Reports of the death of traditional retail are often greatly exaggerated. While the rise of online shopping and eCommerce has been plain to see, opinions differ widely on whether this actually means that traditional retail is reaching its demise or about to enjoy a golden age.
In fact, according to some suggestions, eCommerce is set to overtake physical retail in terms of worth in sales by 2024. While for others, the traditional retail industry is resilient and advances in technology are in fact ushering in a new age of success for stores and other traditional retail outlets.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed a few things, and businesses across the world have been affected. So it would not be surprising to learn that this has had an impact on the battle between eCommerce and traditional retail sales.
Here we take a look at whether COVID-19 could serve as the tipping point for eCommerce sales becoming more important than traditional retail – and whether this would signify the end of
A rise in online sales through COVID-19
There can be no doubt that online sales have seen a huge boost as a result of COVID-19. In April, online retail sales grew by 23.8% year-on-year which was a ten-year high. In July, online sales grew 55% year-on-year. It’s not hard to understand why – the impact of many retail stores being forced to close through lockdown, therefore limiting buying options for customers, along with potentially extra time at home browsing the internet has been a real win for eCommerce sites.
But, of course, the interesting thing to consider is whether this is a temporary boost for eCommerce, which will that normalise as customers get more used to living with COVID-19, or is it a real sign that more people are embracing online shopping than ever before, and will be unlikely to go back.
Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that businesses are keen to capitalise on this rise in sales – and it could be the case that as companies put more of their efforts into eCommerce, this will naturally bring physical retail customers to their online shop.
Businesses are making the most of remote workers
One sign that eCommerce could become the dominant form of shopping is the fact that companies have embraced remote working. Through COVID-19, businesses were, in many cases, forced to ask individuals to work from home due to the lockdown, and even after this was relaxed, working remotely has been far more common.
“More people than ever are working from home, especially through the coronavirus pandemic,” says James Martlew, Director at Netcom IT Solutions “and this looks set to become a greater feature of working life in the future, so now could be the perfect time to ensure that your business is correctly set up to carry out remote working”.
With more people getting used to working remotely and providing services without being in-person, it could lead to businesses becoming comfortable with an ‘online only’ service – even those that have previously been a physical retail company.
More companies are investing in eCommerce
It is also true that many companies are using the downtime through COVID-19 to invest more in their online presence and their eCommerce store. Businesses are beginning to understand more about conversion rate optimisation – improving aspects of the website that make customers more likely to buy.
Ecommerce sites such as printing specialists YouLovePrint, have been investing in slick website features, such as automatically updating pricing when changes are made to the number of products (as seen below).
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These sorts of user experience feature are often not especially costly from web design and development perspective but can have a huge impact on conversion rates, as an unexpected price change is one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment on eCommerce sites.
Better websites that are optimised for sales could result in the numbers skewing further towards online shopping as old barriers are removed and customers feel more comfortable.
While it does seem likely that COVID-19 has created an environment that benefits online shopping more than ever before, physical retail is still hugely important. It may be a long time still until eCommerce supplants traditional retail, but it does seem that COVID-19 has been a big step in that direction.