The e-commerce industry is witnessing a record-breaking surge as more and more people are inclining towards online shopping. With physical stores shutting down due to lockdown, online retail sales have grown substantially over the past six months. And this trend is exhibiting no signs of reversal.
In this article, we’ll discuss the online shopping boom across the globe, the changes it has caused, and how new retailers can adapt to the changing retail landscape.
Let’s jump in.
The Trend is Likely to Continue
Several officials from large retail outlets like Walmart, AO.com, and Waitrose have agreed that the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the online shopping behavior by five years. E-commerce has emerged as one of the fastest-growing channels for sales of almost all products, primarily packaged food and self-care.
Industries like food and drinks are expecting an online sales growth, and the trend is unlikely to reverse after the pandemic situation calms down.
Drivers of the Online Shopping Boom
Several factors have contributed to the online retail boom amid COVID-19. These include:
The New Category
The coronavirus pandemic has encouraged consumers to shop for groceries and basic necessities online. Online sales in the pre-pandemic era mainly comprised fashion items and consumer electronics. But with stores across the globe shutting down, people have moved to online retail stores for their basic shopping needs.
Increase in Sales
The e-commerce sector has recovered dramatically during the lockdown, with a pace much faster than anticipated. Both the closing down of stores and the need for home seclusion have led to the online shopping boom. E-commerce retailers in almost every sector – food, skincare, grocery, fashion, and more – have witnessed a surge in demand, sales, and revenue.
Changes in the Mode of Retail
The long lasting debate about e-commerce vs. brick-and-mortar finally seems to be coming at the end. Industry experts believe that it’s no longer about how much is offline and how much is online. Modern retail will have to adopt digital commerce. It’s clear that both formats need to co-exist.
This trend seems evident as Flipkart has partnered with around 37,000 Kirana stores to encourage offline retail. Amazon has also launched a new project, Local Shops on Amazon, to help local retailers supplement their footfalls.
The rising demand for pandemic online shopping is good news for online retailers. But for every action, there is an opposite reaction. E-commerce sales have changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and these changes are likely to continue during the post-pandemic era.
Let’s delve into these changes.
Flexible Timings and On-time Deliveries
Online shoppers want timely delivery. And if an order gets canceled, they want to be compensated quickly and adequately. This is a massive opportunity for local online retailers, especially those who’re selling food and grocery items.
In addition to timely delivery, customers also want to choose when they want to receive their time. They will therefore prefer shopping from a retailer that gives them the option to choose their preferred delivery timings.
Another essential aspect of convenience is the option to pay. Some customers choose to pay using a credit card, while others prefer using online wallets, like PayPal. Since cash and debit cards are almost flagged off, retailers should focus on providing as many online payment options as possible.
Sanitation is taking center stage
During this COVID online retail boom, consumers are more cautious than ever about cleanliness, health, and safety. And they will want to see the service providers practice safety measures once the pandemic comes to an end. Therefore, retailers can give themselves a significant edge over others by utilizing the best sanitation and cleanliness practices.
Dark Stores the New Way to Go
Both online and offline retailers seemed to struggle during this pandemic. Physical stores faced a lot of certainty due to lockdown. E-commerce stores witness high demands, but the lack of inventory emerged to be a hurdle. This lose-lose situation for both online and offline retailers has given rise to the concept of dark stores.
Dark stores are physical retail outposts that store necessary goods. But their sole purpose is to fulfill the demands of online retailers – not to sell to their offline customers. Large grocery chains and food businesses can use dark stores to keep up with the rising demand amid the online shopping boom.
How can Retailers Successfully Transition to e-Commerce?
These times of the online shopping boom are worth cherishing for big e-commerce players like Walmart and Amazon. But for small retailers that have newly transitioned to e-commerce, surviving this rising demand can be a challenge.
Here are some actionable tips on how new retailers can find success amid the COVID online retail boom.
Show Hygiene as a Priority
As discussed earlier, consumers are readily prioritizing safety and hygiene. Deploy the necessary local and international guidelines to ensure maximum safety and sanitation. And don’t be afraid to show it to your customers. Proudly present to them the measures you’re taking to keep them safe.
Use Branded Packaging
Using branded packages can go a long way in driving your customers to shop from you. High-quality, branded packaging gives your customers an in-store experience, which can make a huge difference in these times of online retail growth.
Update In-stock Quantities Often
Displaying real-time in-stock quantities of items has two benefits. First, you can create a sense of urgency. When a customer sees that an item is about to go out of stock, he may hurry to purchase it to avoid ending up disappointed.
Second, it helps you be transparent with your customers. A consumer may be disappointed if a product she wants is out of stock. But she’ll be more disappointed if she places an order and then discovers that it can’t be fulfilled.
In conclusion, it’s apparent that online retail growth will continue even after the pandemic ends. During the pre-pandemic era, people preferred online shopping for the added comfort, convenience, and time efficiency it offered. Now, with an additional benefit of hygiene, online retail is likely to become the new normal in the post-pandemic era as well.