The current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic is having a huge impact and every aspect of our lives, not least on businesses.
But as many bricks and mortar businesses struggle to stay afloat the truth is online sales are booming and e-commerce channels are seeing huge increases in growth.
Back in June, when the UK was fully locked down, a report in Retail Times estimated that Covid-19 had already pushed online sales up by 168%. I am not so crass as to say every cloud has a silver lining. Thousands of workers have already lost their jobs and many, many more will be living under a serious threat of redundancy right now. These are truly turbulent times. But the lockdown and the current restrictions here in the UK and in other countries around the world mean that many more people are going online to make purchases and to do business. This means we are experiencing a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour which many believe will be a permanent one.
At Motive we have always worked with e-commerce brands and some of our clients have more than doubled their sales in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In fact I have had conversations with business owners who have seen 200% and even 300% growth this year. And it’s the websites who are investing in their digital PR and SEO, along with great customer service, who are best placed to take full advantage of these new opportunities.
In the early days of the internet there was initially serious reluctance amongst consumers to trust websites with their credit card numbers and other data. The success of Amazon in the past decade has shown that is mostly a thing of the past but right up until 2020 there were a sizeable portion of the population who still preferred to shop in physical stores rather than online.
The pandemic, and lockdown in particular, has changed that. Many people who had never ordered a supermarket delivery online before are now doing so as a matter of routine. This new-found trust in making online purchases has spilled over into every other area of e-commerce with websites offering every imaginable product or service reporting upticks in their sales.
Will the trend to ever more online shopping be a permanent change or will consumers go back to their old preferences once the restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of Coronavirus are eventually lifted? My feeling is there will be some drift back but many consumers will find their spending habits have changed for good. That doesn’t mean the end of the High Street or of shopping centres though. There is room for both and many shoppers will be thrilled to be able to return to their old shopping habits when they are able to shop unhindered by restrictions and are able to try clothes on once again in fitting rooms, for example.
But make no mistake the pandemic has presented the entire e-commerce sector with a huge and unprecedented opportunity to win consumer loyalty and I see many of them stepping up to the plate to please customers with first rate service aimed at winning their long term trust.
Like everyone else I am looking forward to an end to this pandemic and a return to something that more closely resembles normal life. But I am sure when the dust does settle the retail landscape will look quite different to how it did at the start of 2020 and the lasting winners will be the e-commerce brands who were best able to seize the opportunity to win customers and who were best equipped to provide excellent customer service to hang on to them.
© MOTIVE 2020