Who would have thought that 2020 would bring something like the Coronavirus with it? When we were all ‘Happy New Year-ing’ back at the beginning of the year, none would have expected this pandemic to hit us. At the start, it felt like we were wandering around on the scene of some post-apocalyptic movie, but then reality started to sink in. Soon we adapted, but it wasn’t easy. Family life, work, education – everything in the world as we knew it changed.
Saying goodbye to high street shopping
One of those things was shopping. Gone were the days of walking around the stores, happily shopping ‘til we dropped. Social distancing put paid to that. Those of us that liked to buy online continued to do so, only with more of it. Those that had not been comfortable with eCommerce before found themselves testing the water, even ordering basics such as food from online stores and supermarkets when they could.
Not only were the consumers of the world affected. This pandemic brought about a great change in the world of retail. Stores that had already adopted eCommerce carried on if they could, happy that they could continue to trade. But the biggest shift came from those that had never offered online sales before.
Increased demand for eCommerce stores
Within a short space of time, retailers realised that if they did not offer an eCommerce online store, their business may disappear forever. Ecommerce had become pivotal to survival, with even the biggest of the retail chains finding it tough. Whilst everything else seemed to be standing still, frozen in time like the slumbering princess and her family in ‘Sleeping Beauty’, online sales were doing well for many.
Where difficulties have crept in, this has been mainly due to the retailer not being able to maintain their eCommerce infrastructure. Packing, shipping and delivering – all of these things have to be done by people. However, with social distancing very much the norm nowadays, these processes do not always run smoothly. With many staff staying at home, even the best eCommerce stores found themselves floundering.
Experts are now predicting that by June of 2020, the economy in the UK could shrink by as much as 35%. However, there is a bright side. By the end of the year, it should have recovered. Whilst this may still mean the end for some businesses, others have had to move quickly because they were not ready to adapt. They realised overnight that they had to pull up their socks and get ‘online ready’ if they were to continue trading. Although temporarily locked and shuttered, they knew they could still be in with a chance of surviving by turning to eCommerce.
Adapting to the world of eCommerce
The ability to adapt to the world of eCommerce has never been more crucial. In the past, it may have been the younger users that felt comfortable with online shopping, purchasing everything from clothing through to cars. They did not see it as a problem and trusted the retailer as much as the payment gateways. But bring the pandemic onto the scene and we see older people getting on-board. They may not be quite as tech-savvy but the realisation has hit that they need to shape up and beginning shopping online.
But what about the stores already offering online shopping facilities? Even some of the larger supermarkets found themselves struggling to cope with the surge in demand. Websites that had previously coped with a certain number of expected shoppers found themselves sinking under the weight. Buyers found websites crashing and even when they got online, goods or delivery dates were not available. This has resulted in some of the big boys having to up their investments into eCommerce.
This is the only way they can cope with demand. Not only do they need more goods in-store and more shipping dates but the websites themselves need to be made more robust to cope with the hundreds of thousands extra shoppers, all expecting first-class service.
Even the government have had to step in, making use of confidential data to identify and provide online sales and deliveries to those who are vulnerable. This has opened up eCommerce to another stream of customers who would not have previously used the facility.
Ecommerce sales due to increase rapidly
Over 1 million or 20% of UK businesses may close before lockdown halts, even though the government are rolling out all sorts of help and support. Retail outlets of all shapes and sizes need to look at their eCommerce strategies now if they are to continue trading. Those with online sales facilities via websites need to make sure that they’re robust enough to cope with increased demand. As for the stores without any eCommerce facilities at all, this is now a must-have to survive.
If we look at the 2019 Global E-Commerce market report by Emarketer, they forecast that Ecommerce in 2018 of $2.92 trillion would jump to $6.54 trillion by 2023. This illustrates a massive increase, even before the pandemic forced shoppers online.
It may seem like a contradiction in terms to say that those businesses with reduced income should look at spending in the IT sector, but this is not the case. Panicked businesses need to take the time to look at what government grants and funding are available and tap into these to fund their eCommerce website spends.
Ecommerce life after Coronavirus
Once we get to the point where the Covid-19 pandemic begins to dissipate, the focus will move to the UK economy and the state of businesses. Because no one was ready for the attack of the Coronavirus, changes that have taken place already came about unexpectedly. However, what will life be like after the Coronavirus and more specifically, what will the world of eCommerce look like?
The likelihood is that after spending months shut-in, shoppers will be suffering from ‘cabin fever’, eager to get out and meet up with friends and family. Businesses that have managed to stay afloat should be OK as the demand for products and services is likely to shoot sky-high. Whilst some consumers will be left struggling financially, others will be looking to re-start schemes that were put on hold due to lock-down. This will not only be engaging socially but also completing home decoration schemes, moving house, going on holiday or buying the things they could not access before. Retail sales will start to pick up a little as people hit the streets once again, with most returning to where they were pre-Covid-19 within just a few months.
Depending upon their sector of operation, some businesses will find that competitors have gone under. But this does not mean that the remaining businesses can rest on their laurels. During challenging times, innovation always comes to the fore. Those that best understand client demands and expectations are the ones that will rise to the fore. There will most definitely be a shift towards even more online sales so businesses that wish to profit from this must make sure that they stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.
The importance of eCommerce going forward
The take-away from this is that focusing on building, improving and operating eCommerce stores is now more important than ever. If you are not already talking to a skilled web designer, now is a good time to do so. Whether dealing with a new website or upgrading an old one, the design, speed and functionality of your eCommerce site needs to be impeccable.
Online sellers are going to have to work hard to gain the attention of the massive new wave of eCommerce shoppers, knowing that everyone within their field of business will be doing the same. At the same time, they must not forget about retaining the loyalty of long-standing customers that were with them before the Coronavirus ever reared its head.