October 13, 2020

How COVID-19 Is Transforming the Future of E-Commerce

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted day-to-day routines and changed how Americans and shoppers abroad view and use e-commerce. It may seem difficult to articulate and recognize just how much of an impact we will see from COVID-19, but as the months unfold, the effects illuminate how heavily people rely on e-commerce for their shopping needs when going to stores is not an option.

The good news is that this novel coronavirus has been the catalyst for some unprecedented changes in the e-commerce world. Exactly how is COVID-19 affecting the future of e-commerce? Here is what we know and can predict:

Pre-COVID-19 E-Commerce Trends

Before the chaos of COVID-19, shoppers were turning to e-commerce more and more for their purchases. In 2019, Forbes predicted brick-and-mortar businesses would focus more and more of their energy developing their online shops to keep up with the changing demands of consumers. How did Forbes’s prediction pan out in light of COVID-19? Big businesses relied on their e-commerce integrations, and those businesses that were slow on the jump missed out on record e-commerce sales. Of course, there were the trends that nobody predicted like increased importance of social media-driven purchases, and more seniors using voice-recognition devices to access online shopping. We also saw increased use of mobile apps for loyalty programs, shopping, and socializing transactions through apps like Venmo.

What exactly does this mean? E-Commerce was on an upward trajectory even before COVID-19. Between 2000 and 2008 the percent of Americans who had purchased something online increased from 46% to 66%. In 2019, 80% of Americans considered themselves online shoppers, and half of those primarily used their cell phones to do so.

So, it should come as no surprise that 2020 saw an increase in the number of Americans shopping online, but the burst in e-commerce from COVID-19 was unprecedented and changed the future of e-commerce for good.

What Impact Does COVID-19 Have on E-Commerce?

1. COVID-19 Led to Unprecedented E-Commerce Trends

As Americans and shoppers across the globe were encouraged to self-isolate, quarantine, and refrain from shopping in physical stores, many shoppers turned to their computers and phones. In April of 2020, online retailers experienced a 68% increase in sales from the previous year, globally. In the U.S. and Canada, e-commerce shopping grew by 146%.

One of the biggest challenges e-commerce retailers face is sales conversions. This is to say that convincing people who are browsing the internet and casually shopping to add items to their carts then checkout isn’t easy. But even this challenge saw a change during the pandemic. Conversion rates in online sales grew by almost 9% compared to 2019.

2. More Shoppers Are Turning to Mobile Devices to Browse Goods

Remember that pre-COVID-19 stat that 50% of online shopping took place on a mobile device? Since COVID-19, that number has increased to 72%. Why? Because shopping in the comfort of your home was much more pleasant than fighting crowds for toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

3. COVID-19 Led to More Diversity in Online Shoppers

What does this mean for the future of e-commerce? Convincing consumers to change habits can be difficult. Just think about your mom or grandma’s shopping style. They likely have stuck to what worked for decades. But once COVID-19 hit, habitual brick-and-mortar shoppers were encouraged (some would even say ‘forced’) to turn to online shopping. This push got them over their fear of technology and resulted in an increase in shoppers over 65 using e-commerce more regularly.

If your grandparents used Zoom during the pandemic for the first time, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

Increased use of technology for seniors means greater diversity in online shoppers. The spike in older online shoppers was one of the e-commerce trends nobody could have predicted. Many e-commerce retailers are now navigating uncharted territory as to how to best serve these new customers.

4. Changes in E-Commerce Marketing

This pandemic has brought out a resurgence in shopping local, spreading positivity, and looking out for others’ health and wellbeing. These e-commerce trends transferred to how businesses use online marketing.

First, businesses adapted by putting more money and resources into their e-commerce marketing campaigns. If their shoppers are online, shouldn’t their advertisements be? Web traffic increased by 30%, which is 30% more eyes on websites and online advertisements. 

Businesses saw an increase in how much time shoppers were spending on their websites, as well. With very little to go out and do, consumers had time to better research products and companies. This led to e-commerce businesses beefing up their FAQs, blogs, product descriptions, and web content.

Autopilot got turned off. When lives are lost and the world is sitting on pins-and-needles, sensitivity in e-commerce social media marketing took precedence. As news evolved and the pandemic became more serious, empathy, sympathy, well-wishes, and safety reminders allowed businesses to demonstrate compassion and care through their digital marketing. This adaptation allowed many to prosper by taking a different approach to their usual e-commerce strategy and shifting directions in their business’s missions.

Businesses recognized first responders to the pandemic, advertised their contact-free and COVID-19-safe delivery and curbside options, and sought new niches to stay afloat.

5. Changes in E-Commerce Strategy Due to COVID-19

With all the positive aspects swirling around the e-commerce industry due to COVID-19, there are some changes that make it harder to stay afloat and continue to see year-over-year e-commerce growth. The first is that COVID-19 increased competition in e-commerce. The second is that businesses must conform to meet new safety and health standards through new logistic strategies. This can be costly and nearly impossible for some, leaving some businesses out in the cold.

Many non-essential products even saw a drop in sales during the pandemic. This was likely due to the drop in employment and retailers like Amazon prioritizing pushing out essential items more rapidly and delaying the shipment of non-essential items in doing so. Luckily, many non-essential retail items are now seeing a rebound, with a strong increase in games and toys to help keep the kids busy.

How did businesses shift gears and change strategies?

Some e-commerce businesses changed product lines to include more essential products that shoppers could have delivered to their homes. Often these products were tangential to what they already produced. For example, we saw sock companies making masks and distilleries making hand sanitizer. While these companies may not continue to offer these products three years from now, this situation taught them an essential lesson in adaptability and staying on their toes.

More businesses focused on their e-commerce marketing and hired for more e-commerce jobs. With a higher demand in online advertising due to increased online traffic, many businesses brought on new talent. Even after the pandemic, most experts predict the increase in online shopping trends will continue. This means a higher demand for people to fill e-commerce jobs like web-developers, UX designers, and e-commerce marketing strategists.

To make it post-COVID-19, businesses are re-evaluating their e-commerce business models and offering more subscription-based options.

Capturing the new elderly audience is now a priority; it’s not all about millennials, anymore. Companies must adapt their e-commerce user interfaces and aesthetics to fit elderly shoppers, as well. This means more user-friendly check-out methods, improving accessibility features on their websites, and a need for multi-channel selling through third-party sites and social media.

Continuing to Predict the Future of E-Commerce in Light of COVID-19

There is no doubt that the changes we’ve seen in e-commerce due to COVID-19 are not over. As this pandemic continues, more and more people are seeking ways to connect to others online. This drives the need for new media and apps and a greater variety of e-commerce offerings. These changes can either be a great opportunity to increase revenue or a lost opportunity. How you navigate the next few weeks, months, and years with appropriate e-commerce strategies that adapt to e-commerce trends can make or break your business. 

If you’re unsure of where your business should go from here, Seller’s Choice can be your business’s solution to staying ahead of the ever-changing demands of the market. We stay at the forefront of the industry to protect our clients no matter how the market bends and shifts. As more businesses turn their focus to e-commerce, we help businesses differentiate themselves from the competition and continue to thrive no matter what lies around the corner.

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