The Rise of eCommerce

Research shows that nearly half of Kiwis now shop online. While it’s fair to assume that COVID-related lockdowns have inflated that statistic (and it has, to a degree) there was actually a fast-growing acceptance of eCommerce digital marketing in New Zealand well before the pandemic hit.

For example, let’s go back a couple of years to 2018, when mandatory mask wearing and compulsory kindness were still some way down the track.  In that year, New Zealanders spent $4.2 billion online, up from the $3.6 billion recorded a year earlier. This increase of 16% stands in stark contrast to the 2% increase in “bricks and mortar” retail. In 2018, online accounted for nearly 9% of all retail spending in New Zealand with  1.8 million Kiwis shopping on the web; each consumer made, on average, 22 transactions throughout the year.

So, what are Kiwis buying? 9% now buy travel products such as tickets or accommodation online in an average four-week period, which makes it the most common internet purchase. This is followed by:

  • Women’s clothing (7.9%)
  • Tickets to shows, movies or events (6.1%) 
  • Fast food/delivered meals (6.1%)
  • Books (5%) and eBooks (4.1%)
  • Music downloads (4.7%)
  • Men’s clothing (4.0%)

Let’s not forget the eCommerce isn’t all about retail. Many of our service providers, such as restaurants, plumbers, electricians, and even medical centres, are now connecting with more of their customers through the internet.  

Anyone pointing to COVID-19 as the sole catalyst for eCommerce growth in New Zealand is mistaken. It was already on the rise. But it is fair to say that the pandemic has taken things up a gear or two. A just-released report showed that pure e-commerce sales in New Zealand increased by 189% year on year as of 15 April, 2020. More general online retail rose by 156%  year on year as of April 19 and that is the highest the statistic has been in 2020 so far.

In a global context, eCommerce during the pandemic is in a healthy state…and that can be taken quite literally. In the United States, there have been some interesting online sales increases that are plainly connected to COVID-19. Here are a few examples:

  • A 670% increase in the sales of disposable gloves
  • A 652% increase in bread machines   
  • Nearly 400% increase in the sales of soups, dried grains, rice and packaged foods
  • 307% increase in weight training equipment
  • And finally – a 260% increase in soap and hand sanitiser

In New Zealand, and worldwide, statistics reflect a spike in online activity during COVID-19, but also a steadily upward trajectory even before that. As any eCommerce agency will tell you, the pandemic has been good for online business but the figures were on the rise before we went into lockdown.


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