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How did the COVID-19 pandemic change ecommerce?


Kieron Vanderkamp - 16/02/2022 - 0 comments

Time stood still in 2020.

High street shops shut their doors, restaurants stopped taking orders, and offices went silent. We talked to friends and family on video calls and looked for new ways to spend our time indoors. Our lives, as we knew them, vanished.

But the ecommerce world was experiencing a different story. While we wallowed about our ruined social lives, the online retail landscape experienced something seismic. Time wasn’t standing still. In fact, it was going faster than it had ever gone before.

Online profits soared while brick-and-mortar businesses were forced to adapt to the digital world or risk bankruptcy. The pandemic had hopped, skipped, and jumped ecommerce forward by years nearly overnight.

Now, in 2022, it seems the ecommerce golden age has dimmed slightly; restrictions have lifted and people have returned to the shops and offices. But that doesn’t mean we have returned to the way things were. In fact, many changes are here to stay. Our online shopping habits have stuck, businesses digitised, and the pandemic has changed ecommerce forever.

How did the pandemic change ecommerce?

1. Death of the high street

High street shops were struggling before the pandemic. The rise in smartphones, access to technology, and the convenience of shopping online gacve people little incentive to shop in-store.

But the pandemic struck a killing blow.

Restrictions, and the ensuing drop in footfall, forced businesses to close. Even large retailers were hit. The entire Debenhams department store chain and many John Lewis outlets disappeared. Arcadia Group also collapsed, leading to the closure of Top Shop and Miss Selfridge.

17,532 chain stores closed in 2020 – that’s an average of 48 every day. Moreover, the first half of 2021 saw 8,739 outlets go out of business. Although restrictions have lifted and people are returning to the shops, the damage has already been done.

Walk around your local shopping centre, you are likely to find tired stores and vacant lots.

It’s clear: the high street is dying and its business has moved online.

How did the pandemic change ecommerce?

2. The rise of online shopping

The pandemic upended businesses and supply chains; emptying the high street and forcing businesses to sell their goods and services online.

Of course, ecommerce predates the pandemic, but it was this event that fueled mass digitsisation and a rise in online businesses.

In 2020, goods bought online globally grew by 24% while store-based sales decline by 7%. Also, ecommerce’s share of global retail trade grew to 17% from 14% in the previous year.

This trend is expected to continue. In 2021, worldwide ecommerce sales totaled approximately 4.9 trillion US dollars and are predicted to grow by 50% over the next four years.

By 2025, Euromonitor predicts that online sales will account for 21% of total retail spending.

We are looking towards a future where ecommerce dominates. But what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re thinking of opening a business in 2022, it would be wise to have an ecommerce website.

However, you won’t be alone; competition is fierce and there is already a giant stomping around the ecommerce world.

How did the pandemic change ecommerce?

3. Amazon gets bigger

Amazon was positioned perfectly to take advantage of the pandemic. As we settled into our lives in isolation, Amazon’s core offerings – online shopping and media streaming – rapidly integrated themselves into our lives.

Amazon’s UK web traffic jumped 40% in 2020 compared to 2019. Many people, including those who rarely shopped online, turned to Amazon to fulfil their shopping and entertainment needs.

Furthermore, Amazon’s net sales grew from $280.52 billion in 2019 to $386.06 billion by the end of 2020 – that’s an increase of $105.54 billion.

The massive figures send a clear message: Amazon is an essential platform for running a successful business.

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4. Pandemic spending habits stay

Although ecommerce sales have waned in 2022, they are still massively ahead of pre-pandemic figures. According to a survey by eShopWorld, 57% of global shoppers said the pandemic had opened their eyes to the convenience and choice of online shopping. 

Retails Economics and Natwest’s January 2021 outlook report found that 46% of UK consumers purchased a product online that they had previously only ever purchased in-store. Evidently, people’s buying habits have changed.

Furthermore, 32% of consumers surveyed said they expect to continue with their new ecommerce habits in the future. People have had a taste of online shopping and don’t want to go back.

But what does this mean for current and prospective business owners?

Ecommerce and omnichannel capabilities are more essential than ever for running a successful business. Retailers need strong, stylish, and functional websites to provide a smooth and memorable user experience. They also need a consistent marketing strategy across all channels and platforms to attract and retain visitors.

For new and established businesses, getting started online can seem daunting, especially since the pandemic changed ecommerce so drastically. How do you make a successful website? How do you improve your online presence?

How did the pandemic change ecommerce?

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