Online retail trends 2021

What are the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on online retail? Which trends are establishing themselves or intensifying in the second year of the pandemic? In two online studies, Swiss Post and partner universities surveyed Swiss consumers and online retailers. The focus is again on sustainability.

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Shopping on the Internet is part of everyday life. The COVID-19 pandemic has further boosted the trend towards online shopping. Although 78% of customers value time flexibility, for 41% of those surveyed, the pandemic is one of the main reasons for shopping online.

Swiss Post conducts two studies on online retailing every year: the e-commerce trend indicator in cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich and the Swiss online retailer survey together with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Both studies show that sustainability is growing in importance in 2021.

Sustainability is just as important as product costs

Sustainable products have taken root in Swiss online retailing. According to the online retailers, most (79%) of the products offered are manufactured under fair working conditions and more than half (55%) are resource-friendly. For most online shop operators, sustainability is just as important as product costs. Here, they place more importance on social aspects such as fair working conditions (77%) than on ecological aspects (59%).

Less plastic in packaging

An increasing number of online retailers are eliminating plastic from packaging and filler materials: in terms of packaging, the percentage of retailers taking this step has risen from 30% to 40% compared to the previous year. Most customers (83%) want to be able to return goods in the same packaging. Reusable packaging is in great demand and has potential in terms of implementation: 69% of customers consider it is important, 24% of online shops currently offer it.

Sustainable shipping is in demand

The shipping process is one of the factors that determines how sustainable online shopping is. Click & Collect and bundled deliveries are the options most frequently available. Every fourth online shop (26%) offers carbon-neutral shipping at no extra charge. There is still room for improvement, this is because carbon-neutral shipping is important for 44% of customers. 27% of the participants are even willing to pay extra for this, despite the fact that only 4% of the online retailers offer this option.

More than half (56%) of customers want consolidated shipping with bundling of partial deliveries, which only 37% of online shops currently offer.

The most popular delivery options are the ability to track the shipment online and receive advance notice of consignment delivery. The majority of customers (58%) want to control the parcel delivery themselves, but only one in five online shops offers this option.

Online retailers are very open to sustainable logistics solutions (76%), on the last mile, for example. Measures that are difficult to implement, such as slower shipping (18%) or locally adapted logistics solutions (13%), are still not very commonplace.

Online shopping in shops based abroad is popular. In the last year, 66% of survey participants shopped in online shops based in Germany, 41% in shops based in China, 28% in shops based in France and 23% in shops based in the USA.

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Studies on online retail at a glance

In cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich (HWZ), Swiss Post has conducted its seventh annual e-commerce trend indicator survey. This study indicates the trends and habits in Swiss e-commerce. In 2021, around 11,000 people from all language regions in Switzerland took part. Swiss Post conducted this Swiss online retailer survey together with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU). This study reveals how Swiss online retailers regard e-commerce. Around 248 online retailers took part in 2021. Both studies focus on the topic of sustainability.