The impact of COVID on eCommerce

Find out how the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have changed the way we shop.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has been a challenge for everyone on many levels. Our personal health has been threatened, and mental wellbeing is difficult to maintain in such uncertainty.

Specialised Shopify agency Chorus Commerce has reviewed 100 of their own clients to evaluate the impact this time has had on the business of online shopping.

During the lockdown, we became reliant on the internet for our shopping. We delighted in receiving our favourite brands through postal services. The rise in eCommerce is exciting, as the sector is seeing a 12-year high for sales. Not since 2008 has there been such a wave of popularity for buying from online stores.

However, this was a moving story, and while the start of lockdown was terrific for most, by the end, the economic uncertainty kicked in. For instance, at the beginning of lockdown hair care products, gifts, health products, and DIY were up close to or over 100% of previous levels.

By the end of the period though, the numbers were down dramatically. Only jewellery and fashion maintained a positive trend.

Our move to DIY

While we looked towards the internet for products to undertake home improvement. As we saw services that we generally rely on close down for the period, we changed our habits and looked to do it all for ourselves. Around 40% of Brits were said to have undertaken a home improvement project during the furlough period and the cancellation of weekend and evening plans.

Equally, there was a disturbing trend for home haircuts. There was a massive rise in the internet searches for how to cut hair. Indeed, social media was strewn with pictures of the disasters that happened as a result.

It is not surprising that as the lockdown progressed that this demand lessened. It was also predictable that once we could, we would go back to the professionals who actually know what they are doing. Therefore, the time in the sun for eCommerce in these sectors was welcome but never sustainable.

Fashion and jewellery

There was a boost to eCommerce shopping in fashion and jewellery but nowhere to the same level as other sectors. Yet, while there wasn’t a significant lift in demand at the start of the lockdown, there was no drop either.

It is not surprising when fashion and jewellery could be considered a luxury item. When we are living a financially uncertain life, we might not feel like we can splash out.

There may be other reasons why there was a lack of demand. During this period, there were no weddings and formal events were cancelled. People had also stopped travelling for business, and conventions were cancelled.

Equally, people had no need for the holiday wardrobe shop. Finally, with people working from home, most potential buyers succumbed to pyjamas and sweatpants – so no need for new shirts, ties, and shoes.

So, if there was so much loss of demand, how come ordering still went up? Well, first, jewellery is often chosen as gifts. Second, people have been internet surfing and buying lots – the problem – they are also returning a lot of products. Yet, the good news in this second point for sellers of clothes is that people were less willing to go to the post office to make the return.

Looking to the future

The trends of rise-and-fall in eCommerce might merely be the same uncertainty felt by the rest of society. However, there is no doubt that online shopping is going to get bigger the more we are encouraged to stay at home.

What is worth noting though is that more businesses will have been preparing for the second wave and organising to see products online and deliver remotely. Therefore, while the demand will likely continue to be high, there is also a chance that the competition will get fiercer.

Consequently, for those looking to sell online, there is more pressure than ever to have an easily accessible online store and digital presence. There is a group of the population that has only ever bought in person and will need help to find their favourite brand online. It is more vital than ever to hold the customer by the hand and guide them to purchase.

In short, industries will need to adapt their approach as culture changes. The backbone of the national economy is going to change, and everyone is going to have to find a way of working differently.

It is not just that we are working from home now but also shopping from home. Companies are going to have to adapt and show agility in such a changing landscape.

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Armagh, NI. She has previous experience as a website editor and journalist. She currently works with Chorus Commerce.

Photo by Igor Miske