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EDITORIAL Technology drives new retailer approaches to post-pandemic ecommerce

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With stores open again, May’s online retail figures give a good view of what the new world of retail might look like going forward. And it is an interesting picture. Overall, online sales growth dropped last month, by a record breaking 9%, but it still represents a sector that is way bigger than it has ever been.

Measured against May 2019, for instance, online retail has grown 46%. More tellingly, average basket value now stands at £130, having grown steadily week by week since then. Overall, ecommerce is still very strong.

The figures also mask how digital is also impacting retail overall. Sure, fewer people are buying online now the shops are open, but they are using digital channels to research and review, using it to then guide a more surgical strike on the high street.

The rise of social commerce is also having an impact. Many more people are starting to not only seek inspiration from social sites – especially Instagram – but also to buy from them. This may well also be taking a bite out of retailer’s online figures.

However, the picture of online verses offline is more complex than that. Many retailers are using tech in new ways to join the physical and digital worlds. While online sales may be slowing in growth (and let’s face it that is against the largest growth it has yet seen this time last year, so it’s hardly a bleak picture), retailers’ online facilities are being used in other ways.

The website and the app – and the social feed – are now places to start the browse, to assess what is there, to seek inspiration, to see what is in stock and to check out when may be a good time to visit stores. The lifting of restrictions may well see more people shopping, but many are still doing to with great caution.

These changes with how the web is used has also inspired retailers to start to look at how they can do things differently.  Domino’s Pizza is a prime example. Its revamped app not only does all the groovy things that you want from it when it comes to delivery, but it also is making it easier to collect pizza too.

Similarly, fashion company rag & bone is using personalisation to send targeted texts and emails to online shoppers to encourage them to go back to the site or to visit stores after they have looked at things online.

This move to embrace technology is what is going to define the post-pandemic era for many retailers, with investment in digital tech for both online and in-store – not least kiosks – all starting to reshape the already quite different retail industry.

And it has all happened just in time for a much-needed Summer of sport, as out guest comment from eBay this week attests. With the Olympics hopefully back on, the Euros starting this weekend and a range of other sporting events back on the agenda, there is a golden opportunity to start to join the digital and physical around these events. They may not be able to draw big physical crowds, but they will draw huge remote crowds – and that is where things are going to get interesting.

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