After spending the best part of 18 months living with lockdown restrictions it’s difficult to imagine anything different. But one day (very soon – we hope) we are going to leave restrictions behind us and enter a post-covid world. But what will that look like for ecommerce businesses? Let’s take a look…
The changing face of online shopping during the pandemic: 2020 – 2021
With physical stores forced to close for extended periods and people encouraged to stay indoors throughout 2020 and into 2021, it was only natural that shoppers would retreat from the high street and turn to online shopping – we at Echo certainly did just that.
People flocked to online businesses to purchase almost everything, from essential groceries and services to more luxury items. With the spotlight placed on supporting local, even smaller businesses were able to bag a boost in revenue too.
For ecommerce businesses big and small, covid presented an opportunity to thrive by attracting an influx of new customers.
Many online businesses benefited from this once in a century pandemic, arguably one of the few silver linings to what has been a very difficult time for many.
But is this haven for ecommerce set to continue, or is the proposed end of restrictions on 19th July set to turn the tide back to how things used to be pre-covid?
In other words, is the party over for ecommerce businesses this summer?
Let’s take a closer look…
Have things already started changing?
Yes, they have.
Taking a look at May 2021 compared to May 2020, the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Sales Index found that online sales in the UK fell by 9.1%.
This was the largest drop on record since the Index began in 2000.
This may sound drastic, but it’s important to remember that this past year saw an unusually high growth rate. So that supposed significant drop in online sales is not as steep as it might first appear!
How did online shopping change in the UK during covid?
Online sales soared
A June 2021 report from Ofcom found British shoppers spent a total £113 billion online throughout 2020, a rise of 48% compared to 2019.
Whilst big players like Amazon had their most successful year to date, it wasn’t just big business that saw sales soar – thanks to lockdown, people chose to support local businesses more than ever before.
There was a rise across many ecommerce business sectors, including food and drink, household goods and fashion.
Even second-hand ecommerce sites sales and traffic soared throughout 2020.
According to an article published in Fashion United, eBay reported a 30% increase in second-hand sales in June 2020, compared to March.
January was a good month
The lockdown announcement for the new year caused a record-breaking growth in sales.
Oddly, January 2021 was busier than November and December combined. This is particularly unusual for the UK, with most ecommerce businesses usually seeing a significant decrease due to people needing to save-up after a busy Christmas spending period.
So, if you saw an unusual spike in traffic and purchases in January 2021, this might just help to explain it. And fast-forwarding to January next-year, this may explain why your year-on-year comparisons look drastically different.
Shopping got social
Throughout lockdown, people didn’t just go directly to websites through search engines, they also turned to social media.
Research from Bazaarvoice found a universal increase in shopping across social media channels.
- TikTok – 553%
- Pinterest – 356%
- Instagram – 189%
- Facebook – 160%
In the UK, TikTok easily came out as the social channel with the most growth with a 553% increase in sales. However, Instagram was the most popular shopping platform with 64% of users buying at least one product since the pandemic began, compared with only 24% of TikTok users.
What’s next for ecommerce?
Will things go back to how they were before covid, or will online shopping remain an increasingly popular way to shop?
As with many questions like this, there is no one size fits all answer. And, neither do we have a crystal ball that will reveal how things will change. No one saw covid coming and there’s no knowing what changes are just around the corner. However, what we do know is that there is plenty of market research out there which provides helpful forecasts on which online shopping trends are likely to stay and which will slowly burn out.
It may depend on which business sector you’re in. Whilst the trend of online grocery shopping, click and collect and purchasing of electronics and technology looks set to stay, a deep dive article published by Econsultancy predicted that fashion items are more likely to be bought in store.
The article also reported that nearly 60% of shoppers expect to return to their old shopping habits by the end of 2021. Many cited being able to try out products, and socialising with friends as a reason for doing so.
That being said, we’re pretty sure people aren’t going to get bored of online shopping anytime soon. For starters, it offers convenience. Assuming your ecommerce business offers a good level of customer service, customers may even prefer to shop that way. In fact, in a study involving 9,000 global shoppers, 54% said they found browsing new products online more enjoyable than in-store, offering an optimistic outlook and suggesting that online purchases may not decline that much after all.
As reported in the SensorTower Mobile Market Forecast for 2021 into 2025, spending on mobile is also expected to grow both in the UK and globally, meaning that you should continue to optimise your site for mobile, especially if your target audience already favours this platform.
If you’re basking in the glory of increased website visits, conversions, purchases and ultimately revenue, it’s sensible to anticipate and prepare for a slight drop in traffic and sales going into the second half of 2021 (especially when looking at year-on-year reports).
If you’ve already seen a gradual decline in traffic or conversions on your website, before going into full panic mode and wondering where you’re going wrong, it’s worth taking note of the changes in the covid scene and how this is impacting the overall ecommerce landscape.
By far the easiest way to see whether online demand for your products has changed is to use Google Trends. Simply type in your main business product, such as ‘furniture’ or ‘clothes’, and select the appropriate country and time frame. You should be able to see at a glance how these keywords have peaked or troughed over time. This can be a great indicator of whether factors outside of your control (such as a pandemic) are a plausible culprit behind a notable change in traffic on your ecommerce website.
In other words, it might not be you! People are simply adjusting their shopping habits in accordance with the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
And when it comes to comparing your year-on-year growth, it’s important not to get too disheartened or alarmed by a significant reduction when comparing last year’s report with this year’s, which is likely to look very different.
It has been an extraordinary year after all.
However, this doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels. Increased competition and an increasingly dynamic and changing landscape, means all ecommerce businesses should keep an eye on what they could be doing to actively boost conversions and revenue.
Contact Echo today for a free audit.
Whatever post-lockdown throws your way, digital marketing agencies are there to keep you informed and thriving in an ever-changing landscape. Through the highs and the lows, we can keep you performing at your best.
We don’t cut corners on our audits and always stay on top of the latest changes and trends to ensure your ecommerce website has the best chance of success – in a post-covid world and beyond.
We’ll review your ecommerce website with a fine tooth comb, considering SEO, CRO, PPC and more. From there, a member of our team will be in touch to suggest improvements.Contact Us Give Us A Call