The coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us indoors for months at a time, causing a huge uplift in online shopping over in-person retail. This trend looks set to continue even when 2020 is (finally) a distant memory: one Salesforce survey found that 61% of respondents expect to spend more time online after the pandemic than before it hit.
But just how impactful has COVID-19 been on ecommerce? And what new trends should online sellers be aware of going forward, as we adjust to this digital-first world?
The Impact of Coronavirus on Ecommerce
Ecommerce was clearly on the rise even before the pandemic accelerated its growth. The 2019 holiday season (specifically, November and December) brought in $142.5 billion in online spending in the US, a 13% increase year-on-year. And ecommerce sales were still on the rise at the start of 2020.
So, how sharp was the increase in online shopping once the pandemic hit?
In short, the rise was very steep. One UK survey found that 74% of respondents, across all age groups, now feel comfortable buying products online because of the pandemic – meaning COVID-19 has pushed many people to lean towards ecommerce who otherwise would not have.
The food and drink industry in particular has experienced a major shift to online ordering and purchasing. Before the coronavirus outbreak, only 9% of consumers bought their groceries exclusively online. Now, 63% are buying more groceries online or by phone than before – and 86% will likely continue to do so in the post-social distancing world.
In the UK, average weekly internet sales of groceries more than doubled compared to pre-pandemic times. But there are also a few non-essential industries staying afloat amid lockdowns and travel bans.
And while it’s true that retail sales in general have declined this year, ecommerce sales are actually expected to jump by 18% – an estimate supported by Amazon’s Prime Day, which took place over two days this past October and made $10.4 billion in sales, up from $7.16 billion in 2019.
Global Selling and Digital Wallets
Online shopping allows for a wider range in terms of store locations and products available. In fact, it’s not uncommon for consumers to purchase from overseas retailers. The two largest ecommerce markets in the world – China and the US – each have 149.42 million and 82.72 million cross-border online shoppers, respectively.
The global nature of ecommerce is also reflected in its most popular payment methods. Credit cards, debit cards, and digital wallets make up the top three:
And digital wallets are quickly on the rise all over the world. Usage increased by 77% in North America and 123% in Europe between 2015 and 2018, not to mention that 81.1% of smartphone users in China are paying via digital wallets.
Most ecommerce platforms offer integrations with a lot of major digital wallets, so it’s fairly simple to keep an online store up-to-date with this trend. But which digital wallets are at the top of the charts right now?
PayPal is currently the most-used online payment service in the US. It also performs well globally, with 361 million users and a total payment volume of $221.7 billion. But even those figures pale in comparison to China’s Alipay, which actually overtook PayPal as the world’s largest mobile payment platform back in 2013 and currently has over one billion users.
Mobile ecommerce is also on the rise – in some ways, at least. In Q1 2020, mobile ecommerce traffic grew by 25% across all industries, and mobile phones represented 71% of total traffic and 56% of total order share. In fact, over half of all time spent on retail websites takes place on a mobile device.
The pandemic has also played its part in the shift towards mobile. 45% of consumers say they’re using their mobile phone more as a shopping channel since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March. One May 2020 analysis found that Sweden is the country with the most ecommerce shopping being conducted on mobile devices, at 60%. China is close behind with 59%, followed by the UK with 55% and the US with 39%.
Even without the influence of COVID-19, mobile purchases were projected to be worth $3.56 trillion by 2021 – that’s 72.9% of total global ecommerce spend. However, mobile ecommerce still comes second to desktop in a few areas:
On average, sales made on desktops are still worth more money than sales made on mobile devices. Consumers also order more products on desktops, with a 24% higher item count per order.
So, why is mobile ecommerce important? The high mobile traffic rates we’ve seen imply that mobile browsing is starting and ending more customer journeys than ever before. Even Google has noticed this, adding “mobile friendliness” to its notorious search criteria back in 2018. Incorporating mobile devices and apps into your business’ multichannel marketing strategy is increasingly important. Which brings us to…
Multichannel marketing means integrating the customer experience across different platforms, from social media pages to emails and text messages. The frequency of multi-device customer journeys is estimated to be between 41% and 65% of all purchases made online, so it’s important that businesses be able to reach their customers through more than one medium.
The rewards of getting multichannel marketing right are clear: over the last year, marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single channel campaign. Campaigns using three or more channels also earned a 90% higher customer retention rate.
The key to successful multichannel marketing is to remember that different channels work best at different stages of the customer journey. For example, more general messages and shareable content can drive your brand awareness on social media, while personalized communications work better over email.
Ecommerce was on the upswing even before COVID-19 gave it a major growth spurt. But the events of 2020 have made it clear that the way forward for most business owners will be to focus on online sales in the coming years.
In that spirit, it helps to keep up with the latest developments in ecommerce, so that you can ensure your online store is up-to-date. From digital wallets to multichannel marketing, there’s always room to grow – and it’s never too late to get started!
Maura Monaghan writes for Website Builder Expert, a resource for business owners, creatives, and anyone else looking to get started online. Her favorite topics include web hosting, ecommerce and content marketing, and she believes that anyone can build a great site with the right tools.