It’s an extreme understatement to say that COVID-19 changed the world and how we live. However, not all of those changes were negative. In terms of marketing, and specifically e-commerce, a great deal of what arose out of necessity during the global pandemic will likely be sticking around long after the actual virus finally disappears.
Popularity of Online Shopping
Although online shopping was around long before COVID-19, it experienced a surge in popularity that’s not likely to go away. Nearly half of all shoppers utilize online shopping more than they did before the pandemic began. Even now that stores have opened up in many areas, the convenience and reliability of online shopping has many consumers continuing to make their purchases online.
Another common trend that gained popularity during Covid was online shopping with in-store pickup. This allows consumers to purchase online, but get their items much faster than they would through traditional online shopping. This has been a big shift for e-commerce retailers, some of which were not equipped to handle in-store pickup before the pandemic. However, the ferocity with which the world changed forced retailers to quickly adapt.
New Categories of E-Commerce
Traditionally, e-commerce revolved around consumer goods, such as clothing, electronics and books. However, the pandemic necessitated the online purchasing of a much wider variety of items.
Whereas only 19 percent of consumers had purchased groceries online prior to 2020, 79 percent of shoppers bought groceries online during the pandemic. Again, most supermarkets were ill-equipped for this shift in consumer behavior. Third-party shopping services like Instacart and Shipt have massively grown in popularity since the outbreak of the pandemic. And while it’s not uncommon to see crowded grocery stores once again, third-party shopping services remain in high demand, thanks in large part to the continued use of those that relied on them during the darkest days of the pandemic.
Grocery shopping isn’t the only new online shopping category that’s seen a massive explosion since the outbreak of COVID-19. Prescription medication is also experiencing a drastic increase in online sales. CVS saw its online prescription demand increase tenfold as the pandemic began. While online prescription fulfillment was available before Covid, it was not widely used. Today, it’s increasingly popular among patients, who find that they are not only able to get their medications without going to the store, but they’re also able to get 90-day prescriptions online. This increases their prescription compliance and ensures they’ll stay as healthy as possible.
Though not related to e-commerce goods, telehealth has gone from virtually non-existent to a must-have in the minds of many patients. Medical practices that don’t offer an online option stand the risk of losing patients to other providers that are willing to work with remote patients.
Decline of Brand Loyalty
We’ve all experienced the decreased importance of brand loyalty during the pandemic. If a store had hand sanitizer or toilet paper, it didn’t matter what brand it was—we were just glad to find it. The same principle has held true in online shopping.
In short, everything has been up for grabs since Covid emerged. Three out of four customers tried out new shopping behaviors, whether it be online shopping or senior-specific hours. The main goal of these consumers was added convenience, which they found in their new behaviors. Those old loyalties were quickly abandoned in the name of staying safe and operating under the new normal.
Additionally, 39 percent of shoppers ditched brands for new ones. This shift was led by Millennials and Gen-Z consumers. While these groups are well-known for their shifting loyalties, this is a significant number that shows that nothing is guaranteed anymore. Brands and retailers will have to continue to push the envelope in terms of convenience offerings to customers, or else those individuals might support the competition instead.
Increased Importance of Corporate Responsibility
During the pandemic, consumers had plenty of time to sit home and read about the state of the world. As injustices and social inequities rose to the surface, particularly in relation to the George Floyd murder, consumers have become very passionate about social issues, and they demand that the brands they support do the same.
Today, consumers have access to endless information about the companies from which they buy. That information isn’t limited to merely prices and shipping times. Consumers now want to know what causes those businesses support. They want to know what percentage of each sale goes to charity. They want to see that companies are responding to current events, and that they’re not using social injustices as a way to increase profits.
This trend will only continue to be more prominent in the future, as consumers become more educated and more aware of what’s happening around them. Online retailers that have demonstrated their charitable nature have been able to thrive in this climate, since shoppers will specifically seek these businesses out. Their social awareness and giving have become competitive advantages in the Covid landscape, where factors like treatment of employees have become highly publicized.
Focus on Convenience
The pandemic has taken a drastic toll on the physical health of the world. It’s also done a number on the mental health of many people. We’re all getting a crash course in how important mental health is, and how critical it is to avoid unnecessary things that damage mental health.
An underlying factor in the shift to online and contactless purchasing is that it’s simply more convenient for most people. People aren’t going to rush out to a store and risk coming into contact with Covid if they don’t have to. They aren’t going to spend hours in a grocery store if it’ll stress them out and make them upset. In short, people are choosing to prioritize themselves—and the technology and options exist that will allow them to do just that.
COVID-19 has taken a lot from the world. But it’s also shown us how important family, downtime and happiness are. E-commerce allows people to easily and quickly handle shopping, so that they can focus on the things they truly care about. That’s a lesson learned in this pandemic that won’t go away anytime soon.
The trends we’ve discussed have transformed the e-commerce marketplace. Just as many things will never be the same because of Covid, marketing is no exception. In 2022, the industry will only continue to shift as convenience and integrity will continue to be a priority for businesses anchored online.
For strategic guidance on how your brand can best take advantage of the latest trends in e-commerce in a post COVID-19 world, contact us at Commit Agency today.