David Wilson

Revealed: the UK industries leading the way in ecommerce sales

2nd Sep 2022 Marketing Strategy, News 3 minutes to read

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the majority of businesses in 2022 make a large proportion of their sales online. After all, the value of ecommerce has increased by between £6.9 and £16.3 billion year-on-year since 2015. During the first year of Covid-19, ecommerce sales rose by £16 billion, with many pointing to lockdowns during the pandemic as a catalyst for a more permanent shift towards online shopping in both B2C and B2B sectors. Last year alone, eccomerce sales in the UK topped £129 billion¹. 

However, our research shows that the majority of businesses with 10 or more employees – 71.4% – are actually not making sales online. Our digital experts have mined the latest data from the Office of National Statistics² on the ecommerce activity of UK businesses to reveal which industries and types of companies are leading the way when it comes to making sales online. Here is a synopsis of what we found:

Smaller businesses are falling behind larger ones in ecommerce sales

The data reveals that small businesses in the UK are falling behind larger ones in making online sales. Just 23% of small businesses (with 249 employees or less) are making sales online – compared to nearly 60% of large businesses (with 1,000 or more employees). This comes despite the value of ecommerce sales in the UK having risen by between £6.9 and £16.3 billion every year since 2015.

The latest figures also show a 13.12% year-on-year drop in the value of online sales for smaller businesses, compared to a 11.8% year-on-year increase in online sales for large businesses. More than 1 in 4 (28.44%) small businesses do not even have a website, compared to only 3.1% of large businesses.

Few small businesses are also using ‘big data’ to make strategic decisions. Just 7.3% of small businesses are using geolocation data from portable devices (such as targeted ads), comparted to 26.3% of large businesses. Only 11.83% of small businesses use data from social media to make, compared to a third (33.2%) of large businesses.

Wholesale and retail businesses lead the way on ecommerce sales

Wholesale and retail businesses in the UK are outperforming other industries when it comes to making sales online. The proportion of wholesale businesses making sales online has risen 5.8% year-on-year, compared to a slight drop for construction (2.4%), manufacturing (4.6%) and information and communication (1.3%) businesses. For retail there has been no year-on-year change in the proportion of businesses making ecommerce sales. 

The value of ecommerce sales from wholesale businesses has also increased by £10.5 billion year-on-year to £90.6 billion – which is significantly larger than the value of ecommerce sales in other industries. For retail the increase is £3.6 billion year-on-year.

More than 2 in 5 (44.10%) wholesale businesses and nearly half of retail businesses (48.3%) make ecommerce sales, compared to 28.6% of all UK businesses. 

Construction and manufacturing businesses are lagging behind the rest

UK construction and manufacturing businesses are falling behind other industries in making online sales, according to the data. Just 5.5% of construction businesses are making sales online – compared to 28.6% of businesses overall. 22.8% of manufacturing businesses make sales online.

The proportion of construction businesses making sales online has fallen by 2.4% year-on-year. For manufacturing, the drop was 16% year-on-year. However, the overall value of online sales in manufacturing (£48 billion) is higher than in construction (£2.3 billion), information and communication (£46.7 billion) and even retail (£45.7 billion). 

This comes despite the value of ecommerce sales in the UK overall having also risen by between £6.9 and £16.3 billion every year since 2015. The overall value of ecommerce sales in the manufacturing industry has also increased by £2.2 billion year-on-year.

To find out more about our research and top tips for business and digital marketing strategy, visit our Koozai blog.


¹E-commerce in the UK – Statistics & Facts | Statista

²E-commerce and ICT activity – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

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David Wilson

Head of PR & Content

Our Head of PR & Content, David has spent over 12 years working in the discipline for brands such as Saga, BuyaGift, Barratt Homes, and Fitness First. He has devised and managed hundreds of successful campaigns. Whether your goal is to improve your backlink profile or boost brand awareness, David is your man. He’ll create a strategy that increases your traffic, improves your rankings, and provides conversions. Be those sales or leads.

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