Over the course of the last decade, retail has undergone a historic transformation and retailers of all types have had to change their strategies to survive. And then COVID-19 happened. The coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted major industries, small and mid-size enterprises, and local businesses. Traditional retailers such as multinational clothing retail companies have announced lay-offs and plans of closing down multiple outlets across the globe permanently. As stores around the world closed their doors amid the pandemic and lockdowns, consumers turned to online retailers to shop for leisure items and even for groceries. This has given e-commerce a major boost. Southeast Asia’s e-commerce sector was already tracking massive growth and it is expected to be worth US$150 billion by 2025. In this article we will talk about how COVID-19 has fueled the world’s ecommerce market.
Online demand will likely remain strong post-COVID-19, and retailers must adapt to the “new normal”. Lockdown mandates and self-isolation practices were dramatically changing consumers behaviour. Many consumers have shifted their spending towards online channels and online orders are increasing rapidly, driven by the desire for a contactless shopping experience.
Is this shift a short term solution to weather the storm ? We think otherwise. Studies have shown that grocery customers who began shopping online in response to the virus have a desire to continue shopping online even after the pandemic passes. Other industries such as medical, household goods, health and wellness have also seen an increase in online sales. This fundamental shift in consumer preference will only become more pronounced the longer COVID-19 related restrictions stay in place.
While e-commerce is the way to go now, it is important to analyse the challenges and come up with a strategic plan before rolling it out. Companies often fail to go beyond the store experience with a website. This can lead to overly complex designs, cumbersome user experiences, and dissatisfied customers. E-commerce without strategic vision almost always fails. Building with strategic vision allows retailers to better target ideal customers and often simplifies the resulting operations.
The lesson to be learned from COVID-19 is applicable to all industries. The time to invest in e-commerce is now. Grocers have massive opportunities to grow during uncertain times. Non-food retailers must transform to survive. Rapid adopters will secure market share and customer mindshare. While many retailers are still designing e-commerce channels, consumers are ready for the future. Some may think that it is still too early, or that it would be better for the pandemic “dust to settle” before embarking upon a transformation. However, most industries have already reached the pivotal point of change. Fast movers are poised to exceed the competition, and thrive in the post- COVID world.