E-commerce is here to stay

Over the past two years, online shopping has drastically increased in the Netherlands. According to numbers released by the Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy (KiM), Dutch shoppers purchased more goods and services online in 2020 and 2021 than ever before. Online sales of products such as clothes and electronic devices grew by 41% between 2019 and 2020. While the increase in online shopping was largely driven by Covid-related contact restrictions, online shopping and sales nevertheless remain popular now that these limitations have been lifted – leading many to believe that e-commerce is here to stay.

E-commerce, while of course common in the last decade, began to rise sharply in 2020 with the initial rounds of pandemic-related contact restrictions and lockdowns. KiM tracked the number of online purchases in the Netherlands andshows a direct relationship between periods of stricter Covid regulations and higher levels of e-commerce activity. Dutch consumers spent more than €20 billion online during the first year of Covid restrictions.

The amount Dutch consumers spent on groceries and cooking at home grew due to the closure of cafes and restaurants in 2020 and 2021. As a result, online grocery shopping and app-based meal delivery orders rose dramatically during lockdown periods, when hospitality businesses were closed. Online grocery store profits grew by 58% between 2019 and 2020, reflecting the overall trend of higher spending on cooking and entertaining at home. Yet, in spite of the increased numbers of people who shopped for groceries online and the resulting rise in profits for online grocery stores, it appears Dutch shoppers still preferred to purchase their apples and oranges in person. While online grocery shopping grew dramatically over the past two years, online grocery stores only earned around 6% of overall profits garnered by supermarkets during the first years of the pandemic.

While many people shopped online during the pandemic, certain demographics were more likely to take advantage of e-commerce, including women and individuals younger than 50. More than 80% of households with a child under 12 made regular online purchases during 2020. Individuals living alone came in second, with just under 70% frequently purchasing goods or services online.

Interest in online shopping also varied by age, according to KiM. Those between 40 and 49 were most active when it came to e-commerce, with just under 90% qualifying as regular online shoppers in 2020. Interestingly, more than 50% of individuals over 70 belonged in the “frequent online shopper” category during the first year of Covid restrictions.

The data also revealed differences in the popularity of online shopping based on the level of education officially completed as well as driver’s license possession. Over 80% of those with a higher education diploma regularly purchased goods and services online in 2020. And just over 60% of individuals without a valid driver’s license made regular purchases online during this period, while almost 75% of those with a license used online shopping.

The rise in e-commerce also had consequences for the movement of goods and people in the Netherlands. Widespread delivery service availability decreased the difficulty of ordering products online, reducing the need to leave home to shop. During 2020, 38% more packages were delivered to residences than before the pandemic.

The increase in online shopping also impacted individual mobility and shopping behaviour. Last year, the distance traveled by the average Dutch person to obtain products such as shoes, clothing and electronics dropped by around 27 kilometers. Innovations such as the introduction of microhubs and pickup points also contributed to the reduction ofshopping-related driving miles.

While e-commerce seems to be increasingly popular in the Netherlands, Dutch shoppers still value the ability to make purchases in physical stores. According to KiM, Dutch shoppers made more than 90% of their purchases in physical stores during 2020 and 2021.

Written by Lorre Luther