Czech e-commerce market in 2021: A Roller-Coaster Ride That Concluded with 14% Growth
16. 01. 2022 | Adéla Berková
A roller-coaster ride is what the development of the Czech e-commerce market was like in 2021. A period of doubling annual revenues ended with a sobering year-on-year decline. In the end, data from shopping advice website Heureka and the Association of E-Commerce (APEK) shows the sector grew 14% year on year to a total of CZK 223 billion when compared with 2020. New products that had traditionally been the domain of brick-and-mortar shops moved online: sales of greenhouses jumped 75% and furnace sales soared 90%. However, the major appliance segment shrank slightly. These numbers, quarterly seasonality, and their development deserve a deeper analysis and reasoning.
The individual quarters of 2021 are completely different from the same period in the previous year, significantly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. That means the simple summarizing of 2021 into a single year-on-year figure can be misleading. “The first quarter of 2021 was the strongest, because we’re comparing the ‘closed’ Czech Republic from this past year to an ‘open’ situation before the first COVID-19 wave the year before. Most e‑shops saw growth of dozens of percentage points in the first quarter, and growth rates over 100% were even recorded. These were mostly electronics, books, or DIY retailers that were more focused on brick-and-mortar stores before COVID,” Heureka Group CEO Tomáš Braverman explained.
Spring and the opening of brick-and-mortar shops slowed annual growth in the second quarter, but some measures were still in place and the numbers continued to be above the 2019 level. What’s behind that? “We witnessed the largest growth in the apparel and children’s goods segments during the second quarter. These were areas that saw a precipitous drop during the first lockdown,” Braverman added. Spring also brought an increase in sales of adult-only products, for example.
Growth slowed to single digits in the third quarter and the end of the year even saw a slight decline. “The pre-Christmas seasons from last year (2020) was marked by the closure of shops between October and December, so the grand majority of Christmas shopping in 2020 took place on the internet because it had to,” Braverman said of the contraction and noted: “This Christmas season was different. Brick-and-mortar shops were open the whole time. A number of this year’s Christmas hits weren’t in stock (e.g. PS5, iPhone 13 mini), inflation accelerated, and people expected energy costs to increase. That played a major role in online shopping behaviour and influenced the overall development of e-commerce for the year.”
APEK Executive Director Jan Vetyška also gave his view of 2021’s development: “When compared year on year, 2021 was absolutely extraordinary. The COVID pandemic and related measures significantly influenced sales. In terms of online sales, the first part of the year was positively influenced. Over the course of the year, we compared the pre-pandemic period with periods of lockdowns and so on. That played an important role and the effects of the anti-pandemic measures from both 2020 and 2021 influenced the evaluation throughout the year. After last year’s meteoric growth, we consider the results that the Czech e-commerce sector achieved to be a great success. The magical level of CZK 200 billion in revenue was reached for the first time, and we can be pleased with overall 14% growth for the year.”
Czech E-Commerce, 2021 (in billions of CZK)
Source: Heureka and APEK
Major Appliances See Slight Year-on-Year Decline, House & Garden, Furniture Remain Strong
The pandemic changed people’s behaviour, including how they shop on the online. “The products people buy online changed in 2021. There was a slight decline (-3%) in large appliances because many consumers had purchased them during the first wave in 2020. The traditional powerhouse of online retail was food, while the house and garden segment saw robust growth (+20%) as did furniture (+17%),” Braverman said.
The COVID-19 pandemic also caused shifts within specific categories. Greenhouses, for example, experienced huge growth of nearly 75%, and the peak of their sales moved from April to March. Furnaces also saw a steep increases of 90% over 2020. Sporting goods are also noteworthy. “Sleds, sleighs, cross-country skis, and mountaineering skis are all products that jumped by hundreds of percentage points. People bought everything they needed for outdoor activities on the internet last year. E‑shops adapted to this trend, and people automatically went to the internet this year as well,” Braverman explained and added: “And it’s not true of winter sports alone. There was also enormous interest in bikes and e-bikes.” An interesting addition was the rise in online purchases of gold as an investment.
Year-on-Year Growth in 2021 Online Sales by Category
Fashion and Apparel
Films, Books, Games
Food and Drinks
House and Garden
E-Shops Maintain High Customer Satisfaction Over 96%
Customers gave 6.5 million reviews and evaluations to the Ověřeno zákazníky (Tested by Customers) service in 2021, about 10% more than the previous year. “Overall customer satisfaction with shopping online hasn’t changed significantly and hovers around 95%-96%,” Braverman said. Shoppers were most dissatisfied with online retailers in March 2021 when satisfaction dropped to 94.6% before rising to 96.3% in August.
“Czech e‑shops are among the best in terms of services offered and the pandemic made competition even more intense. Processes were accelerated, and many retailers had to really focus on the online segment,” Braverman added. The most common problem listed by customers in poor ratings for e‑shops is a different delivery service than listed by the e‑shop. Another problem is imprecise or insufficient communication between the e‑shop and the customer.
The number of online retailers rose by 3% during the second year of the pandemic, bringing their total on the Czech market to 50,985. “Many e‑shops also disappeared in 2021. These were mostly those that wanted to take advantage of less-experienced customers moving online during the pandemic,” Braverman said and noted: “We blocked hundreds of unvetted e‑shops in the first wave (2020) at Heureka, while this number dropped to only dozens in 2021.”
Online and On Delivery Payments Dominate
There were also no significant changes in the most popular payment methods. “Short-term measures forced people to learn to trust payment cards in 2020. Some customers are still weary, and so the shares of payments methods returned to numbers similar to before the pandemic. Nearly a third of customers use payment on delivery or at collection points, and card payments were in third place with 27%,” Braverman explained.
Payment Method Shares in Czech E-Shops, 2021
Cash on Delivery
By Card Online
Paypal, Installments, and Others
2022: A Supply-Chain Crisis and Growth of Marketplaces
According to the CEO of Heureka Group, the current supply chain crisis will be one of the possible obstacles in the coming year and will force some e‑shops to fight for their existence. “On the other hand, e‑shops with unique offerings that the supply crisis won’t affect will look to see how to expand abroad to countries such as Romania, Slovenia from Slovakia and Hungary,” Braverman concluded. The rising popularity of marketplaces among customers is significant according to Braverman and retailers are adapting.