Monday, March 29th marked the launch of the UK’s road out of lockdown but as life starts to return to normal, what will happen to the habits we’ve absorbed since the pandemic began?
The popularity of eCommerce retailing was on the increase before COVID-19 hit the globe, reaching 16% of all retail sales in 2019 and expected to rise further. Since the pandemic saturated our lives, the demand for online shopping, especially in FMCG categories like groceries and clothing has skyrocketed.
What have we seen in the past twelve months?
Many of us have spent the past year, working, shopping, and socialising from home, our dependence on all fulfilling such past times relies totally on eCommerce. Without lockdown rules to adhere to, consumer habits naturally shift and evolve. With quarantine restrictions, these organic habits have fast-tracked at great speed, with some researchers declaring this shift in behaviour towards a near-total online dependence, has been accelerated by five years.
According to US Commerce Department figures, last year eCommerce sales hit $791.70 billion, up 32.4% from $598.02 billion in the pre-pandemic world of 2019. That’s the highest annual online sales growth of any year, more than double the usual 15.1% year-over-year increase.
Of course, this increase in online purchasing largely benefits digital retailers. The convenience of shopping via eCommerce platforms also favours the consumer. Future purchases can sit in a basket until the buyer is sure they want to spend their money and when logistics partners are operating faultlessly, items can be delivered the next working day. Returns are also easier with courier services, such as Hermes, now offering a ‘pick up returns’ option. However, what eCommerce sellers can’t mimic is the atmosphere and social opportunity that physical stores bring. So, which is the winner? Online sales are expected to increase by 14.8% each year until 2023, while the growth of brick-and-mortar sales will only increase by 1.9%. 2019.
What will the online future of post-pandemic life be like?
Fulfilment services and eCommerce businesses have been some of the few winners to emerge from the pandemic. Research conducted in October 2020 indicates that 80% of UK consumers said they’re likely to carry on shopping online even when it’s no longer our only option. 74% of people say they felt most comfortable with eCommerce shopping and just less than half of those asked, 41% saying they would feel comfortable shopping in stores.
Current pandemic life makes omnichannel offerings not only favourable to businesses but now a necessity. For many companies giving their shopper an integrated shopping experience, otherwise known as omnichannel retail, is the next logical step for increasing sales, improving customer relationships, and enhancing revenue. This combining of the physical and digital creates greater options for merchants. For example, translating collected data to create a personalised shopping experience for consumers, like those found on Instagram shopping pages.
For eCommerce success in the post-pandemic future, retailers should be thinking about how they can combine their physical and digital channels to create the most beneficial omnichannel experiences for their customers. Staff, entrepreneurs and consumers alike will all play an active role in enhancing fresh shopping experiences that are set to stay.