The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted virtually every industry, either positively or negatively. It has been over nine months since the outbreak, and the world has started to learn to live with it. Although these nine months have been terrible for some businesses, they have proved to be a blessing in disguise for others.
To prevent public gathering and enforce social distancing, many non-essential physical stores have either been forced to shut down or limit their opening hours. Stores that are allowed to remain open have to ensure safety measures, including limiting the number of shoppers allowed in the store at a time. People have also been more cautious in the way they used to do shopping, avoiding public places. All this has resulted in an unprecedented growth in E-commerce, which has become the default option for consumers.
Impact on Shopping Behaviors
Starting off with the initial days, it is incredible how shopping behavior across the world showed the same pattern. When the World Health Organization officially declared it as a pandemic, people started stocking up. They bought hand sanitizers and medical supplies as well as toilet and kitchen essentials.
Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London, quoted in his CNBC interview:
“Panic buying can be understood as playing to our three fundamental psychological needs.”
These needs are:
People were under immense stress. Seeing other people emptying the shelves at the mart prompted a natural response to do so themselves.
As the world moved into a period of self-isolation and economic uncertainty, there were considerable changes in consumer shopping behaviors. Customers started to embrace online shopping in March 2020 and began setting themselves up for what looked to be a long period spent at home. According to a survey by Bazaarvoice, 41% of respondents said that they were currently shopping online for things they would typically shop for in-store. In March 2020, a 41% increase in online orders was recorded as compared to March 2019.
Boost of Ecommerce Industry
A survey conducted by UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association, in collaboration with the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br) and Inveon, reveals that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10 percentage points across most product categories.
However, increases in online shopping vary between different countries. The most robust rise happened in China and Turkey, while Switzerland and Germany only slightly increased.
According to Carlo Terreni, President of the NetComm Suisse eCommerce Association, in the post-COVID-19 world, the unparalleled growth of e-commerce will change the national and international retail frameworks.
A closer evaluation reveals that ecommerce sales are not higher across all boards. However, there are some significant changes noted in a few categories. JD.com, China’s most successful online retailer saw typical household staples quadruple over the same period last year.
A survey by Engine discovered that people are spending about 10 – 30 percent more on online shopping.
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In the second week of March, Grocery ecommerce took a shocking upturn. As mentioned before, people were panic buying the essential items. The following graph, containing data from Rakuten Intelligence, shows a significant increase in the grocery ecommerce.
Other Ecommerce Categories
Along with the grocery items, ecommerce comprises of different products. Common Thread Collectives are providing valuable insight with COVID data on ecommerce shopping behavior. Although the patterns of ecommerce have increased, breaking it down according to products gives a better perspective.
Subscription and convenience services saw a significant increase in revenue and conversion. Nearing the end of October, we notice arts and entertainment, pet and supplies, music, and toys, pulling in the largest number of customer reviews. So much so that they have pushed the food and beverage categories out of the top five.
Changing shopper circumstances
There is a significant evaluation of how the shoppers’ behaviors are inclining towards ecommerce. At the same time, researchers are interested in exploring the reasons behind it.
In a recent survey conducted on over 2800 members of the Influencer community, researchers aimed to find how people work conditions have changed. Only 30% said they had been quickly getting the things they need.
36% of the respondents are still working their regular hours with their usual salary. Meanwhile, 22% have experienced lay-offs, and a further 8% are anticipating some change based on their company’s current situation. The rest, 34%, experienced reduced hours, reduced salaries, were removed, or had to use their paid time off.
As COVID-19 and its impact continue, we are likely to see further changes to people are working situations. This will alter the shopping behaviors of the consumers even more.
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What could this mean for retail?
The shift we have seen in the buying patterns will allow for a modification in the ecommerce industry. It will accelerate innovation and adoption of the latest technologies by the virtual sellers. Companies have to stay on their toes to provide flawless customer service. Be it improving the delivery times, updating the ecommerce website design, utilizing rates and reviews to promote products and services.
The customer of today is trying hard to adapt. There is uncertainty, doubts, and fear. Yet people are working around the circumstances to find the things they need. Expecting to thrive in this climate with the same old business structure can turn out fruitless.
It is essential to follow Darwinism and evolve as the times do. You know your customers, and there is no way you will succeed without a solid ecommerce structure. We hope this post helped you gain some perspective. Let’s hope you will continue to serve your precious customers with enhanced vigor, warmth, and passion.
Usman Ali is a Digital Marketer with good experience in Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Optimization. He is currently working at FME Extensions Dubai – a leading web design and development company in Dubai. He is passionate about Digital Marketing and loves to write on various topics and express his thoughts in the form of write-ups. You can find him on LinkedIn.