In the lasting dredges of a global pandemic, the world's economic and social landscape has been forever changed. From what we buy to how we buy it, e-commerce is shaping our post-pandemic future.
If we’ve learned one thing from the past two years, it's that things can change in an instant — changes we thought we had years to prepare for, behaviours we assumed we'd stick to forever, expectations we have of ourselves and our organizations. This is true of the way you live, work, and shop.
If online retail is helping shape our post-pandemic future, then it’s worth considering what we can learn from today’s e-commerce experience in order to better prepare for tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities. Businesses and consumers alike need to be thinking about how they’ll adapt in a world where an emergency has disrupted their daily lives, information is more accessible than ever before, and the speed of innovation continues to accelerate.
E-commerce then and now
It’s clear that consumers are embracing online shopping, so much so that e-commerce sales are predicted to grow 13.7% in 2021, up to $908 billion. In contrast, the market was worth $586.92 billion in 2019.
Pandemic aside, e-commerce is not just a convenience for consumers, they are also an asset for retailers. In a time of economic uncertainty, online shops are cheaper and more convenient, offering an appealing alternative to traditional retailers. Similarly, online sales allow retailers to expand beyond local markets, into a wider, more lucrative global base.
Inevitable, but not unforeseen, change
This is not the first time that online shopping has given rise to changes in the way businesses operate, but it is certainly one of the most notable. Here are a few other global events that changed the face of shopping:
- In 1796 the world’s first department store, Howell & Co's Grand Fashionable Magazine shop, in London, England. Fashionable women marvelled at the fabrics and designs, sparking a need for more diverse and affordable fashion.
- In 1913 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, which allowed him to cut the price of his Model T in half. This allowed cars to be affordable to average citizens, soon making them a traditional household item.
- In 1962 the first Walmart opens, creating hefty competition with local discount stores. They quickly expanded their product offerings to everything plus the kitchen sink. If you need batteries, paper towels, and a loaf of bread… you know where to go.
The future of online shopping
As e-commerce continues to grow, and as its influence on the post-pandemic world becomes more evident, there are several things we can realistically expect as a result.
First, we can expect to see consumers become more comfortable with online shopping. E-commerce has proven itself to be convenient, effective, and trustworthy. While, in the past, consumers were hesitant to give their information out online, now, it's become commonplace.
The second thing we can expect is for e-commerce sales to continue rising, which will have a big impact on the way retailers market their products and services. It’s important to note that despite this rise in e-commerce sales, brick-and-mortar stores aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Instead, they will simply need to adapt to the new consumer needs and behaviours, including their shifting preferences for where they shop. For example, consumers will be more likely to visit stores that offer free home delivery or allow them to pick up items in-store.
Third, we can expect to see a rise in e-commerce innovations, such as AR and VR shopping experiences. Consumers will be able to try on clothes or see how a product fits into their home with new technology features.
Fourth, we can expect to see social media, and more specifically social media e-commerce, continue to gain traction. Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok have embraced e-commerce and can be used to sell products directly from a business’s profiles.
Finally, we should expect to see an increase in new technology designed specifically for e-commerce businesses. One example of this is the use of chatbots which have been shown to improve online sales rates by up to 50%.
Will small businesses survive in the e-commerce future?
Not only will small businesses survive the shift to digital, but they are expected to thrive. While large corporations (*cough* Amazon *cough*) were the biggest winners of the pandemic, small businesses that adopted e-commerce into their business model saw glowing support from their communities.
In addition, digital technology has made it easier than ever to set up an online store. Platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, and local governments have championed small businesses throughout the pandemic.
The future is e-commerce, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on your local mom-and-pop store (or the more traditional methods of shopping). It just means there will be new ways to shop and new markets to explore.
Ready to dive into the world of e-commerce? Brandcamp built more than a dozen e-commerce websites this summer alone. Our expert team of web designers, developers, brand strategists, and more, can help you kickstart your online shop and increase your revenue online. Contact us.