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From turbocharged transformation strategies to the growth of mobile shopping: what the latest research says about the effect of Covid-19 on UK ecommerce

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We take a look at two recent reports, from Twilio and Salesforce, that highlight the new speed at which consumers are moving more of their shopping online, and behind the scenes, at which retailers and other industries are now approaching digital transformation

Digital transformation is picking up speed

Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation for 70% of retailers, while the average pace of transformation has accelerated by six years, research from Twilio found. 

Twilio surveyed more than 2,500 enterprise decision makers around the world via Lawless Research, including 300 in the UK for its Covid-19 Digital Engagement Report. The study found that 70% of retailers say they had significantly stepped up the pace of transformation – and by an average of 6.1 years. Most UK respondents (77%) said their budget for digital transformation had increased as a result of the pandemic, while 36% said it had increased dramatically – a higher figure than any other UK market. UK companies say it’s now easier to see a clear strategy (37%), get executive approval for projects (35%), to have time to to do the work (33%), and to overcome reluctance to replace legacy software (35%). 

Most (92%) UK businesses say they are very (60%) or somewhat likely to expand their digital communication channels as the world reopens. During the pandemic, UK respondents saw the use of 5.9 different channels increase dramatically during the pandemic. Around the world, 99% of respondents expected digital technologies to open up a future of continued remote work, including 69% of those working in retail, while 95% said they were looking for new ways of engaging with customers. 

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal as a result of Covid-19,” said Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer at Twilio. “Our customers in nearly every industry have had to identify new ways to communicate with their customers and stakeholders – from patients, to students to shoppers and even employees – essentially overnight.”

David Parry-Jones, vice president, EMEA at Twilio, added: “In the UK, we’ve observed how businesses have rapidly modernised in response to the pandemic,” said. “This has affected everything from the ways in which businesses talk to their customers, to how their workplaces function. We’re seeing how digital technologies are being used to completely reimagine the business landscape.  Communications technology is at the heart of this transition to a flexible remote working model for employees, and a seamless, digital customer experience for businesses at large.” 

Shoppers are buying much more online and especially via mobile

Digital sales in this market grew by 54% in the second quarter  of 2019, compared to the same time last year, according to Salesforce’s Q2 Shopping Index. That’s a sharp rise from 20% growth in the first quarter of the year. However, the study, which shows retail trends from more than a billion customers in more than 40 countries, found the UK figure was lower than the global average of 71% – the highest since the Shopping Index research series launched seven years ago. During the quarter, mobile traffic in the UK grew by 49% with traffic from computers up by 37% – an overall rise in digital traffic of 36%, and mobile orders grew by 57%. Orders from computers rose by 43%. Overall, mobile devices took 63% of order share, computers 32% and tablets 5%. 

Michael Green, Salesforce UKI head of retail and travel, transport and hospitality, said retailers had been better placed for the pandemic when they already had ecommerce strategies in place.  “This quarter’s results confirm that shopping habits have changed for good, and that the shift to ecommerce will long outlast the pandemic,” he said. “As the UK continues to respond to the crisis, digital revenue in the months between April and June grew 45% compared to the previous year. This recent surge in digital activity, which highlights the effect that lockdown has had on consumer shopping habits, sets a new benchmark for digital commerce as we head into the autumn and winter shopping seasons.”

The importance of social media

UK shoppers are now more likely to click through to a retail site from social media, according to Salesforce’s study, which found that 13% of mobile traffic came from a social media referral in the second quarter of 2020, although that was only the case for 1% of computer traffic. 

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