The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated years of growth in the online shopping space, as four in five households (almost 9 million Australians, or 82% of households) pulled out their phones or laptops to shop online in 2020.

Australia Post's 2021 Inside Australian Online Shopping Report found growth in eCommerce was up by 57% from the previous year, with Australians spending a record $50.46 billion online. 

Online sales accounted for 16.3% of total retail spend, a figure that wasn't expected until 2023.

Australia Post General Manager Parcel and Express Services Ben Franzi said online shopping became an essential way of shopping during COVID.

“Almost nine million households across the country bought something online as people shopped for the things they needed, avoiding large shopping centres and other busy retail settings," Mr Franzi said.

“More than 1.3 million of these households were first-time shoppers with 93% of their initial purchases made between March and December."

While online shopping was initially driven by necessity, Mr Franzi said Australians new to online shopping became regular shoppers while more seasoned online shoppers ramped up the frequency of their online spending.

“We found that of the 240,000 households who made an online purchase for the first time in April, half were regular shoppers by the end of the year after shopping online in at least three of the months between May and December,” he said.

“When it comes to seasoned shoppers, the average household increased its online shopping frequency by at least 10 purchases over the year and the range of categories and retailers they purchased from also expanded significantly.

“Shoppers are more engaged and comfortable buying online than ever before and this trend has continued into 2021. We’re seeing around five million households continue to buy on a monthly basis which is 1.1 million more than the average in 2019."

Across the country, every state and territory recorded double digit growth in online shopping but it was Victoria that led the way.

It recorded year-on-year (YoY) growth of 82%, undoubtedly driven by the state's tough COVID restrictions and lockdown. 

What did Australians shop for?

Leading categories were specialty food and liquor and home and garden products, up 77% and 70% respectively YoY, as Australians spent more time at home and invested their time on DIY projects. 

Over two million households purchased from specialty food and liquor retailers over COVID, with many stocking up on specialty coffees and teas for home brewing. 

Coinciding with the start of Australia’s first lockdown, the week of 22 March saw online purchases of Wine & Liquor grow 167% over 12 months. 

Almost five and half million households purchased online from home and garden retailers as Australians embraced home cooking and turned to renovation projects.

Other categories that saw huge growth were variety stores (up 51.1%), fashion and apparel (45.5%), health and beauty (56.8%), and hobbies and recreational goods (53.6%).

Photo by Jenny Ueberberg on Unsplash