How Pandemic Shopping Is Moving Stores to E-Commerce

How Pandemic Shopping Is Moving Stores to E-Commerce

Trends | Mar 09, 2021

The coronavirus has put e-commerce at the forefront of retail, changing the way consumers go about their shopping during a pandemic.

While online shopping has been a normal part of consumer behavior for some time now, the reliance on digital purchases has become significantly greater due to the amount of lockdowns and social distancing required.

The impact of COVID-19 on e-commerce

Shopify announced last month that their revenue rose 94% year-to-year, hitting almost $1 billion in their fourth quarter in 2020, raising their full financial year’s overall total to $2.9 billion.

Image of Shopify app

Due to the strict regulations that have prevented customers from shopping in-store, almost all markets have seen a significant increase in online shopping sales within the last year, known as the “coronavirus shopping boom.” Some popular examples include healthcare items, apparel, books, groceries and more.

But what are some of the current and prominent e-commerce trends that have arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic, and how is it changing the e-commerce landscape permanently?

Bankruptcy and the closure of stores

One of the reasons why e-commerce has grown rapidly within the last year is because of the closure of multiple storefronts. The shift from consumers shopping at brick-and-mortar stores to strictly using e-commerce has resulted in a number of popular and beloved retail stores filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Well-known department store J.C. Penny lost half its sales revenue in the beginning stages of the pandemic, increasing its long-term debt to $5 billion, forcing the company to close more stores and eventually file for bankruptcy.

Image of closing sign

Trendy home-goods store Pier 1 was another victim of the pandemic, shutting down over 900 stores — and after failing to find a buyer, decided to liquidate the entire chain.

The ongoing store closures have only heightened the reliance on "coronavirus e-commerce,” as the products once only available in certain stores are now readily available to purchase anywhere online.

The rise of curbside pickup

Retailers struggling to stay open and operational during the pandemic found a creative solution to keep revenue flowing and encourage consumers to come back: curbside pickup.

Curbside pickup goes beyond providing just a solution for contactless shopping. It gives customers a sense of normalcy. People must drive to the store to pick up their purchases, something that has the same, if not more, traction than a pile of packages showing up in front of someone’s door.

This rise is part of the latest e-commerce surge, and has saved thousands of storefronts as the majority of the world shifts to an online market.

Image of curbside pickup

Image via Casey's

Big-box chains like Walmart and Target have had tremendous success with this operation, with Target citing a 700% growth in its “Drive Up” services. 

E-commerce during coronavirus has popularized curbside pickup to the point where it’ll likely last even after the pandemic officially comes to an end, possibly saving more storefronts and changing the way traditional e-commerce operates.

Business makes the switch to e-commerce

With multiple closures occurring and less customers out shopping, many businesses have decided to move their operation to WEB.

Consumer behavior has shifted dramatically, with convenience being one of the most prominent aspects of whether or not a customer makes a purchase.

Stores like Costco, Walgreens, Macy’s and Gap have all made moves to promote their online store more actively, offering special deals like free shipping and exclusive promotions.

The shift to a more e-commerce heavy focus has catapulted the way businesses strategize to boost sales and increase customer retention.

Image of ecommerce store

Due to the now intensified online competition, e-commerce players are buckling down on customer loyalty programs, subscriptions and a wider range of products available for purchase.

It’s likely that more businesses will begin to move to online operations in the future, simply due to customer demands and better profitability in the long run.

What’s a business to do

Overall, the impact of COVID-19 on e-commerce will have long-lasting effects on online shopping even after active cases begin to dwindle and physical stores reopen again. Online shopping increase during the pandemic has officially changed business’s e-commerce game for good, forever altering consumer behavior and demands.

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