What are the Lasting Impacts of COVID-19 to Retail and Ecommerce?
September 15, 2020
Strategies for Peak Season and BeyondCOVID-19 has impacted nearly every industry, especially retail and ecommerce. But what changes will be here to stay? For the first half 2020, retailers experienced holiday-like traffic and sales via their digital commerce channels, as retail doors shut and consumers relied on online shopping to fulfill their needs. In Q2 alone, global digital revenues grew by an unprecedented 71% compared to the same period in 2019.
The reality is that digital transformation has accelerated five years into the future in the timespan of a few short months — because it had to. Businesses that were behind on their digital commerce offerings were forced to prioritize online sales and figure out how to offer a contemporary digital customer experience. Those that already had a solid process were able to weather the initial storm with less chaos.
It’s hard to tell exactly how consumer expectations and preferences will change in the future, but here’s what we know going to peak season:
- According to a study released last month, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed consumers’ spending plans for this holiday season, but it will alter their shopping methods and put pressure on retailers already struggling to keep pace with growing e-commerce demands.
- 60% of consumers plan to shop less in-store this season due to fears of COVID-19 exposure. The longer the pandemic lasts, the longer in-store shopping will continue to suffer.
- 55% of retailers say they are investing more in ecommerce website upgrades this holiday season compared to last year, while 54% say they’re putting extra focus toward social media and social commerce.
- Surprisingly, what is considered “a reasonable timeframe” for holiday gift deliveries has shifted. Fifty percent of consumers say 5-days for delivery is reasonable, and 28% stated that one week is acceptable. Knowing this gives retailers the ability to focus on implementing practices that prioritize COVID-19 safety precautions and help them manage the influx of orders
- Due to increased ecommerce shopping, we’re likely to see an increase in returns. Return rates tend to increase when consumers can’t fully test or try an item before purchasing, and it means that it’s more important than ever to have a seamless reverse logistics process in place.
How can retailers prepare?The 2020 holiday season will reward omni-channel retailers. Instead of the recurring and seasonal demand cycles retailers are used to experiencing, in the wake of COVID-19, brands must contend with consistently high demand for ecommerce shopping year-round.
Ahead of the holidays, retailers typically have more time for planning, restocking, product updates, and more. This year, due to the unending volume of online orders, that won’t be the case. Managing inventory and deliveries will require strong omni-channel fulfillment and returns strategies.
Storefronts will be critical to operate as fulfillment centers. Retailers should consider offerings like buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, pick up at curb (BOPAC), which enable health-conscious transactions while also providing shoppers with the immediate gratification of receiving products in-hand. Fulfilling orders in a matter of hours (not days) also allows merchandise to turn faster and enables more accurate demand forecasting, which is especially critical as inventory has been locked in stores for much of the first half of the year.
In summary, ecommerce was already growing quickly each year, and COVID-19 forced even faster growth. Brands and retailers that were lagging in their online shopping offerings had to catch up, and given the lasting impacts of the pandemic (not to mention the behavioral changes it has motivated) the developments we’ve seen in ecommerce are here to stay. As a result, it makes sense for companies to continue improving the customer experience they offer to online shoppers — especially through returns.
As we enter peak season, all of the legwork done as a result of COVID-19 will pay off (and be put to the test!). We recommend load testing to understand how your operation holds up in the case of a surge, and from there, make adjustments until you’re confident with your logistics. Good luck, and if you need help — call us!
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Alex PaskoffAlex Paskoff, Senior Vice President & Managing Director at Ingram Micro Commerce & Lifecycle Services, joined Ingram Micro in 2000. He has an extensive background and experience in the telecommunications and technology industries for over 30 years. In his current position as Senior Vice President, & Managing Director, he is responsible for overseeing all business activities to ensure they are consistent with the overall strategy and mission of Ingram Micro.
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