COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on the eCommerce Sector: The New Normal for Retail
The world might be slowly returning back to normal, at least in Australia, but not everything will go back to the way it used to be. The COVID-19 Pandemic has pushed many businesses to transform their business model. The eCommerce sector has grown significantly since the pandemic started in early 2020, with businesses rapidly transitioning to online sales. The impact of COVID-19 can be seen as both lasting and better for business in the long run. Not just during the peak of the pandemic, the psyche of shoppers will change forever to see eCommerce as the new retail normal.
More home deliveries
Consumers have become attached to the increased convenience of having everything delivered to their home. Retailers who don’t already offer at home deliveries have adapted to starting to implement it or have plans to do so in the near future. Businesses will continue to offer more delivery options for their customers, such as contactless delivery. The increased convenience and safety will have many customers continuing to choose at-home deliveries for products which they previously picked up in-store. Even once the pandemic is over, it is expected that goods such as groceries, take away food and apparel will continue to be purchased online for at least the next 6 months.
It’s not just home deliveries that customers have become used to. Online shopping was already on the rise before COVD-19 hit the world. However, due to COVID-19 the time spent at home is accelerating eCommerce even faster. With lockdown restrictions and working from home, consumers have had more time to explore online stores and make purchases from newly discovered businesses that offer eCommerce. It is unlikely that the portion of consumers that shop online will see a significant decrease in traffic once physical stores open back up again. Simply put, we are creatures of habit and convenience, and the online availability of a wide range of products suited for consumers’ every need makes eCommerce the no-brainer easy option.
With the increase in online shopping, many retailers are providing in-store pickup or click and collect options as well as more delivery options. Some retailers are offering their customers the option of contactless delivery and curbside pickups, without needing to go into the physical store. The increased convenience of curbside pickups could lead to it sticking around even after social distancing restrictions are lifted. We could be seeing more retailers implementing drive through pickup options, or other more convenient in-store pick-up options in the future.
eCommerce technology development
Technology has been leading the way consumers spend their time and interact with each other during the pandemic. The use of technology allowed businesses to alter their business model to minimise the negative impacts of the virus during this time. Technology is enabling businesses to provide innovative customer service and delivery solutions to give a better customer experience and increase revenue.
Algorithms and Virtual Assistants
Thanks to AI and machine learning algorithms, eCommerce can use AI to analyse real-time, actionable insights on buyer behaviour. Chatbots and AI-based virtual assistants have been used with eCommerce to automate and streamline sales processes. Not only is this cost saving for the business, it offers a fast solution for customers. These technologies can offer 24/7 support, and make recommendations based on customers’ interests and preferences.
For example, IKEA is providing customers the ability to visualise how furniture will look in their space with augmented reality technology. Business being forced to use technology to alter their offering during this time allowed them to use innovation and creative ideas to change their business model for the better. The growth in technology will continue to define the way businesses offer value to consumers, even after the outbreak is under control. Businesses will keep on capitalising new technology to differ themselves from competitors and add innovation to their offerings.
Increased opportunities for smaller businesses
Many small businesses have adapted to the changed circumstances much quicker than larger businesses were able to. Due to their smaller operating size, a high number of small businesses were the first to put social distancing and hygiene measures into place and alter their business model according to the situation. As previously mentioned, the increased time at home is enabling consumers to spend more time discovering new brands which provides an opportunity for smaller businesses to reach these consumers more directly, giving them more chances for getting conversions.
As the fastest growing sector during COVID-19, eCommerce sales are expected to maintain the same growth rate even once lockdown is over. With an upward trend, the shift in consumer behaviour is good news for businesses as the impact will change retail habits forever. Have the changes that you made due to COVID-19 made your business more sustainable and better adapted for the future?
Get in touch with our team at Planet Media for more ideas on using technology to better adapt your business for the future.