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The last 18 months have created tremendous changes in the way that we live and work.

For instance, as a result of many of the world’s leading economies effectively closing their high streets in order to limit the spread of Covid-19, consumers were obliged to do their shopping online.

The impact of that shift has now become apparent.

A comprehensive report published by Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce has calculated that online orders across the continent accounted for €757 billion ($884.4 billion) worth of business during 2020 – an increase of 10 per cent on the year before.

That sales grew while shoppers had little alternative for many months will in itself not surprise too many people.

Nor will many individuals be taken aback to find that the UK remains the continent’s biggest single online market.

Nevertheless, this new data still highlights many emerging patterns in online shopping which will potentially shape the sector in the years to come.

For instance, the biggest rate of growth occurred not in the leading e-commerce nations of Western Europe but towards the east, which saw sales rise by 46 per cent.

Furthermore, the research bears out the experience of myself and my colleagues at PostPlus.

It documents the gradual adoption of online shopping in some of those countries which account for some of the large volume of items which we now ship on behalf of leading e-commerce brands.

One-fifth of consumers from Estonia who contributed to the study told how they had bought goods online at least six times in the previous three months – on a par with some of the much bigger e-commerce territories and only slightly less than Denmark (26 per cent), Norway (28 per cent) and Sweden (25 per cent).

Even more startling was the number of shoppers content with buying items from retailers overseas.

Just under two-thirds (63 per cent) of consumers in Latvia reported having placed orders with sellers based either in or outside of the EU, enough to see it ranked eighth out of the 33 countries analysed for cross-border e-commerce purchases.

Such developments underline the reasons why PostPlus decided to concentrate on providing retailers with more effective and efficient services deliveries to and returns from consumers in the Baltic states, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

The growth in online shopping here and in similar territories preceded the pandemic and is broader even than that detected by Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce.

What we fully understand is that although some of these markets are less mature than the UK, France and Germany in terms of their history of buying online, their customers expect the very same standards in terms of speed, cost and convenience.

This latest report confirms in very clear fashion how the pandemic has cemented e-commerce in the shopping habits of the modern consumer.

However, I am confident that further data in the months and years to come will demonstrate that they remain happy to order online long after the last lockdown measures have been lifted.

Alexander Shchekotin