Ecommerce Explosion revamps retail. The 20’s will be a digital decade for retail. That’s because the COVID pandemic catapulted global e-commerce into the future to bring the shopping mall to us.
E-commerce sales soared 55% year-over-year for January to July last year, reaching $434.5 billion, after brick-and-mortar stores and shopping malls stayed shut for months. In May alone, total online spending hit $82.5 billion, up 77% year-over-year. According to Adobe, it normally would have taken four to six years to earn May’s figures if e-commerce had remained at its comparatively sluggish pre-pandemic growth rate, and it is set to continue.
Let’s see how e-commerce is shaping the retail supply chain and how retail companies can adapt, and how buyers can discover in-demand products and e-commerce capable brands.
COVID-19 ignites e-commerce growth
This year e-commerce evolved into a more familiar habit, as 58% of shoppers reported shopping online for products they would usually buy in-store. Also, 31% of shoppers bought directly from brands in the spring when Amazon reduced its shipment of non-essential products pushing many consumers to seek online alternatives.
During the pandemic, consumers made more online purchases in these top categories: Home goods (45%)
- Clothing (29%)
- Electronics (25%)
- Beauty/cosmetics (22%)
- Accessories (20%)
E-grocery also jumped forward. U.S. online sales of groceries for delivery and pickup hit a record $7.2 billion in June, up 9% over May. Due to the pandemic, more U.S. households ordered groceries online and the e-grocery order frequency rose. Tech-savvy grocer Kroger’s online sales grew 92% year-over-year in its fiscal first quarter.
E-commerce shows no signs of slowing down
Consumers appear to value the convenience, time savings, and ease of e-commerce. Studies found that, over the long term, 45% of online shoppers don’t expect their shopping habits to change and 31% expect to make more online purchases than they did before COVID-19. In response to e-commerce demand, the level of buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS Buy Online Pick-up In Store) service grew by 195% year-over-year in May. Curbside pickup at stores rose 208% between April 1 and 20 compared to the same period in last year.
Some retailers have turned to micro-fulfillment. Whole Foods and Kroger temporarily shut key urban store locations to boost e-commerce efficiency. Only employees are allowed in these dark stores, which the retailers strategically use for faster digital product picking and fulfillment.
Given e-commerce’s remarkable momentum, Adobe predicts this year online sales will surpass last total online sales by October – ahead of the holiday sales season.
Retailers transform their e-commerce strategies
The pandemic has pressured retailers to invest in e-commerce to satisfy consumers’ expectations of omnichannel options, convenience, and speed. Here are some examples of how retailers have changed.
The e-commerce leader currently holds 38% market share by US e-commerce sales and it earned a 40% jump in Q2 revenue. By mid-April, Amazon announced it was hiring 175,000 workers to keep up with heightened demand. Its pandemic response plan included a $4 billion reinvestment of its operating profit and 150 process changes to boost supply chain safety and efficiency. Vertical integration helped Amazon deliver 66% of its own packages in July (vs 54% in the same period last year), giving the company more control over its end-to-end e-commerce strategy.
The retail giant is poised to surpass eBay as the second largest e-commerce retailer in the U.S., behind Amazon, as its e-commerce sales will rise by more than 35% in 2020. Walmart partnered with e-commerce shopping platform Shopify to boost its reach and online variety by adding 1,200 Shopify sellers to Walmart’s marketplace this year. The new Walmart+ subscription service will launch soon, which will include benefits like same-day delivery and early access to product deals. Walmart also collaborates with RangeMe to source products made in the US to support domestic suppliers and local communities, and give online shoppers more choice.
Target earned digital sales growth that the chain didn’t expect until three years from now. The retailer efficiently ships goods directly from its retail outlets, boosting agility and the speed of online fulfillment. During Q2, 80% of digital sales were fulfilled from Target stores.
To boost e-commerce speed, the home renovation retailer will open three new distribution centers in Georgia, as “customers expect to shop whenever, wherever and however they want.” The warehouses will help the chain expand same-day and next-day delivery capabilities to 90% of the U.S. population.
E-commerce’s transformation of the CPG industry
The e-commerce boom has inspired tech titans Facebook and Google to get in on the online shopping action. The launch of social commerce platforms like Facebook Shop, Instagram Shop and Google’s Shoploop proves the future of retail is digital, as consumers spend more time and money online.
More retail buyers are now using online retail industry solutions to discover popular and innovative products, and connect with online-ready suppliers.
Overall, e-commerce has evolved into a retail essential. Consumers now expect safe, reliable and convenient shopping options, especially in a pandemic. In response, more retail companies are investing in e-commerce to deliver more robust, efficient service and earn shoppers’ loyalty. To improve speed-to-market, retail buyers can use digital solutions to efficiently discover in-demand products, delight consumers and gain an edge as the retail industry evolves online.
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