What the Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Behavior Means for eCommerce in 2021

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After months of grappling with the severe impact of a global pandemic, the introduction of a COVID vaccine gives economies across the globe a hopeful outlook to returning to life "pre-COVID-19" in the new year. While this is much-welcomed news, the impact of COVID-19 wasn't just biological, it has had a significant effect on consumer behavior, consequently affecting both eCommerce and brick and mortar enterprises. So, now that things are slowly going back to "normal"; what does this mean for businesses? Should you change your eCommerce strategy post-COVID-19?

The Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Behavior

Here is the effect COVID-19 has had on consumers, and what the changes mean to businesses, especially those in the eCommerce space.

More Consumers Will Stick to Online Shopping

Black swan events tend to alter the trajectory of history in ways no one ever saw coming. In 2020-2004, for instance, the SARS pandemic catalyzed the growth of eCommerce and led to the birth of giants like Ali Baba as businesses saw the need to find alternative ways to reach consumers.

Fast-forward to 2020; the COVID-19 pandemic has further magnified the need for businesses to focus on a strong online presence as consumers now prefer to do their shopping online. For instance, retailers saw a 14% increase in eCommerce sales during the start of the pandemic between March 23 and March 30. Almost six months later, the trend continued, with eCommerce spending reportedly increasing by 30%.

If you are in eCommerce, we've got even some better news for you. Despite things going back to normal, a majority of consumers will reportedly stick to online shopping. According to a PYMNT survey, about 52% of consumers stated they'd continue shopping for groceries online. A separate survey echoes the same sentiments as about 58% of online shoppers in the US claimed they'd continue to shop online to curb their exposure to COVID-19.

What's more, this change isn't just restricted to the US. It's a global paradigm shift. For instance, a study shows that about 60% of European consumers plan on staying committed to eCommerce post-COVID-19. What this means is that although brick and mortar stores will remain a staple in the business world, eCommerce will be the way to go for every enterprise that survives the pandemic.

The result? There will be increased sales as more consumers will do even the bare minimum online (grocery shopping). At the same time, there will be increased competition in the eCommerce space as more businesses continue to shift their focus to strengthening their online presence. As a result, existing eCommerce enterprises will indeed need to change their eCommerce strategies post-COVID-19 to increase visibility and maintain a competitive edge.

Consumers Will Expect Empathy and Increased Transparency from Businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic saw nearly 100,000 SMEs close indefinitely as social distancing, and self-quarantine restrictions were enforced countrywide. This saw about 22 million Americans file for unemployment, while others packed up and left major cities.  Even though things are slowly easing into the new normal, most consumers still feel vulnerable as they're yet to bounce back financially.

As a result, they're more responsive towards and inclined to work with empathetic and transparent brands.  As a result, now more than ever, eCommerce businesses need not only to show their current and prospective customers they recognize their hardships, but also prove their empathy. This means changing the brand voice and actions to align with compassion and transparency.  

For instance, during this year's St. Patrick celebrations, Guinness did not urge its consumers to go into pubs or form celebratory gatherings as it usually does. The brand instead encouraged consumers to stay safe and be kind to each other. It also preached cohesion by reminding consumers of how strong they are when they stick together.  Earlier this year, the brand also offered 1.5 million euros in support of communities affected by the pandemic in Ireland.

Increased Sensitivity to Health Concerns

We've all been witnesses to how bad a pandemic can get. As of writing, there have been over 1.7 million confirmed COVID-19 deaths, and although we're slowly adjusting, we still face the uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds as the vaccine makes its way to homes across the globe. Thanks to this, consumers will continue to take their health more seriously and will prioritize businesses that go the extra mile to safeguard it.

Ecommerce businesses must change their strategies post-COVID-19 and incorporate incentives that appeal to the new wave of health-conscious consumers. They'll continue to shop online but will be more motivated to work with eCommerce retailers who offer safe shipping, delivery, and payment options.

Let the Experts Handle Order Fulfilment

Even though "life pre-COVID" is on the horizon, COVID-19 has changed the world as we used to know it and the changes in consumer behavior highlighted above are sufficient proof. So, yes, eCommerce businesses will have to change their strategies post COVID-19. While change is never easy, partnering with experts in eCommerce can allow you to focus on meeting your customers' new expectations in 2021. Speak to a representative today to find out how Rakuten Super Logistics can improve your order fulfillment in the new year, to save you time and money.

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