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E-Commerce Critical Driver for Robotics & Automation Adoption – 27 Stats for 2022 – Robotics Business Review

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Robotics and automation technologies are being adopted at record rates, with no signs of slowdown. The primary demand driver is e-commerce.

E-Commerce Critical Driver for Robotics & Automation Adoption – 27 Stats for 2022

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Meli Robots LogoWith the ongoing digitalization of modern life, the retail landscape has undergone quite a transformation over the last few years, making e-commerce an essential part of the global retail industry. As a result, both e-commerce and the mobile robot market are seeing rapid growth. Despite the global economic uncertainty at the moment, e-commerce statistics project that the industry will keep growing and account for 22% of all retail sales worldwide in 2023 — compared to the 14.1% back in 2019.

Not only can we see the impact of digitalization reflected in the retail industry, but warehouse automation statistics also show that more and more warehouses and distribution centers are moving towards automation. Of course, the e-commerce industry growth is one of the driving forces behind this trend, along with rising labor costs, workplace safety, and growing demand for rapid order fulfillment.

To give you a better grasp of how digitalization is currently impacting the retail industry, 30 compelling e-commerce statistics have been collected. The — from warehouse automation to new ways of order fulfillment in logistics and supply chain management.


Figure 1

Figure 1: Retail  E-commerce Sales 2019-2022 – Trillions of Euros (Source: emarketer.com)


General E-Commerce Statistics

E-commerce is currently one of the most profitable industries. Costs are relatively low as e-commerce businesses require fewer staff members and they do not necessarily require a physical location — creating endless opportunities for many entrepreneurs.

  • Double Digit Growth –  As a result of the shift towards online retail during 2020 and 2021, retail e-commerce sales are expected to continue to increase by double digits over the next couple of years. Estimated by eMarketer, worldwide retail e-commerce will grow from €2.96 trillion in 2019 to €6.54 trillion by 2025 — increasing its market share from 13.9% to 22.3% during the forecast period.
  • Consumer Demand Up –  Consumer demand is one of the main reasons e-commerce is booming. With 59% of the world having access to the internet, online shopping is often the more convenient option. Moreover, did you know that it is expected that by 2040 more than 95% of all purchases are conducted via e-commerce?
  • More Buyers – The number of global digital buyers is expected to increase more and more. According to Statista, over 2.14 billion people worldwide were expected to buy goods and services online in 2021 — up from 1.66 billion in 2016.
  • China Leads –  The world’s leading e-commerce market is China, whereas Latin America showed the fastest growth in 2020. Led by e-commerce subsidiaries of the Alibaba group and with an annual growth rate of 35%, China is also one of the markets with the fastest e-commerce industry growth. However, last year, Latin America stood out with the fastest growth — from 23.2% in 2019 to 36.7% in 2020.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Leading E-Commerce in the World (Source: business.com)


  • B2B Leads –  B2B e-commerce dominates B2C online sales. Despite being a tad slower to implement e-commerce, B2B brands are increasingly looking for digital solutions to boost sales — and with good reason: in 2020 the global B2B e-commerce market valued at €5.87 trillion and is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.7% between 2021 and 2028.
  • Mobile Devices –  Mobile commerce makes up for most e-commerce sales. It was projected that the total global retail e-commerce sales would reach €4.1 trillion by 2021 — of which mobile commerce was expected to take a market share of 72.9%. In addition, online shoppers make purchases via mobile more often than on PCs.

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Warehouse Automation Statistics

Today, business practices are heavily influenced by the revolution of automation solutions — aiming to meet consumer demand while keeping the cost of production and logistics down. As a result, versatile automated systems are being adopted to work in multiple environments.

