Unilever focuses strategy on e-commerce

February 5, 2021 by
Sanne Leenders

Unilever’s e-commerce sales grew by 61% in its latest financial year. Shoppers turned online to buy its hygiene and ‘at home’ food brands during COVID-19 lockdowns. E-commerce and digitization are now one of Unilever’s five strategic choices. It plans to position their business for success in the channels of the future. Focusing particularly on e-commerce and digitizing the distributed trade. Underpinned by advanced shopper insight as the consumer and customer landscape continues to evolve.

This comes alongside strategic commitments to move into high growth categories. Making its brands a force for good, growing sales in the US, India and China, and building a “purpose-led, future-fit organization and growth culture.”

9% of Unilever turnover was from e-commerce

In 2020, 9% of Unilever turnover was from e-commerce. Although overall turnover of €50.7 billion was down by 2.4% compared to 2019. Underlying sales – before currency fluctuations – grew by 1.9% over the year and by 3.5% in the fourth quarter. More than 50% of sales in its prestige beauty division took place online for the first time. Although overall sales in this division also declined, by “low single digits" compared to 2019. Underlying operating profits came in at €9.4 billion – 5.8% down compared to 2019. While operating profit of €8.3 billion was down by 4.6%, as a result both of currency fluctuations and as profitability reduced amid increased supply chain and COVID-19 costs.

Unilever is setting ambitious new targets to sustainability

Unilever Chief Executive Alan Jope says Unilever has shown resilience and agility throughout the pandemic. It is winning market share in more than 60% of its business while setting ambitious new targets for its commitment to sustainability.

“Today we are setting out our plans to drive long term growth through the strategic choices we are making and outlining our multi-year financial framework,” he says. “While volatility and unpredictability will continue throughout 2021, we begin the year in good shape and are confident in our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.”

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