The rise of e-commerce in the post-pandemic world
May 3, 2022
A deep dive into the increasing demand for online shopping and how retailers can stay relevant in the post-pandemic world
How did your business pivot during the pandemic? The high street is a staple of every city across the world, with consumers doing their weekly grocery run, searching for gifts, or enjoying a day out. When high street shopping came to a halt in early 2020, this provided a new challenge for retailers. Fast forward to 2022 and whilst shops have reopened, there is a new high street in demand – a digital one. The Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report 2021 from Metapack suggests that almost half (49.7%) of total non-food retail sales will be made online by 2025.
The e-commerce world has been growing in popularity since the 1990s when technological advances started to rapidly progress, and consumer giants such as Amazon appeared. However, pre-pandemic online transactions only amounted to 13.8% of global retail sales, according to data from eMarketer. When the world went into lockdown, not only did consumers have to shift to online, but retailers had to either start up or expand their online business to ensure they maintained a relationship with their target audience. This has had a clear effect on consumer behaviour, with online transactions increasing to 19.6% of total retail sales by the end of 2021.
There are many benefits for retailers within the e-commerce world. Localised retailers have the opportunity to expand their audience, whether it be on a national or global scale through cross-border shopping, whilst online shopping also offers a better opportunity to promote new and exciting products through consumer trends research. However, there are also various obstacles, including more communication between multiple channels. With the demand for online shopping showing no sign of slowing down, retailers need to prepare for a new e-commerce era in the post-pandemic world.
Consumers demand a seamless digital experience
The best way for retailers to approach the e-commerce world is by analysing their customer needs. The pandemic has played a huge role in accelerating the shift towards online shopping, with e-commerce growing two to five times faster than before the arrival of COVID-19, according to research from McKinsey. In doing so customers have a new-found expectation of their online shopping experience – consumers today want an extra level of personalisation.
Though the rise in internet shopping means purchases are made by a simple tap of a button, people are still searching for the real-life interaction you can receive in-store. The option to create a personalised wardrobe online is becoming more popular, with suitable products being promoted to the consumer. Chatbots are a fantastic way to further customise the experience.
Consumers are also looking for a seamless shopping experience. They want their customer journey to be well defined: for websites to be clear, informative and highlight the wide collection of products available to them. An omnichannel strategy is key to building out this approach, as it allows customers to have the full shopping experience across all platforms, whilst allowing retailers to take advantage of in-store, online and social presence.
Social media is a crucial part of any e-commerce plan. Channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok have all surged during the pandemic, and many of the younger generation now use social media as their main source of knowledge, including shopping guides. Forbes highlights that social commerce is expected to grow three times as fast as traditional commerce to $1.2 trillion by 2025, up from $492 billion currently. The need for an influencer strategy is vital for retailers moving forward, whilst it is also essential to take advantage of the Instagram Shopping feature.
Post-pandemic shopping trends
According to Internet Retailing, a survey from the retail platform Unfolded reported 70.6% of respondents stated that they are now less likely to shop in-store, despite the ending of COVID restrictions within the UK. Retail Gazette also estimates that 27.3% of UK consumers now expect to permanently shift more of their shopping online on the back of new behaviours formed since the pandemic. The digital high street is going nowhere.
To ensure retailers stay on top of the trend in the post-pandemic world, they must have an effective business strategy. Not only do retailers need to decide what products they want to sell online and what their target audience is, but they also need to fine-tune the operational details – what types of payment will be available, what delivery processes will be used, and the delivery services to partner with. Having a solid marketing plan is also part of this and it is vital to think about how to establish a business in the digital shopping world. The key is in analysing the products, and the channels to promote and sell these products on – for maximum brand amplification.
For smaller retailers looking to get started in the e-commerce world, marketplaces are an effective start-up option. Internet Retailing also focuses on a report by OC&C Strategy Consultants, predicting that by 2025 online marketplaces will become as large as direct e-commerce, accounting for 45-50% of online spending. Marketplaces are an incredible way to reach new audiences and markets on a global scale, whilst helping advise on online issues such as delivery, payment, and translation processes.
Whilst there has been a welcome return to the high street – which still remains a core focus within the retail sector – the e-commerce world is thriving, and we only expect to see it continue to grow. Start-up businesses, or any business, will need to keep up by having a comprehensive digital strategy targeting the new, younger demographic who will soon play the leading consumer role in the retail industry.
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