  • More Automation – The acceleration in e-commerce is driving higher levels of warehouse automation and information systems support. To fulfill orders efficiently and meet customers’ rapid order delivery expectations as well as to adapt to rapid operational changes — such as during the pandemic — automation has been becoming a real game-changer.
  • Warehouse Automation – The global warehouse automation market will witness substantial growth in the upcoming years. According to Research and Markets, the global warehouse automation market is predicted to increase at a CAGR of 13.6% during 2021 and 2026 — reaching an estimated value of approximately €27.4B by 2026. This growth is highly influenced by the rise in e-commerce, the globalization of supply chain networks, the emergence of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), and the importance of order fulfillment in logistics.

Figure 3

Figure 3: The Warehouse Automation Market Forecast 2019-2026 (Research and Markets)


  • Increased Automaton Investment – Thanks to a positive economic outlook, more and more warehouses and distribution centers are investing in robotics and automation. Logistics Management’s report of 2018 found that 42% of respondents were proceeding with investments thanks to the positive state of the economy — a 7% increase compared to 2017.
  • AMRs Deliver Value – Companies deploying AMRs and other robotic solutions in their warehouses see significant improvements. More than 70% of order fulfillment operations and warehouses that deploy AMRs — especially retail and wholesale industries — have achieved double-digit improvements, stating that the main reason for using robotics is to improve the company’s overall efficiency and productivity.
  • Addressing Labor Shortages – Mobile robots are an addition to the workforce, not a replacement. Data suggest that introducing AMRs in fast-growing warehouses and fulfillment centers is mostly a result of a shortage of workers, rather than a way to replace workers. For example, during the last five years, Amazon has adopted 200,000 mobile robots in its warehouses, while simultaneously increasing its workforce with the same numbers.

Figure 4

Figure 4: 2022 Robotics Shipments (Source: ABI Research)


  • More Mobile Robots – Shipments of mobile robots and cobots are seeing tremendous growth. In a recent white paper, ABI Research highlights a predicted 65% increase in mobile robot shipments during 2022 — from 274K in 2021 to 452K shipments in 2022. In addition, ABI also predicts a 51% Year-Over-Year increase of cobots — reaching a total number of 45K collaborative robot shipments.
  • Millions of Robots – According to ABI Research, over 4 million commercial robots will be installed in more than 50,000 warehouses worldwide by the year 2025. This would be quite an increase from the existing 4,000 back in 2018 — adding to the need for a universal digital solution that is capable of managing diverse robotic fleets.
  • Commercial Service Robots – 9 out of 10 companies have indicated that they are planning to incorporate commercial service robots within their organization in some way. It is expected that in the United States alone, there will be roughly 23,000 robotic warehouses by 2025, compared to 2,500 back in 2018.

Order Fulfillment

Millions of packages are shipped worldwide on a daily basis, meaning that order fulfillment has become a fundamental aspect of e-commerce. From fast-paced shipping to managing distribution centers, keeping customers satisfied through order fulfillment comes with many challenges.

  • Fulfillment Efficiency is Critical – Order fulfillment is one of the most important aspects of retaining happy customers. Data shows that 63% of consumers say that home delivery is the top purchase driver to buy online. Having said that, 45% of online shoppers are unlikely to purchase from a store again after having received an item late.
  • Speed and Ease Key – Shipping speed and easy delivery processes are key when it comes to positive customer experiences in the e-commerce industry. The top contributors to ensuring positive customer experience in e-commerce are fast shipping speed (62%), an easy delivery process (54%), and ample product information (53%). And, don’t forget that 80% of people discontinue doing business with companies due to poor customer experience!

Figure 5

Figure 5: Top Contributors to Positive Customer Experience (Source: Emarketer)


  • The Cost of Human Error –  Human error is the number one cause of fulfillment issues. According to a survey from Stitch Labs, 62% of respondents mentioned human error from manual process management as the number one root cause of inventory or fulfillment issues — something which can easily be prevented by implementing a fleet management system that provides traffic control and automotive task allocation.
  • Fulfillment Challenges – Processing time for outbound orders and system integration are two of the main difficulties merchants face with order fulfillment. In addition, 24.7% of merchants say that the biggest challenge their supply chain faces are delivery costs, while 12% of them are unprofitable simply due to distribution costs.
  • Limited Tracking – In 2018, only 35% of warehouses tracked their order cycle times using an automated system. The same study showed that nearly 50% of warehouses still tracked their order cycle times manually, whereas 19% did not track them at all.

