In this article we look at the effects lockdown has had on eCommerce shopping trends, how online buying trends may continue post lockdown, and how businesses are making the most of the opportunity.
I write this article as we approach the end of the nation’s third, and hopefully final lockdown. When the news came back in late 2020 that we would yet again be facing the harsh restrictions as we saw back in March and November it was as expected as it was unsettling. At long last we finally see lockdown start to come to an end, and look forward to hanging out and hugging friends and family again. With the idea of normality seeming so close, it would be naive to assume everything will go back exactly as it was. Lockdown’s effects will be felt for a very long time, and some changes may even become permanent.
The global pandemic has had a huge impact on our day-to-day lives, from the sacrificing of our personal freedoms we had taken for granted, to widespread furloughing, and the accepted normality of queues at supermarkets, our lives have been altered dramatically. We’ve seen big changes in our working lives too. Industries across the board have had to rethink their longer-term strategies as well as day-to-day operations.
Many sectors have been forced to quickly adapt to survive, doing their best to stay afloat and keep revenue coming in. A few areas have seen growth, particularly those based in or near to the digital space. Brands like Netflix, Slack, Zoom, and Tiktok have seen incredible increases in users and share prices, with Zoom becoming so much a part of everyday life that its name, like Google before it, has evolved, from noun to verb.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdowns have been a huge blow to our economy, with businesses of all sizes having to shut up shop for the duration, some sadly never to reopen.
The high street, already in trouble prior to COVID, has been delivered what comes close to a death blow, with consumers looking to online outlets as an alternative to traditional shopping, leaving high-streets and shopping centers eerily empty. This ‘twilight of the high street’ has been on the cards for some time, with many economists citing the current, rather bleak situation shops face as inevitable, with COVID having only accelerated what was already written in the stars.7
Lots of industries have been hit incredibly hard by the crisis, less agile sectors like hospitality or travel, unable to move their business practices to the internet have suffered the most. Whilst the media paints a pretty bleak picture, it is good to bear in mind the other side of the situation and the opportunities this new landscape presents to those willing to think differently.
Many businesses have already successfully adapted to this brave new world, changing their sales, marketing and working practices in ways that have had positive effects on business and staff alike. Some of these changes, such as remote working, increased focus on eCommerce sales, or more digitally focussed marketing strategies, are things that have proved to be highly beneficial and will likely carry on afterlife goes back to normal.
At Above Digital we have seen a huge uptake in clients looking at eCommerce in more serious ways. Quick adaptation to a more digitally weighted eCommerce Strategy has saved many businesses from disaster. From restaurants offering superb ‘cook at home’ menus to pet shops delivering pet food to your door, lockdown buying habits have accelerated and widened the use of eCommerce across the board.
Based on a survey of 2,000 U.K. consumers by PFS, an eCommerce order fulfillment solutions provider, 39% of respondents reported that they had been encouraged by the crisis to shop online for everyday products such as pet food, which they had previously bought only in person.1
Buying products online, even those that traditionally would have involved a quick trip to the local supermarket has become easier than ever. The average consumer is far more comfortable with using the internet to shop, being more familiar now with online payment gateways such as Stripe.
The overall experience has become much more casual. You can sit on your phone and order Christmas presents, top-up on washing powder, or go clothes shopping whilst you watch Netflix. Whilst this isn’t anything new, after all we’ve been shopping online for years, it feels that the distance between the high street and our couch is smaller than ever.
It’s not all just about traditional eCommerce website design. An increasing number of consumers choose to use eCommerce apps such as Amazon or Asos to order products as opposed to using websites. We have the high street on our phone and a personalised shopping experience is a mere icon click away. In the UK alone 63% of mobile web users are regularly shopping with native and progressive web apps. This compares with 83% using chat apps and 82% on social media apps.2
It is clear that the smartphone is evermore the weapon of choice and thus well designed mobile-first websites and effective eCommerce web apps are going to become even more important. An ever-wider cross-section of businesses looking to apps as well as their websites to help them stay connected with shoppers.
People have moved from desktops and now the mobile phone is king. Before COVID, back in 2019, 58.9% of eCommerce was attributable to smartphones. By 2023, that proportion will swell to 71.2%.3 with COVID only speeding things up3. This trend is set to level out after lockdown, but will ultimately see a steady increase over the next few years.
