While the progressive e-commerce growth could be observed long before Covid-19, it was the fast-spreading virus that has radically changed consumers behaviour and forced companies to speed up digital transformation.
National lockdown and fear of contamination made people stay at home. Non-essential shops were closed and those which remained open had to instantly reorganise. With limited access to bricks-and-mortar, consumers shifted to e-commerce in a flash.
Making their goods available online and creating a delivery service was a crucial survival move for most businesses, and a year on from the pandemic starting, we can clearly see that only those with a well-established online presence were able to make it through this difficult time for retail.
In fact, the biggest winners are companies that started to grow their e-commerce businesses way before the pandemic hit.
What is essential in the ecommerce sector?
Consumers choices and buying habits play a key role in that irreversible change and they will dictate the future shape of global retail. Here is why.
First of all, Covid-19 had a major impact on which goods we consider as essential. Suddenly all travel-related items or clothes, especially smart office outfits, were out of favour, whereas garden or kitchen equipment became a must-have, not to mention PPE, hand sanitisers or soap.
Secondly, Covid-19 made people realised how convenient and safe e-commerce is, compared with brick-and-mortar stores. When high street stores finally reopen there still be safety measures in place, which means possible inconveniences, such as waiting in long queues or an increased risk of getting infected. E-commerce offers an irresistible choice to avoid all of that by buying online, comfortably at home. With supermarkets offering delivery services, weekly food shopping becomes less stressful and less time-consuming.
Thirdly, consumers have an increased appreciation of local businesses and if they only deliver items to their door, people are more likely to buy from them, rather than big stores. As more time is spent locally and we don’t travel as much as we used to, we will be buying locally more often.
What do consumers expect from online stores?
With more focus on e-commerce, there is also more pressure on great customer experience. That means more transparency around the checkout process, no hidden costs, user-friendly websites, free shipping and fast delivery. Customers look for an accessible approach. A clear and simple refund policy is as important as secured payments and data protection. User- friendly e-commerce platforms have to be ready for a high number of visitors, and also must be intuitive and easy to navigate. Buyers expect a sweet and short purchase path. On the other hand, web retailers have to constantly learn about their customers to create an outstanding shopping experience.
What does the future hold for e-commerce?
With people buying more online it makes more sense for companies to invest in e-commerce development and the customers online experience, yet some business owners stress that current e-commerce growth is only temporary, and as soon as everything goes back to normal, customers will be back on high street, so there is no point in sinking money into e-commerce services.
Unfortunately, when looking at possible pandemic outcomes, there is very little chance that global retail will go back to normal in the short or even medium term, moreover a new normal is far more optimistic for online shops than for physical stores.
According to Forbes, current consumer behaviours are here to stay. Mainly due to fact that some of the buying habits started in the pre-pandemic era and Covid-19 only made them expand. Convenience and safety are more likely to play a major role in how people shop. Although there is a risk that digital fatigue might slow down post-pandemic e-commerce growth, it won’t stop it. E-commerce domination is inevitable. Changes in global business caused by Covid-19 only accelerated digital transformation.