-commerce growth). Winners made up 27% of retailers and 20% of CPG companies, with 21% of the retailers and 25% of the CPG businesses surveyed being laggards.
"In the realms of both retail and consumer packaged goods, the divide between e-commerce frontrunners and those trailing behind is unmistakable, yet it remains a gap that can be bridged," said Robert Derow, BCG’s leader for digital growth in North America and a coauthor of the report. “Many markets and categories are actually still years away from full e-commerce maturity, with tailwinds strong enough to justify investing greater capital and resources into winning capabilities and organizations.”
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