Ecommerce Trends During COVID-19
Despite the battering COVID-19 has inflicted on the economy, companies with robust ecommerce assets and stores with strong online sales components have survived relatively unscathed. In fact, according to Shopify, retailers that closed their stores from mid-March to the end of April made up 94 percent of the on-site revenue they lost through online sales.
Bricks and mortar may not be dead, but savvy retailers are investing in and relying more heavily on the ecommerce portion of their business. And with good reason. One recent survey found that one-third of U.S. consumers plan to do all their summer shopping online. Almost 60 percent will use a combination of online and store buying; only about 10 percent will buy exclusively in person.
Companies With No Online Presence
Collaborative sites – Stores in the same strip mall join forces to put their products online. Communities can build local marketplace platforms for not only selling goods, but also scheduling services, ordering from restaurants, and a host of other activities. In some cases, commercial landlords are providing the infrastructure support.
Social media – Niche shops, especially, can use social media not only to tell customers about store closings, but also to invite them to submit orders through the comment section. Merchants can send a PayPal or Venmo request for payment and ship the product once the transfer is complete.
Off the shelf – Unique and feature-rich digital storefronts are nice, but online retailers’ survival may depend on getting their wares in front of customers. Vendors offer all-in-one solutions for displaying products, managing customers, marketing, and accepting electronic payments.
Brick-And-Mortar Stores With An Online Component
Merchants that maintain physical retail locations and online storefronts face a different set of challenges. They need to shift the bulk of their transactions to their ecommerce sites while nurturing their stores for an eventual return to prominence.
Store inventory – Retailers dealing in durable, household, and luxury goods have a lot of inventory on their shelves and in their display cases. Many, like jeweler Kendra Scott, manage by turning stores into regional mini-fulfillment centers. Companies take orders online and ship items directly from the nearest retail outlet that has the item on hand. This has the added benefit of localizing shipping to keep freight costs as low and delivery lead times as short as possible.
Last-mile distribution – Companies with a nationwide presence and those who deal strictly with local customers increasingly are eliminating as many delivery costs as they can. The buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) maximizes profits and reduces risk. Specialty and niche retailers, however, do not enjoy this luxury. Many are turning to popup distribution centers–either establishing them for themselves in high-demand locations or partnering with centers that offer last-mile logistics for multiple companies.
Protecting retail balance – Bricks-and-mortar shopping will return, so the most profitable companies will take strides to ensure customers return to their physical shops when the time comes. For many, the answer is combining the multimedia ambiance of browsing online with the tangible advantages of seeing, holding, and trying on products in the store. “Phygital” customer journeys extend merchants’ marketing reach and customers’ lifetime value.
Overall, as we see Covid persist through the end of the year, we are going to see more and more influence of the online e-commerce space. This shift online might become permanent, but only the future will tell.