The Pandemic and Its Impact on the Future of E-commerce
You may have heard of the global catastrophic event that is still ongoing and clogging hospitals all over the world, and if you haven’t, welcome back to society. We missed you while you were stranded on that deserted island. The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered every aspect of all our lives and created a shared trauma that will be carried for quite a while. Now, I’m just some weirdo that writes an e-commerce blog, so I’m not going to delve further into the COVID stuff, beyond what is necessary for the topic at hand, but I will say that it is important that we look after each other and do what we can to get through this thing as intact as is possible.
Now, with that out of the way, let me explain why I brought it up. E-commerce is booming because of the pandemic. Online shopping has skyrocketed due to COVID fears and shutdowns. More people are staying home and letting their goods come to them than ever before. There is a lot of conflicting information on the exact percentages, so since this is an informal blog we’ll ignore numbers this week. Suffice to say that even with those conflicting numbers they all agree that people are shopping online more than ever. The question is, then, what does that mean for e-commerce. Let’s take a look at some of the trends and engage in some wild speculation. I will be ordering my points from what I believe is most likely to occur to what I believe is least likely to happen, but still a possibility.
Return to Storefronts
This point seems pretty obvious to me. As COVID gets more and more under control and people begin to feel safer in leaving their house, there is going to be a desire to be back in the world as opposed to staying home. Online shopping has hit its peak. That doesn’t mean e-commerce is about to crash, quite the contrary really, we will continue to see massive online sales. Those sales just aren’t going to stay at the levels they were when storefronts were closed and heavy mandates were implemented for public safety. People are likely going to stick to the convenience of shopping from home while not wearing pants. I do believe we will see a brief dip in e-commerce because of a desire to return to society when people feel safe in any way they can. Then e-commerce will rebound because the return to society won’t be centered around shopping so much because why would you ever want to leave your house to shop if you can save the effort of leaving your house for more important things. It is, in fact, very possible we are currently seeing that dip a bit in the United States currently, but even at its lowest, e-commerce isn’t going anywhere.
The Value of Experiences
With this point I may be speculating entirely based on my personal experiences and preferences, but I believe we are due for an increase in a desire for experiences over goods. Consumerism certainly isn’t going anywhere. People still need things. There is a fair bit of speculation on this, so I’m not the only one who believes this to be the case. Most of the speculation comes with generational divide, with outlets like Forbes posting that millennials are prioritizing experiences in a massive way, even before the pandemic. The bulk of my own speculation is the belief that this focus on experiencing is only going to increase in the aftermath of COVID.
Tying into this need to experience rather than to own, I believe e-commerce will continue to play a huge role in the lives of those that place their priorities in experiences. Someone who is constantly on the go is not going to want to bother with going to a storefront for their basic needs when they can just order their kitchenware or whatever online and have it delivered to their door within a couple days. E-commerce is nearly guaranteed to play a massive role in the lives of current and future generations entirely because humans love convenience.
People (and Brands) Will Begin to Move Away From Amazon
This is my wildest bit of speculation, but it has already begun to happen. However, even if this does come to pass, we won’t be seeing it in a major way for quite some time. I base my speculation here around what brands like Nike and Lululemon are doing. Prior to the pandemic Nike and Lululemon were setting up their own online market spaces and pulling away from Amazon. You cannot buy directly from either of these massive brands on Amazon. Any Nikes you see are sold through a third party and Nike would much rather have you buy direct from them. For the brands that have the clout and the funds to set up their own infrastructure this makes all the sense in the world. In order to sell on Amazon you have to let them take their cut, so why not just cut them out entirely and sell directly to your customers. Obviously, with these brands setting this up well in advance of COVID drastically changing the world for at least the two years it’s already done, this was a direction we were already moving in. I believe that COVID has sped up this process as everyone was scrambling to keep their sales up and, in order to do so, switching heavily into online sales.
It is clear to anyone paying attention that the future of commerce is in flux and e-commerce is at the forefront of the coming changes. People are flocking away from population centers as they’ve learned that their entire job can be done remotely, in a lower COL area, as long as they’ve got a decent internet connection. Getting away from population centers also means getting away from retail spaces, so they have to move to digital spaces for their shopping needs. E-commerce may not actually grow percentage-wise, even as it grows in dollars spent, but that is only because you can’t replicate people being forced to do their shopping online. E-commerce, however, is absolutely here to stay, and likely to be the primary way that people do their shopping for the foreseeable future. And a final takeaway I hope to leave you with is that we are all going through this life altering event together, so be sure to take care of each other.