Retail in Transition: Future E-Commerce Opportunities in Eastern Europe

July 2021

The digital revolution has been rewiring retail for years. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic accelerated this transition as e-commerce became the default setting for many housebound consumers. The crisis-inspired surge in e-commerce is leading to a permanent shift in retail, creating both new challenges as well as new opportunities for retailers and consumer brands alike. This report explores these opportunities and challenges in Eastern Europe.

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This report comes in PPT.

Key Findings

Strong acceleration of e-commerce value growth during the COVID-19 pandemic

The rise of e-commerce, brought forth by the digital revolution, is not new for Eastern Europe, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation of consumers accelerated the trend of switching to digital channels and e-commerce was used more frequently. This led to the arrival of new business models, commerce ecosystems and emerging channels for reaching and engaging with consumers.

E-commerce has not yet reached its full potential in Eastern Europe

Despite the extraordinary growth of e-commerce during 2020, Eastern Europe is still not mature, and the channel has further potential for development. Over the 2020-2025 forecast period, e-commerce in Eastern Europe is expected to account for 45% of all absolute retail value growth, reaching a 16% value share of total retail by 2025.

Food and drink shows the highest percentage growth in the online channel

Despite the fact that grocery stores were less impacted by COVID-19 restrictions compared with stores selling other products, food and drink showed record high growth via e-commerce. Consumers, avoiding unnecessary contact, increasingly shifted to online channels, which encouraged retailers to react rapidly with new solutions to meet the increased demand.

COVID-19 pandemic stimulates omnichannel retail development in Eastern Europe

Growth in e-commerce resulted in a growing number of retailers in Eastern Europe focusing on the development of omnichannel retailing. A significant number of players launched online stores, but at the same time, some e-commerce players opened physical stores to complement the online experience. In order to stay competitive, retailers need to focus on channel integration, providing a seamless experience for consumers considering different delivery and omnichannel service options.

Marketplace business model outpaces wholesale in the region

Marketplaces are leaders in Eastern Europe’s e-commerce channel. Many brands turned to these platforms to reach shoppers during the lockdown. Much like the rest of the world, this model is growing significantly faster than the traditional wholesale model.


About the report
Key findings
E-Commerce Emerges as the Default Setting
Eastern Europe among the regional leaders in e-commerce growth
Russia and Poland contribute most to e-commerce growth in 2020
Case study: Allegro invests in delivery options
Category spotlight: record year for online food and drink
Case study: X5 Group’s path to leading position in online grocery in Russia
How Shopping Behaviours Continue to Evolve
The share of digital purchases using computers and tablets pulls back
Smartphones become increasingly important for online shopping
Consumer spotlight: younger consumers continue to drive digital shift
Consumer spotlight: younger consumers continue to drive digital shift
Shopping behaviours also evolve in other ways as a result of the crisis
Last-mile delivery trends
Case study: Zásilkovna launches automated parcel locker concept
Identifying E-commerce Growth Opportunities
Identifying the markets most primed for sustained e-commerce growth
E-commerce growth possible through expansion and optimisation
Top categories with unmet e-commerce growth opportunities
Russia shows the greatest unmet e-commerce potential
Case study: Wildberries on expansion path
E-commerce is expected to expand by USD1 trillion by 2025
Strong growth for food and drink e-commerce going forward
Case study: Samokat uses dark stores to get items closer to consumers
How to Win in Eastern Europe
Three countries to watch in the region for e-commerce development
Key opportunities
Key challenges still to overcome
Key takeaways regarding e-commerce in Eastern Europe
Recommendations for how to win in retail’s digital-first era
What to consider when evaluating your e-commerce strategy
Learn more about how to win in the digital-first era
About the survey methodologies
About the E-Commerce Readiness Model


Retail is the sale of new and used goods to consumers from a business for personal or household consumption from retail outlets, kiosks, market stalls, vending, direct selling and e-commerce. Retail is the aggregation of Retail Offline and Retail E-Commerce. Excludes specialist retailers of motor vehicles, motorcycles, vehicle parts. Also excludes fuel sales, foodservice sales, rental transactions, and wholesale sales (e.g. Cash and Carry). Sales value excluding or including VAT/Sales Tax. Retail also excludes the informal retail sector. Informal retailing is retail trade which is not declared to the tax authorities. Informal retailing encompasses (a) sales generated by unregistered and unlicensed retailers, i.e. retailers operating illegally, and (b) any proportion of sales generated by a registered and licensed retailer that is not declared to the tax authorities. Unregistered and unlicensed retailers operate predominantly (although not exclusively) as street hawkers or operate open market stalls, as these channels are harder for the authorities to monitor than permanent outlets. Activities in the illegal market, which is usually understood to refer to trade in illegal, counterfeit or stolen merchandise, are included within our definition of informal retailing. Activities in the “grey market”, which is usually understood to refer to trade in legal merchandise that is sold through unauthorized channels – for example cigarettes bought legally in another country, legally imported, but sold at lower prices than in authorized channels – will be included as informal retailing if no tax is paid on sale by the retailer. However if the retailer pays tax – for example on cigarettes bought legally in another country but sold at a lower price than standard – the sale is included within formal retail.

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