Figure 6

Figure 6: A Hybrid Approach to Online Order Fulfillment
(Source: DHL Research Report | The Ecommerce Supply Chain: Overcoming Growing Pains)


  • Shift To Outsourcing Fulfillment – More and more businesses are shifting towards outsourcing fulfillment. According to a DHL report from 2019, 40% of companies are insourcing fulfillment, of which 6% are planning to switch to an outsourcing solution in the future. Another 18% will most likely outsource their fulfillment completely.
  • Hybrid Fulfillment Solutions – Combining insourced with outsourced resources seems to be the most popular approach. Nearly 50% of B2C respondents say that they will opt for a hybrid solution to order fulfillment — current strategies include having a dedicated e-commerce facility for online order fulfillment as well as having a multichannel facility that combines the inventory management of both online and in-store purchases.

Material Handling Statistics

Just as we have seen with the warehouse industry, the material handling industry is highly driven by the rising e-commerce sector. Keeping up with the trends in the online shopping industry, the material handling industry focuses its attention on developing and optimizing solutions for the warehouse- and supply chain ecosystem.

  • Europe & Asia Strong Adopters – The material handling industry is mainly represented by Europe and Asia. According to Grand View Research, Europe accounted for a revenue share of 34.1% in the global material handling equipment market in 2020, thereby dominating the market. In addition, Asia Pacific is estimated to witness a CAGR of 9.7% in their material handling equipment market during the 2021-2028 forecast period.
  • Robust Growth – The global market size of the material handling equipment industry is expected to rise steadily in the upcoming years. According to Grand View Research, the market was valued at €23.25B in 2020 and is now projected to reach 38.4B by 2028 — exhibiting a 7.4% CAGR during the forecast period.

Figure 7

Figure 7: The Automated Material Handling Equipment Market
(Source: Researchandmarkets.com)


  • More Material Handling Automation – Automation is gaining more popularity in the material handling equipment industry. The market size of the automated material handling equipment industry is valued at €36.14 billion in 2021 and is expected to increase to €63.66 billion in 2026, with a CAGR of 12% during the forecast period — that’s a steeper increase than seen in the non-automated material handling equipment market.
  • Mobile Robots Keep Coming – The adoption of mobile robots is seeing rapid growth across industries, bringing huge transformative change. The mobile robotics market in material handling and logistics is estimated to be valued at €62 billion by 2027 — this number is even expected to more than doubled by the year 2038.
  • Reliability & Flexibility a Must – There’s a growing demand for reliable and flexible automated systems to improve operations and productivity in various retail applications. Technologies like AGVs and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are gaining more popularity as they offer a variety of benefits to improve operational efficiency and productivity — such as low errors and costs as well as more accurate picking and packing. This, in turn, will increase the need for a universal solution to efficiently managing diverse robotic fleets.
  • Again, E-Commerce Key Demand Driver – E-commerce holds the largest market share in the material handling equipment industry. Back in 2018, the market share of the e-commerce segment exceeded 15% in terms of revenue and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 8% until 2025. Moreover, the demand for material handling equipment in the e-commerce sector is projected to surpass €8.85B by 2028, says Grand Review Research.

Editors Note: Robotics Business Review would like to thank Meili Robots for permission to reprint the original article (found HERE).


About the Author

Michelle SchlechtriemMichelle Schlechtriem is the Content Manager at Meili Robots. She is a hard-working, creative writer dedicated to bringing positive change to the world with her words. She graduated from Roskilde University (Denmark) with a MA in Communication & Business Studies and is usually writing about Marketing, Technology, and Sustainability. Some of her previous work can be found on GreenMatch. Connect with Michelle on Linkedin.


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