Ecommerce was certainly not a shrinking violet months ago. Economic trends show it was a significant portion of consumer spending, as shoppers continue to appreciate the convenience of order today and have tomorrow. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. And, suddenly, physical stores were closed, and retail parks became ghost towns. Then everyone turned to their smartphones and computers to place orders for everything they deemed essential, from food to cleaning supplies to items that suddenly became needed. But what does it all mean for the future of ecommerce?
Pre-pandemic, ecommerce sales were expected to rise by 15 percent in North America and 16.1 percent worldwide. Since late February, online sales are up almost 40 percent. Some product categories are blowing away any predictions, including leisure and outdoor equipment, which was up 170 percent in the last week. These kinds of spikes are typical around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but some of these gains have sustained for over 10 days.
Economic experts would certainly like to provide us with good news that ecommerce will continue to rise. However, that’s not likely given that consumer confidence is dipping while unemployment is rising. These high numbers could be attributed to panic shopping that’s being paid for by stimulus money.
Further, most states have begun to reopen parts of the economy, so there is the possibility that shoppers will be back in stores this summer. There’s also a good chance that many will decide to continue to stay home. They’ll still need to make purchases and may continue to opt for delivery or curbside pickup, both of which would count toward ecommerce figures.
Grocery shopping online is up 110 percent from the week the pandemic was declared. These gains include panic shoppers, but this jump is so significant, some customers will likely adopt this going forward. Grocery stores had been struggling with meeting their ecommerce objectives. Consumers were skeptical about the fees involved, while many preferred to shop in-store because they want the opportunity to compare products.
Grocery story ecommerce is not like shopping for fashion. You’re not ordering one specific thing in one particular size. Now that shoppers were forced into trying online grocery shopping, they’ve realized it was a good experience and made their life more convenient. All grocery stores would be well served to continue this momentum and the new revenue streams it’s providing.
In fact, some grocers are already taking what they’ve learned during the pandemic and leveraging for their future. Spouts announced a new transformational strategy to accelerate long-term growth. They plan to move forward with smaller stores and contactless shopping via ecommerce. Sprouts saw its ecommerce sales increase by over 950 percent since 2019, so it’s taking these insights and turning them into an actionable strategy.
Much of the lift in sales falls into food, cleaning, or household products. They have been the most sought-after items, selling out in minutes across the largest e-commerce sites. New data also shows those in quarantine have been purchasing weight training equipment (up 307 percent). Now that they have extra time, people may be looking to start that new chapter of living healthy. What’s also interesting is that smoking cessation purchases are up 122 percent.
With trends like these, retailers have opportunities to promote healthy lifestyle products and family fun since the data indicates buyers are looking for positive ways to spend their time and money.
As uncertainty continues, coronavirus ecommerce trends will change and evolve, depending on what happens as the country attempts to reopen.
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