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EDITORIAL How will ecommerce change in the corona era – and had that change already started before the outbreak?

Coronavirus: changing everything
Coronavirus: changing everything

Coronavirus has hit the world hard. Anyone who took note of

– of which I suspect there were few – will not be surprised. However, we are where we are… but where exactly is that?

 

On the face of it, the shift to social isolation and more people working from home could well be a boon for ecommerce companies: people can’t get to the shops, but they can shop online. So long as we can cover delivery drivers, pickers and the supply chain workers, then this should be boom time.

 

However, in the run up to the Coronavirus, the UK was, while not on lock-down, facing long periods indoors as a procession of storms lashed the nation. And ecommerce didn’t spike: it stayed flat.

 

The latest research from IMRG CapGemini shows that following a poor December and a flat January, February was on course – before the virus – to also be almost devoid of growth – despite many people staying away from shops to keep their feet dry.

 

The arrival of Coronavirus has rapidly up-ended all conventional thinking, but conventional thinking on ecommerce had already shifted, it would appear.

 

According to the IMRG researchers, there was already a polarisation within ecommerce as to winners and losers. Seasonal retailers – gardening and outdoor related sellers, as well as footwear vendors – were not doing so well. Clothing and electricals, on the other hand, did well.

 

Corona has naturally seen grocery sales rocket online and has bucked the emerging IMRG trend for omni-channel sellers flatlining, but what of the others? There could well be a reversal in home-related sales, with more people now forced to entertain themselves with DIY and gardening.

 

Likewise, will people be buying clothes? What is the point in dressing up if you aren’t going anywhere any time soon? On the flip-side, with summer coming people might want summer casuals and stuff to do the gardening in. Also shopping cheers people up.

 

While it is too early to tell, there will be a shift to online. The winners will be the ones that make it work. Platforms that are easy to use, delivery that works – we may even go back to seeing a week as quick in delivery terms – and those that can market to their customers effectively. Annoushka, the jeweller, is putting much store by reaching out to its clients online already, for example.

 

In Italy, there has been a boost to ecommerce. Data from 24 February to 1 March saw online sales of consumer products increase by an incredible 81%, an acceleration of about 30% compared to the previous week.

 

Over the last few days there has been an increase of 164% in orders placed on Supermercato.24, a site that employs independent shoppers to physically shop at a store on behalf of the customer who places an online order on the platform.

 

But the coronavirus outbreak is an ever-evolving situation, so data from a week ago is now meaningless. The picture won’t be clear until after the fact, but for now, keep on marketing and keep on hoping for the best.

 

And to get away from all the doom and gloom I shall leave you with this thought… German shoppers have apparently been stocking up on sausages and cheese – clearly preparing for a Wurst Kasescenario. Stay well.

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