When you mention eCommerce the first retailer that comes to mind is of course Amazon. ‘The big A’ is seen by many as the enemy of small businesses, with its website and app claiming a huge portion of online sales. However, when it comes to online consumer buying habits the game is far from over!
Despite the online giant taking a huge portion of the market share, there is still plenty of space for smaller independents to stake their claim. Those willing to create their own online shopping experience through great web and app designs and make the effort to connect with their customer base online in a much more targeted, personal way are set to benefit.
Many shoppers choose to deliberately browse interesting independent websites instead of the far less interesting pages of Amazon. Discovering intriguing eCommerce websites that speak to them through great design and brand execution, creates a similar enjoyment and ‘buyer buzz’ one would experience browsing the equivalent ‘real world’ shops.
Through great apps, exciting user experience website design, engaging content, a strong social strategy, and the integration of platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, Magneto and Big Cartel, it’s possible to create highly engaging shopping experiences online. Shopping experiences that are memorable, exciting, rewarding, and inspire brand loyalty. At Above Digital we have helped numerous clients refine their online proposition, expand eCommerce operations and evolve their brand through exciting web design and user experience.
The opportunity that eCommerce presents the small business owner, means that businesses are thriving online. The Fashion and Apparel sector alone has seen the largest number of businesses opening eCommerce sites in 2019, with 8,665 clothing companies adding online payment methods and new eCommerce technology4
The online opportunity presented to retailers by the continued adoption of eCommerce that has been accelerated by lockdown is clear. It is important for any business to seriously consider ways they can use eCommerce to their advantage, not just to avoid being left behind, but to positively grow.
The eCommerce market is expanding all the time, UK consumers estimated to have spent £141.33 billion online in 2020, up a massive 34.7% from 2019. This significant increase will see eCommerce account for more than 30% of total retail sales in the UK for the first time. In 2019, that share stood at just 21.8%.5
The rise in popularity of eCommerce means that whilst more people are spending more online, the marketplace is becoming increasingly busy with lots of companies vying for the same pool of attention. It’s more important than ever to ensure your website not only reaches the right audience but also engages with them and through a wider strategy, promotes brand loyalty.
Whilst there are numerous DIY options out there to help you start your online enterprise, it’s valuable to have experts (like us at Above Digital) to help you get up and running the right way. Creating a unique shopping experience, one that people will talk about, share, and come back to is as important online as it is on the high street.
The near future will see further, rapid developments. 5G will mean technologies like augmented reality, and virtual reality will be available to anyone via their smartphone, allowing the shopper to visualise exactly what that new couch they wanted is going to look like in their home. Suddenly the online shopping experience begins to not only rival that of the real world but becomes more exciting. For example, Ikea has integrated artificial reality with their app named Place.
Shoppers can now use the camera of their smartphone to virtually place different home furnishings into their surroundings. The program allows users to interact with the projected images and envisions how they would look in various spaces. This helps customers find the perfect piece of furniture without having to return items that they imagined would fit. Initial adoption of AR and VR by certain forward-thinking companies has already seen very positive reactions from consumers, with 71% of consumers saying they would shop more regularly with an online retailer if they adopted AR6.
Now is the perfect time to strategise ways to reach customers who may not even be aware of what it is you offer. The internet after all is global, meaning your products or services can reach an almost unlimited audience, there really is no better time to start. As with any online venture it’s important to not only consider the look and feel of your website and branding but also the user journey and overall experience, ensuring customers engage, remain loyal, and come back time and time again.
Moving your business online and adopting eCommerce can be a daunting task. A good agency can help you identify the best way to adapt your business for eCommerce and help you plan, design and build your website design. From Coffee roaster Kingdom Coffee, to eco Jewelry retailer Salvari, and online insurance provider OneClickCover, we have helped many of our clients create beautiful, very successful online shopping experiences, tailored perfectly to their audience.
At Above Digital, we would love to show you how the opportunities current eCommerce buying trends present for your business. To find out how we can help you make the most of this opportunity get in touch with our team.
Check out some of our eCommerce projects here:
Salvari Eco Jewellery
Written by Rich Lock
Head of Design