The pandemic and its effect on eCommerce

The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on the business world.

Adaptation was key to survival for a large number of businesses, many of which did not survive the early months of lockdown measures and subsequent pandemic restrictions. Online business in particular saw some fundamental shifts, with new businesses migrating to e-commerce and new customer needs changing the landscape for good. Here are some of the key ways in which the pandemic affected e-commerce.

More businesses moving online

Businesses had already by-and-large migrated to e-commerce platforms and functionality, with high street retail already struggling to compete with the convenience of online brands. The onset of the pandemic saw in-store retail fall off a cliff-edge, with online spending reaching a third of total retail sales at its peak, hastening the transition of retail brands from the high street to e-shop. Pandemic restrictions also shuttered the hospitality industry, with chains and independent businesses alike pivoting to offering iterations of their service online – from cook-at-home restaurant meal kits to craft beer hampers and pre-mixed cocktails.

Frictionless processes

The boom in demand for e-commerce spurred on improvement in purchasing processes. With more companies now in competition with one another, seamless digital purchasing – from adding items to baskets to entering payment and address details – became a key metric for customer retention. Businesses utilised open banking platforms to facilitate a wide variety of payment options, including gift cards and vouchers, while investment in UI development ensured legible and easy-to-follow payment processes for users.

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Demand for new products

The pandemic saw the needs of the average online customer shift rapidly in a short space of time, with previously infrequently purchased items becoming high-demand. Hygiene was the area with the most demand growth, as products from hand sanitiser to personal protective equipment (PPE) became popular purchases. Initially, e-commerce platforms were ill-equipped to handle the newfound demand, and shortages were common – but supply soon met demand, and a new revenue stream for many businesses was born.

Delivery and packaging

The pandemic also saw the introduction of restrictions to gathering, which directly affected delivery services for online platforms. Larger and more valuable items were handed to a customer in person, often with a signature required to confirm safe receipt of the parcel. With the risks of passing COVID through touch, no-contact delivery options became the norm for online delivery platforms – whether food delivery services or postal services contracted by major retailers.

Packaging was also overhauled by a majority of larger-scale retailers, as sustainability concerns stemming from the overall increase in home deliveries surfaced. Recyclable or biodegradable packaging became much more commonplace amongst retailers, lessening the environmental impact of inflated e-commerce.