COVID-19 accelerated the growth of eCommerce driving a shift in demand as consumers adhered to social distancing measures and shops were forced to transition online. Mandatory lockdowns stimulated a shift in consumer behaviour; changing not only what we buy and where we buy it, but also how we pay for our purchases.
According to Office For National Statistics the proportion of purchases made online in Great Britain rose more than a third (35.2%) in January 2021, the highest ever on record. Further research by Euromonitor International found that more than half (58%) of retail professionals leveraged digitalisation of their business to “improve operational efficiencies and elevate the customer experience”.
Consumers shifted their purchasing choices to adapt to the lifestyle of more time at home prioritising items related to working from home, getting fit at home, DIY and ordering groceries direct to their door to minimise social contact.
The Top 5 Trends
Here’s a summary of the top 5 trends that we have noticed emerge since the global pandemic.
1. The Growth of eCommerce
Global lockdowns hugely restricted people’s buying behaviours and created new norms in customer behaviour with most people resorting to shopping online; during 2020 the amount of goods purchased online grew globally by 24%, whilst in-person sales decreased by 7% (Euromonitor). This research further predicts that online sales will continue to increase and make up for a fifth (21%) of total retail sales by 2025. In a study conducted by Agilty PR, 30% of respondents said that they are shopping less frequently in physical stores, and 21% are shopping more frequently online. Due to larger periods of time at home in isolation, consumers have become accustomed to shopping via digital channels due to the ease and convenience, two reasons why this new adapted behaviour is predicted to stay. McKinsey found that over 60% of global consumers have changed shopping behavior, many of them for convenience and value. And further to this, 73 - 80% of this sample intend to continue with new adopted behaviours.
Online retailers have noticed the transition to online shopping and adapted to meet the demand by optimising their website in order to easily convert visitors into sales. In Q2 of 2021, retail tech funding reached a new high at $31.5bn, an increase of 4% compared to Q1, and triple the value of the previous year.
With digital marketplaces rising in popularity, many businesses have optimised their digital presence by linking their online store to their marketplace(s) with an API integration to simplify the customer journey and drive more sales.
Retail companies taking the time to invest in digitalisation and automation of their business have strengthened their competitiveness (by 70%), improved efficiency and reduced costs (by 69%), and increased revenue (by 57%). All of this without the need to expand supply chains or improve logistics networks. Furthermore, the eCommerce Readiness Model discovered that globally, the retail market could support more than $77.7b in additional eCommerce sales without any additional infrastructure expansion if the industry were to utilise the benefits of optimisation.
3. Transformed Delivery and Returns
Increased time at home coupled with social distancing measures has led to an evolution in contact-less and contact-free delivery options. More brands have risen to new demands offering next-day delivery, specified delivery time slots, free shipping and returns, and click-and-collect options. Overall, eCommerce delivery options increased by 10 years in just 8 weeks.
In a study by Seven Senders, 90% of UK respondents reported that they would choose home delivery as their preferred delivery method over click-and-collect. This popularity in home delivery is further supported by the fact that UK residents on average receive 2 more parcels per month than they had been pre-pandemic.
Research by eCommerce News found that 45% of British consumers would be more inclined to shop with an online retailer if they offered next-day delivery, with 58% saying that free delivery would be the most persuasive factor.
In contrast, click-and-collect or BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up In Store) grew more than 500% during the pandemic in the US. Perhaps a result of only 54% of global customers feeling safe shopping in-store and opting to reduce contact to “stop the spread”. In the UK, Statista predicts that turnover from click-and-collect is likely to grow by 70% in the period up to 2023.
When it comes to returns, Mintel discovered that almost half (49%) of online UK shoppers had returned a purchase during 2020, and a quarter of all fashion goods bought online in 2019 were returned. The online ordering process seems to replicate that of the in-person shopping experience, whereby consumers order multiple sizes and styles so they can try them on at home as they would in a physical changing room in a store. With most places offering free returns, this cost is passed on to the retailer who needs to get the item back in their supply chain to avoid dead stock.
4. Shop Locally and ethically
The ethos behind #shoplocal has made a strong resurgence during the pandemic with the Local Data Company noting an increase in local purchases across the board. Almost two thirds of UK shoppers have opted to shop closer to home and support the local economy. Of that sample, 91% have claimed that they will continue in their efforts to #shoplocal even after the impacts of social distancing cease. As we covered earlier, click-and-collect has grown in popularity alongside online shopping and many independent stores offering BOPIS have stayed afloat during the pandemic through setting up a store online with the option to pay online and pick up in-store.
With more time on their hands to browse, over half (60%) of respondents in an Accenture Study reported that the pandemic gave them the time to browse for more ethical and sustainable brands, leading to greater purchases in this category- a shift in attitude that 90% intend to continue with.
5. Mobile Payments
Digital wallet apps have grown in popularity over the years with apps gaining nearly 1 million users year on year. By 2023 Statista predicts that 12 million UK citizens will opt for digital payments as their first choice. People are trying to minimise physical interactions and avoid touching cash and this has hugely driven the shift towards greater use of digital wallets from 2021 onwards.
In 2020, statistics showed that debit card payments were the preferred payment method for consumers, with cash being the second contender. It is predicted that moving forwards digital payments will take precedence in popularity ahead of cash as digital wallets gain greater traction (2019 Mobile Payments Market – Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2020-2025) report by Mordor Intelligence). According to a study by Opinium, 30% of consumers say they regularly leave the house without a wallet or purse and prefer to use their mobile for paying for services (2021). It is predicted by Opinium that debit cards will remain as the first choice at least until 2025, perhaps due to the ability to withdraw cash.
The Overall Changes
It’s evident from numerous studies that the eCommerce industry has changed significantly since Covid-19, and many of the changes are here to stay post pandemic. One of the biggest changes is that brands are investing more in their online presence to create a smoother website experience and open possibilities for selling D2C (direct to consumer). It’s recognised that optimisation drives competitiveness, efficiency, and a higher conversion rate for sales. Many businesses are choosing to integrate with roseta.io to streamline their accounting processes, to meet their fulfillment needs, or sync to their marketplaces. With physical stores opening up in the UK and worldwide it will be interesting to see how this impacts the volume of sales vs. relative returns. Customers are expected to continue shopping locally as well as online, whilst opting to pay via mobile or digital wallets as we move into 2022.
Automate with roseta.io
The COVID-19 pandemic led companies to make bigger investments in digital platforms to make a frictionless user journey and drive greater sales. Many of roseta.io’s clients have invested in our marketplace integrations including our ChannelAdvisor to Shopify and ChannelAdvisor to Magento API integrations. If your business is looking to scale up and integrate their marketplaces, get in touch with one of our team today.