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The e-commerce landscape after the pandemic

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Life has changed a lot since the outbreak of Covid-19. The way we live, work, and shop has gone through a monumental shift. And e-commerce is no different. The pandemic has been an undeniable tragedy. But there’s one particular arena where the impact of Covid-19 has been surprisingly lucrative. The pandemic has had a huge influence on online sales and fueled a meteoric shift towards online marketplace primacy. 

In this article, we’ll be examining what the pandemic means for e-commerce businesses and marketplace sellers in a post-Covid world. We’ll be discussing the immediate, mid-term, and long-term implications of the pandemic on online sales and the trends that are set to transform our e-commerce landscape well into the future.


E-commerce during a pandemic: the lowdown

The Covid-19 crisis forced many bricks-and-mortar stores to close up shop either temporarily or for good. Many businesses were forced to adjust to new ways of working or else face major losses. The result was a huge surge in online buying and selling and a marked shift away from the physical storefront. 

Retail had already been moving in this direction over the previous decade, but the pandemic acted as a catalyst for a rapid shift online. In fact, according to estimates in IBM’s Retail Index, the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns actually accelerated the shift away from physical stores by up to five years [1]. Research shows that by the second quarter of 2020, department store sales had already declined by a staggering 75% [1]. 

Whilst this marked bad news for traditional stores, the pandemic has also opened up new and exciting opportunities for online e-commerce growth. More consumers than ever before are embracing online shopping. The pandemic has proven that the way to succeed in commerce is now firmly rooted online. 

When it comes to online omnichannel fulfillment, the pandemic has effectively teleported us five years into the future. What’s more, it looks like these changes are here to stay. By the second quarter of 2020, U.S e-commerce reached $211.5 billion and contributed to 16.1% of total e-commerce sales for the quarter [1]. 

One thing is clear. In 2021, the online marketplace reigns king. 


What the pandemic changed 

So, what exactly did the pandemic change? Covid-19 turned retail on its head. Demand patterns shifted, and physical commerce gave way to contactless e-commerce. This digital shift has had significant consequences and the change is starting to influence consumer spending habits in a more permanent way. 

When the pandemic hit, consumers started buying things online that they usually reserved for their weekly supermarket shop. Essential items like food and toiletries were suddenly in high demand online. As such, e-commerce has gained a substantial new category in the form of food and groceries, entertainment, and daily household essentials like cleaning products, shampoos, and other personal items [2]. 

Let’s take a moment to talk about Amazon. After all, you can’t really talk about e-commerce without mentioning this online retail giant. During the Covid-19 crisis, Amazon experienced soaring traffic. More interestingly, the online marketplace has continued to enjoy a steady increase in consumer traffic over a year after the onset of the pandemic. In fact, as of January 2021, Amazon visits were up 20% from the previous year [3]. This is a clear indication that this shift online is far from a temporary one. 

And it’s not just Amazon enjoying the fruits of an online consumer base. Online marketplaces, in general, have been selling more since the pandemic, with many marketplace sellers hitting record sales. 

In short, the Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a clear and rapid change. A change that sees brick-and-mortar stores well and truly bowing down to e-commerce. But what does this mean for the future? 


Post-pandemic e-commerce trends

Trend: payment methods

Looking forward into the post-Covid landscape, some clear trends are emerging. Customers have grown accustomed to the convenience and flexibility brought about by omnichannel online shopping. In the post-pandemic ecosystem, e-commerce retailers and marketplace sellers will need to meet these soaring customer expectations head-on in order to maintain a competitive edge.  

1. Convenience 

First things first, the post-Covid consumer wants serious convenience. Research suggests that up to 78% of consumers now value convenience more than they did before the pandemic [4]. After all, when you get a taste for something good it’s hard to let go, right? Today’s consumers want seamless online experiences, fast delivery, and flexible payment options. And they want all of these things to be available across multiple devices. 

2. Product diversification

Remember when we said that consumers started buying different types of items online when the pandemic hit? Well, this trend might be here to stay. A 2021 survey of 3000 North American consumers revealed what shoppers planned to buy post-pandemic. Top items included baby clothing, virtual experiences, exercise equipment, household goods (e.g., cleaning products), groceries, athleisure, clothing accessories, and pet supplies [5]. For marketplace sellers, that means that opportunities to stock a more diverse range of products have gone through the roof. 

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3. Mobile e-commerce

Speaking of multiple devices, that’s where mobile e-commerce comes in. Today’s consumers want to be able to shop from their phone, tablet, or laptop seamlessly. Mobile e-commerce is on the rise. So much so that mobile retail revenues are expected to pass $432 billion by 2022 [4]. That means smartphone optimization and simple mobile payment options have fast become the minimum expected service – as standard.  

