Counterpoint Research: ‘1 in 4 mobiles sold globally was purchased online in 2020’

The report anticipates the trend of increasing online share of handsets will slow down for some time and 2021 will be similar to 2020 or slightly lower.

As Covid-19 is affecting the movement of people, shoppers are increasingly turning to e-commerce portals. Counterpoint Research said one in four handsets sold globally was purchased online last year with India accounting for the highest share of online shopping in this category. It is the second consecutive year for the country to lead in online sales of mobile phones.

Counterpoint Research said that online sales accounted for about 26% share of the global mobile phone market in 2020, which means that one in four mobile phones sold was purchased online. “Covid-19 had a big role in this change in consumer behaviour. By major country, India showed the highest online share at 45%, followed by the UK at 39% and China at 34%,” it added.

India’s smartphone shipments declined 4% y-o-y to reach more than 150 million units in 2020 as high consumer demand post-lockdown and strong promotions on online channels and new use cases like e-learning and work from home, drove the market in the pandemic-hit year.

In 2019 as well, India accounted for the highest share of online handset sales at 41% followed by UK at 34%, Germany at 33% and China at 25%. In 2018, the online share of Indian smartphone shipments reached a record 36% driven by a strong performance of Flipkart and Amazon.

The share of online handset sales in 2020 increased by nearly 6% points compared to the previous year. In terms of market size, it increased by more than 10%, Counterpoint Research said.

“This trend was strong not only in advanced markets such as the US and Europe but also in emerging markets like India and Latin America. In China, where the spread of Covid-19 first occurred, it peaked in the first half and softened slightly in the second half, while the US and India recorded the highest ever online share in the second half of 2020,” the market research firm pointed out.

The report anticipates the trend of increasing online share of handsets will slow down for some time and 2021 will be similar to 2020 or slightly lower.

Counterpoint Research senior analyst Sujeong Lim said after the rapid growth in 2020, Counterpoint expects 2021 to see some easing after the Covid-19 vaccination. However, it is expected to grow slightly every year from 2022 onwards, supported by growth in emerging markets and the middle-aged population becoming more accustomed to IT devices and internet use.

“But in the case of India, which currently has the highest online proportion, it may decrease to a certain level after 2022 due to the development of offline infrastructure such as multi-brand stores and large-scale retail stores. On the other hand, the future growth of the online market in SEA and MEA is noteworthy,” Lim added.

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