The global pandemic of COVID-19 has changed the world forever, leaving a lasting impact on billions of people and their businesses across the globe. Many e-commerce companies worldwide have had to restructure their business plans and have seen a surge in eCommerce sales, whilst people are unable to shop due to government-imposed lockdowns. Supply chains and manufacturers have felt the strain, but whilst the traditional high street sector has struggled, e-commerce has thrived. COVID-19 has shifted the focus to online shopping in a way that never felt before, the influx of sellers has allowed e-commerce to thrive worldwide in a time of great economic and social uncertainty. Join us as we review the impact on the eCommerce industry.
What drives the e-commerce industry?
The driving force of the e-commerce industry prior to the COVID-19 epidemic was the strong and steady growth of online consumers from around the world. The global aspect of e-commerce meant that companies could provide exclusive products in the market, at a lower price due to the global distribution channel and the ability to buy items in bulk at a cheaper price. Consumers had choices like never before and could buy whatever items they wanted, 24/7 all from the comfort of their living room.
When the pandemic struck, with social distancing and lockdown being enforced around the world, consumers turned once again to online shopping to help source items they couldn’t leave the house for. However, the global pandemic had far-reaching consequences for supply chains and international products, with many factories and manufacturers based in China. This caused disruption and delay for many companies trying to source items for consumers. Delivery delays and shipment supplies caused a drop in casual shopping, with consumers instead of focusing on essential items such as groceries, toiletries, and hand washing items. With home items, furniture, and arts and crafts also seeing an increase in demand. The impulse buys of the past which often fuelled the e-commerce industry have now been replaced by necessity and practicality.
Perhaps the most influential change since the pandemic has been the global threat to job security, with many workers finding themselves made redundant or being left on furlough. This means that with less financial stability, consumers are less likely to go on a spending spree.
Impact of lockdown on shopping online
When the crisis first reared its head and people anxiously awaited government lockdown measures, panic buying and stockpiling of essential items started to occur. Hand washing supplies such as hand sanitizer and soap were bought out, with people clearing the shelves. Essential items like toilet paper were suddenly hard to get, with many people filling their trolley and shops being unable to refill their stock.
Shopping online has become the go-to place for everything. With people unable to leave their homes, it has been filling the gaps. There has been a surge in demand for certain items. Most quarantined shoppers are purchasing the following items outlined below.
With people reluctant to visit grocery shops for their essential items, online shopping has been a lifeline for those in quarantine or who are currently shielding. Demand for vegetables, meat, and fish has risen dramatically, with some companies seeing sales and profit margins grow by over 500%. The popular online grocery company Farmstead, based in the USA saw its delivery services increase by more than 30% in March alone.
Sales of hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, and masks have soared, with worldwide demand often outstanding supply. Studies have shown that the sale of masks has grown by 600%, hand sanitizer 450%, medical gloves 150% and toilet paper and hand soap by 30%.
With restaurants closing their doors, many people have instead turned to delivery apps such as Deliveroo or Just Eat to still indulge in their favorite meal and retain some normalcy. Demand has surged, with companies offering non-contact deliveries and adhering to strict cleaning guidelines. However, this still leaves many restaurants operating with reduced staff numbers and limited menus.
When the lockdown was implemented there was a surge of online shopping for loungewear. Online retailers such as ASOS and Boohoo saw an increase in demand of up to 45%, as people swamped their office day wear for cozy jumpers and roomy sweatpants. However, many high street retailers have not been able to enjoy the same success, with the likes of Oasis and Warehouse going into administration.
The pandemic has seen consumers vastly change their shopping habits all at the same time. The emphasis on convenience and prompt delivery has been putting a strain on e-commerce and online retailers. Even after lockdown restrictions have been lifted and high street stores return, people’s shopping habits may not go back to they were in the pre-COVID days. These changes to our shopping behavior are already in motion, and the impact of this shift in purchasing behavior will change the e-commerce landscape forever.
How can your e-commerce company adapt?
There are a few ways to ensure that your e-commerce company thrives in the wake of the pandemic.
Efficiently manage your PPC budget
Instead of stopping your PPC campaigns, there are a few ways you can effectively manage them to be more efficient. Start by cutting back on upper-funnel keywords with a low conversion rate, as the demand for these items may have fallen during the lockdown. Save your budgets for keywords that have a higher interaction rate.
If you pause and start campaigns again, this will also mean you face higher CPS, as your campaign will have to start from scratch, you also can’t just switch off a campaign and pretend like it never happened. Your consumers will know, and it will cause confusion. It is important to remember that your CPS is likely to be lower, but for businesses that continue with their campaigns, they can still capitalize on this.
Continue with organic SEO
Establishing organic SEO is a long-term strategy that you can’t just turn off. Google’s algorithms are still in play and the search engine will be prioritizing SEO that gives the audience the most accurate information. Organic SEO is vital to ensure long term visibility online, and with people now turning online instead of the traditional high street, this is not a place you want to drop the ball.
Be a source of knowledge on social media
With more people having free time to spend online, this gives companies a great opportunity to revamp your social media strategy to take advantage of this. To help ensure your social media is effective we’ve included some points below.
Your social media should be:
- Helpful – Your customers want detailed information about the things they need, provide this for them. They shouldn’t have to go looking for it. You need to emphasize that you are here to help them.
- Create communities – Create communities amongst your customers both locally and globally. This could be through social media competitions, reviews, or connecting with bloggers who have a following that represents your demographic.
- Time effective – The time that your content is available to your audience is important. The ideal time is the early hours of the morning and late hours of the evening. This is when people will be online and checking their phones the most. Don’t just think about the 9-5, your customers will be checking their phones throughout the day and night. You need to let your customers know that you won’t just clock off and can still help them.
- Support and celebrate others – Look for people who are supporting and helping people during this time. Celebrate them! They can be staff members, customers, online bloggers, or non-profit organizations you could be supporting at this time.
- Enrich people’s lives – As we are currently battling the boredom or struggling with the impact of the virus, offer people some hope and inspiration. This could be through a social media campaign or offering a discount or a one-off offer for your products.
And most importantly emphasize on consumers
Your consumers are key in every aspect of your business and their overall experience is vital to ensuring customer retention. A streamlined website, effective customer service team, and most importantly quality product is all-important in giving a positive customer experience. Providing helpful social media and openly welcoming feedback and criticism, ensures the customer feels heard and appreciated. With so much competition now in the e-commerce market, you need to pull out all the stops to ensure that you retain your customers and turn the new reluctant online shopper into one of your regulars.
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What are the next steps of the e-commerce industry?
There is no one size fits all approach, COVID-19 has impacted businesses in a way never felt before. What’s key is that companies emerge from this crisis ready for online business and supporting their customers. The next steps of the e-commerce industry really is onwards and upwards, with so many people now turning their attention to online shopping, the opportunities are endless.
Written by Stuart Cooke, Blog Editor at IrishParcels.ie a courier comparison service that aims to take the hassle and expense out of the shipping process for eCommerce businesses.