4. Seamless digital experiences

Expectations for seamless digital experiences are also on the rise. As shoppers become increasingly accustomed to online transactions, their expectations are rising exponentially. The key to satisfying this craving? Cross-device e-commerce experiences. In fact, 81% of shoppers now expect to navigate sales channels from any device of their pleasing [4]. 

5. Fast delivery

Quick and efficient delivery is now the precedent. Thanks to Amazon Prime, consumers have grown accustomed to one-day delivery at a minimal cost. Slow order fulfillment will have an increasingly negative impact on sales. 

In order to maintain a rapid and efficient delivery process, e-commerce sellers must start mobilizing data to streamline their order and fulfillment operations. For online marketplace sellers, a targeted product information management system will help you push your products to online marketplaces and streamline your backend operations with extensive data analysis. You can read about optimizing your product flow here.

6. New payment methods 

As consumer habits change, online sellers will need to embrace a broader range of payment methods in order to achieve the convenience and flexibility that customers crave. Cross-channel payments will become standard [6]. Marketplaces and sellers must step up to the mark and offer the payment methods that customers want. Popular payment methodologies in 2021, include mobile payments, Google and Apple Pay, and one-click payments. 

7. International expansion 

With the majority of stores shifting to the digital realm during the pandemic, opportunities for international expansion multiplied. Many brands and online sellers started to pick up new customers in foreign territories. In order to sustain this growth, more and more e-commerce brands will seek to continue this expansion in the post-pandemic period [6]. 


Moving Beyond the pandemic

Covid-19 has made it clear that the key to e-commerce success is adaptability and agility. Amongst retailers who emerged strong out from the pandemic, it was those with the strongest fulfillment channels that saw the most success. The ability to pivot resources and seize opportunities as and when they arose was a huge asset. 

Amazon package mail

Moving beyond the pandemic, agility will continue to aid e-commerce operations. Something that has proven particularly successful during the pandemic period is collaborative fulfillment. In other words, by sharing fulfillment facilities, online sellers can improve their order fulfillment timescales without a high capital investment. [7] 

Moving forward, marketplace sellers will be in a great position to make use of these collaborative fulfillment methods. Many marketplaces such as Amazon with its FBA program, already offer a form of collaborative fulfillment, allowing sellers to focus on their brand rather than plowing all of their resources into inventory and fulfillment management. 


Marketplace primacy in the post-pandemic world

One thing is very clear. Online marketplaces are experiencing a post-Covid mega boom. According to research conducted by Statista, as of March 2020 over a third of consumers in the United States admitted that they would increase their spending on goods from marketplaces as a direct result of the pandemic [8]. 

For marketplace sellers, this is great news. But such increased demand comes with added responsibilities for fulfillment. Online sellers will need to implement procedures and practices that will allow them to satisfy consumer expectations. 

Product information management systems like e-tailize are helping new and existing marketplace sellers adjust to this shift. By mobilizing our PIM system, you’ll be able to push all of your products to multiple online marketplaces in one go. Plus, you’ll benefit from extensive data analysis (note: read this article to find your data gaps) and ad-building possibilities all from one, intuitive and unified platform. Gain up to 20% in efficiency and revenue and start monopolizing on that post-pandemic marketplace primacy for good! 


Sources 

[1] “COVID-19 Pandemic Accelerated Shift To E-Commerce By 5 Years, New Report Says”. 2021. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/covid19-pandemic-social-shift-e-commerce-report/.

[2] 2021. Www2.Deloitte.Com. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/dk/Documents/strategy/e-commerce-covid-19-onepage.pdf.

[3] “e-commerce Trends Amid Coronavirus Pandemic In Charts”. 2021. Digital Commerce 360. https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2021/02/15/e-commerce-during-coronavirus-pandemic-in-charts/.

[4] “How Coronavirus (COVID-19) Is Impacting e-commerce [July 2021] – ROI Revolution”. 2021. ROI Revolution. https://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2021/07/coronavirus-and-e-commerce/.

[5] business, Start, Business generator, Web address, Stock photography, Products sell, Store themes, and Sell everywhere et al. 2021. “From Shoes To Milk Bottles, Here’S What People Plan To Buy Post-Pandemic”. Shopify. https://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/post-pandemic-trends.

[6] “6 Post-Pandemic Payment Trends And How They Are Impacting Missguided”. 2021. Internetretailing. https://internetretailing.net/payment/payment/6-post-pandemic-payment-trends-and-how-they-are-impacting-missguided-23032.

[7] Insight, First. 2021. “Collaborative e-commerce – The Post-Covid Route For Mid-Sized Retailers”. Retail Week. https://www.retail-week.com/retail-voice/collaborative-e-commerce-the-post-covid-route-for-mid-sized-retailers/7039678.article?authent=1.

[8] “Coronavirus: Consumer Spending E-Commerce U.S. 2020 | Statista”. 2021. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104947/spending-on-goods-from-online-marketplaces-coronavirus-us/.

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