2020 has been anything but normal.
After years of breaking down borders and building connections across our world, we’re now learning how to survive, even thrive, with those tenuous connections interrupted. Face mask regulations, stay-at-home orders, closed businesses, cancelled concerts and shuttered movie theaters — these are unprecedented times.
As we all come to grips with the new state of “normal,” businesses are also adjusting their processes. Suddenly, standard operating procedures are no longer standard. What worked just a few months ago may not work now.
In this article, we’ll look at five trends in ecommerce that businesses should consider as we make our way toward the end of 2020 and look to the future.
A Look at the Impact of the Coronavirus on Ecommerce
As news of the coronavirus spread earlier in the year and retail stores and entertainment venues closed, schools were locked up, and students and employees started working from home, people turned to the internet.
In fact, more than half of those who responded to a survey taken early in the pandemic reported the internet was essential. More than just entertainment, work and school, many turned to the internet for ecommerce and shopping. Amazon, and their AWS program, turned its operations to helping small businesses reach customers while brick and mortar locations are closed. In June, ecommerce business and web sales grew more than 75%.
Despite this growth, there are signs that ecommerce buying is fading as stores across the country reopen. Ecommerce retailers that were enjoying a burst of business are suddenly facing market changes and new disruption.
Here are the trends we see impacting ecommerce.
A Focus on Health
COVID-19 is a health risk, and it is one that ecommerce businesses are working hard to address.
As stores closed, ecommerce has been forced to offer contactless delivery options and provide alternatives to signatures. Companies on the leading edge of this trend are using GPS tracking and providing photo delivery records. Studies are also looking at drone deliveries and using storage lockers for delivery pickup.
Ecommerce businesses are also looking at ways to protect warehouse workers and employees. Beyond the health concerns, a single outbreak of COVID-19 can shut down operations and put deliveries at risk. This could include additional hand sanitizer stations, dividers on shipping lines, mandatory masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), additional training, and staggered shifts to reduce crowded workspaces.
Shifts in Consumer Buying Habits
The initial reaction to the pandemic for many was panic buying, which led to empty aisles in grocery stores and a garage full of toilet paper and canned goods. After that early panic, we’ve seen additional changes in buying habits that forecast future business opportunity and risk.
As the world continues to struggle with the pandemic, PPE has been a trending item for ecommerce. Other hot sellers are comfort items for the home like soup, bread, cooking utensils and board games. With the lack of travel and limits on business, it should be no surprise that items like luggage, briefcases, swimwear and formal wear have all seen their popularity take a dip.
Understanding and forecasting the needs of the consumer are critical for business success, especially during a crisis.
Protecting the Supply Chain
Many expected a supply chain collapse at the beginning of the pandemic. It had been decades since factories and shipping shut down like they did for COVID-19, and no one was sure the modern supply chain could weather the disruption.
So far, we’ve avoided the disaster some predicted, but the crisis isn’t over yet.
Further risk and problems are still on the horizon, and smart ecommerce retailers are doing what they can to protect their supply chain and ensure business continuity. That means diversifying suppliers. Others are investigating alternative solutions to critical supplies in case there is a crisis, including keeping more supplies in inventory. Many are turning to the buying power and market connections that are available by using a Managed Services provider when a crisis hits.
No matter the solution, ecommerce businesses can’t ignore future risk and are taking steps to protect themselves.
Improving the Customer Experience
After the initial onslaught of new customers and business at the beginning of the pandemic, many businesses are looking at how to keep those new customers coming back. What can the business do to earn repeat business?
For many, the solution is improvement and optimization along multiple channels — trends that have only accelerated under the influence of the pandemic. These businesses are investing in and improving their digital marketing. Email campaigns, SEO, newsletters, social ads and content marketing are all ways that the business can continue to engage with customers after the first sale. Personalizing the customer’s online experience, special packaging or delivery options, and providing additional transparency (insight into what to expect from shipping, for example) are other ways to improve the experience.
Steps taken now will continue to provide a return for these online retailers.
Staying a Step Ahead of Market Changes
The COVID-19 global pandemic has had a powerful impact on daily life as well as business operations. It’s foolish to think that once the pandemic ends, everything will magically go back to “normal.” So, what will the future look like for ecommerce businesses? Which of the new market and consumer behaviors are here to stay?
Mobile payments, using a mobile device for banking and money transfers, and cashless transactions are a trend spreading beyond the pandemic restrictions. The current coin shortage is driving many to use cashless transactions, and consumers have discovered these transactions are not only possible, but also convenient and safe. Mobile payments and banking are opening up opportunities for consumers.
Telemedicine, or using two-way communication for remote medical services, is another trend that is growing. Telemedicine and telehealth can reduce costs for medical practitioners, is more convenient for patients and is improving health outcomes for many even during a pandemic.
The business shutdowns have driven many companies to close, and some businesses are closed permanently. For example, retail stores across the country are declaring bankruptcy during the pandemic and may never open again. As the pandemic recedes, there will be rapid change in the industry landscape.
Other businesses have discovered that work-from-home works, and closing offices makes good business sense. Business travel is another expense that may not survive COVID-19. This will cause business processes to adapt, and online retailers should consider how to adapt with them.
This is going to change the market landscape, and even after the country opens again change will continue to spread.
Where Will Ecommerce Go From Here?
There is opportunity for sustainable business growth on the horizon for ecommerce retailers and businesses.
But, with so much change shaping markets and additional risk waiting, managers and business leaders need to take steps now to capitalize on the opportunity. That means identifying risks and implementing solutions. It means taking a close look at the supply chain and evaluating shipping operations and taking action to reduce risk and address challenges. It means recognizing increased profit will also bring increased competition. Don’t take new customers for granted. You need to work hard to earn their business with every transaction.
If you have questions or want to learn more, then contact the experts at GO2 Partners. We’ll evaluate your operations and take the time to answer your questions. Work with our team to solve your problems and grow your business.
We’re here to help.