The retail landscape has been subject to change for a while now. The rise of e-commerce is certainly not a new topic but, thanks to 2020, has been a particular spotlight for discussion – especially as we build into Christmas and see the associated numbers on consumer movement through the period.
As a small business owner, e-commerce is almost certainly a huge factor already in your current operation and future growth plans. However, 2020 – for all its trials and tribulations elsewhere – has created even more opportunity within the online realm.
Here’s the whys and whats behind the accelerated trajectory of e-commerce in 2020, and why you, as a small business, must ensure you capitalise on the opportunities it has presented.
An acceleration of an already changing landscape
While it was already becoming the preference of many a convenience seeking shopper, e-commerce in 2020 has been shoved down the throats of all consumers, whether they liked it or not. What was an increasingly preferential mode of shopping in 2019 has become a necessary, and in some cases the only, retail format of the last nine months.
Even for the most die-hard patrons of brick-and-mortar retail, e-commerce has had to fill a gap while their favourite retail stores have been closed. For others, it has been the safe provider of essential goods during a rather unsafe period. Either way, while some will no doubt be dying to go back to traditional shopping methods once COVID has blown over, others will have had their minds changed through their forced exposure to the benefits of online retail.
That means e-commerce, already enjoying exponential growth, has acquired itself millions of unexpected customers during the pandemic period. Importantly, many of them will likely stick around, too.
The trends that match the theory
Of course, if the doors of physical retail have been quite literally shut through the majority of the year, e-commerce sales and usage are bound to have risen. But what are the current numbers behind the shift? According to Econsultancy, there are plenty of headline statistics that paint a picture of the increasing importance of e-commerce:
- Globally, retail e-commerce will total $3.9 trillion come the end of 2020.
- Experts predict that online traffic for supermarkets during the 21st-23rd December will double (year on year)
- Physical retail footfall is down 29% year on year in the UK
- Online grocery sales in the UK have taken a 14% market share during the second lockdown, with £10.9bn of sales in November and a predicted £12bn by the end of December (a £1.5bn increase year on year)
- UK retailers saw a 23% increase in online store sales year on year this Black Friday
- An October survey of over 2,000 British consumers revealed that 96% had ordered a product that required parcel delivery.
Why small businesses must deliver on their promises this Christmas and beyond
The numbers above are more remarkable given the tightening of the average British consumer’s pure strings during the lockdown period. Regardless, what they tell small business owners is that e-commerce presents a huge opportunity during this period and beyond to enhance both their e-commerce offering and, in turn, their wider business.
There is, however, one catch – and that’s that the businesses in question must deliver on their promises in this period to truly enhance their position in the market. This is because, reverting back to the research from Econsultnacy, 47% of British consumers have had some form of issue with parcel delivery since the start of the March lockdown. Likewise, research conducted by Signavio this December has revealed that poor customer service could cost UK businesses £1.9bn over the festive period.
The considerable logistical issues of the COVID period can be seen right there in those later statistics. Businesses have opportunities to meet increased demand, but issues in the supply chain have caused many to overpromise and under deliver. What’s more, it looks like UK consumers are ready to kick up a fuss about it.
Thus, during this period, small businesses have a real and potentially highly lucrative opportunity to capitalise upon via their e-commerce efforts. However, to enhance their reputation and financial prosperity beyond this period, they absolutely must ensure their product and service is up to scratch. This means setting realistic expectations, acquiring a good courier relationship and meeting the standards of their customers where others have failed.
Do all of the above, and 2020 could be a surprisingly good year for smaller enterprises with a focus on e-commerce.