Predicting the long-term effects of coronavirus on ecommerce and retail


Across the world, the coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on the global economy. More than ever before, retailers are feeling the heat. However, with many countries looking to ease lockdown restrictions, many are left wondering what our world will look like post-pandemic. In this article, we will explore these effects and take a look at predictions of the lasting effect that COVID-19 will have on the retail economy.

Consumers will be slow to return to public places and brick and mortar businesses

% who say that, once shops reopen, they will start visiting within the indicated time periods

While under lockdown, consumers have turned largely to online shopping for groceries and other essential items. With these restrictions likely to ease, a global average 47% of consumers indicated that they are not likely to return to brick and mortar stores for ‘some time’ or a ‘long time’.

Concerns about safety (along with an affinity for convenience) are driving these decisions. According to Global Web Index, ‘future behaviours centre around minimising personal risk; in some cases people plan to achieve that by spending less time in public places, while in others it is through more usage of things like home delivery, digital communication, and staying in the local area rather than venturing further afield.’

With long queues to enter stores, limited product availability and a host of germs that lurk within supermarkets, it is not surprising that such a high percentage of shoppers will continue to embrace home delivery and click & collect, even when restrictions ease.

Purchases of nonessential and luxury items likely to be delayed

In the UK, 18% of shoppers have been furloughed, while 24% have experienced a pay cut and 7% have lost their jobs entirely. While we hope to see some recovery in the job market in the upcoming months, it may take a while before finances are stable enough for the average shopper to justify luxury purchases like home appliances, clothing, vacations and new technology.

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% who say they’ve delayed purchasing the indicated products as a result of the coronavirus outbreak

Flexible payment options and promotions will be key decision drivers

Although consumers will be less likely to make large or unnecessary purchases, they will still be looking for a bit of retail therapy. Globally, 19% of consumers indicated that they will be looking for flexible payment options (e.g. pay in instalments) and 32% indicated that they will be on the lookout for promotions, discounts and sales for these items.

‘Those who have delayed purchasing a technology device are twice as likely to say they will wait for it to be on promotion/offer as they are to look for cheaper options from the same brand’, said Global Web Index. ‘They are also almost four times more likely to hold out for promotions rather than looking for cheaper options from an alternative brand.’

Luxury items (like designer shoes, clothing, fragrances) will follow a similar trend. Those who have delayed a luxury purchase during the pandemic are more likely to wait for a promotion than to settle for a cheaper alternative.

These examples prove that there is a clear opportunity for online retailers to capitalise on brand loyalty and encourage spending through offers and promotions. If you are an online retailer, especially one specialising in one of the aforementioned industries, it is going to be more important than ever to communicate the availability of promotions and sales to your customers, whether via social media channels or email marketing updates.

Permanent increase in online purchasing behaviours

Consumers have become increasingly accustomed to looking online for everyday purchases, rather than taking a trip to a local shop. When the outbreak is over, 28% of UK shoppers expect to continue shopping online more frequently than they did in the past. When it comes to food delivery and takeaway services, 10% of UK consumers say they expect to order more takeaway when the outbreak is over than they did prior.

post outbreak shopping behaviours
% who say they expect to do the indicated after the outbreak is over

Post-lockdown, home delivery and in-store collection will continue to see increased popularity, with 40% of global consumers indicating that they intend to buy online for home delivery more than in the past. In fact, home delivery will be twice as popular as click & collect options.

Convenience and safety are, once again, the key drivers here with consumers looking to reduce the amount of time spent inside stores. While some consumers will continue to purchase in-store, an increasing number of consumers intend to spend more time researching online before travelling to a brick and mortar shop to make a purchase.

Among the industries who will be most affected by a shift toward home delivery and in-store collection are clothing, personal care products, household essentials, food/grocery products and cosmetic/beauty products.

Free and reliable delivery methods to be key factors in influencing online purchases

With an overall increase in consumers relying on home delivery services, it is no surprise that the speed and reliability of delivery services will increase in importance as well. Among consumers surveyed, 48% of UK shoppers say they expect free delivery to be more important than ever before.

In summary, it is no understatement to say that ecommerce is going to become increasingly important in the global marketplace following the impact of COVID-19. Overall consumers will certainly be more likely to shop online, avoid unnecessary contact with the general public and lean towards free delivery options.

If your business has not begun to develop its online presence yet, or is looking to improve and expand your ecommerce efforts look no further than EKM, the UK’s #1 ecommerce platform. EKM offers unparalleled UK support and an intuitive user experience, you’ll have everything you need to sell online.

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Unless otherwise noted, statistics have been gathered from GlobalWebIndex’s April 2020 Multi-market Coronavirus Research.

If you’d like to learn more about setting up your own online shop, read on for more insights into running your own online business here.

Posted by
Jessie Caldwell

Florida born and based in Preston, Jessie is a Digital Marketing Exec who loves event planning and social media strategy.