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Ecommerce trends reveal shoppers are eager to buy online during COVID-19

Ecommerce trends reveal shoppers are eager to buy online during COVID-19

During a pandemic, staying connected to friends and family is not only more challenging than ever before, but also more important. One way we’ve maintained some semblance of normalcy in our relationships? Buying gifts online and sending them to those we love (and miss).

For some people — myself included — being a good gift giver is part of their identity. It’s one of the five love languages because it positively impacts the receiver and the giver. With real-life social interactions in limited supply, my best friend and I started a fun little gift exchange. Like nearly everyone else around the world, we were spending more time on social media, and noticed new brands popping up in our feeds with suggestions.

That curated basket of relaxing bath salts and candles? And that cute necklace? Add those to my cart.

Online shopping trends have shifted radically faster than anyone could have predicted. During the first lockdown wave of COVID-19, gift giving rose 80% between March and April through ecommerce channels compared to last year.

As more people turn to online shopping, brands have an opportunity to get in front of new buyers, many of whom are looking for ways to maintain relationships in meaningful ways.

Humans will always adapt

How many days have we been in quarantine again? I think we’ve all lost count.

However, humans are resilient. We always find new ways to do things. We are quickly adapting to life in a pandemic, exploring new brands online and taking less time to complete our purchases.

According to MediaPost, between March and April of this year, the average amount of time between the first website visit to time of purchase fell by 10 hours. Let that sink in. Ten hours is a lot of time for consumers to make more purchases online.

Additionally, 54% of U.S. consumers surveyed made purchases from “brands that were new to them,” while 31% of shoppers said they will completely shift to online shopping amid the pandemic.

Smart brands will get their products and services in front of these captive online audiences. Although the instinct may be to cut spending or press pause on campaigns, brands that are able should invest in digital marketing to capture their share of these online sales — and start long-term relationships with new customers.

Give us the goods

The term “retailpocalypse” is nothing new. Analysts predicted the slowdown of in-person shopping experiences in favor of ecommerce. But they couldn’t have foretold how a pandemic would accelerate the trend.

Since 2009, ecommerce has steadily grown about 1.5% each year, accounting for only about 16% of transactions in 2019. In 2020, as consumers were forced to stay home, things changed dramatically. We’ve catapulted ourselves three or four years into the future in just three or four months, according to Andrew Lipsman, eMarketer principal analyst.

We still get a thrill from shopping. We still want our things. We still want to give things.

No doubt, the pandemic is rewriting the rules of retail. It has accelerated long-term commerce trends, with some shopping habits completely changing the retailing landscape that will stay with us long after we develop a vaccine and are able to get back to normal.

But instead of throwing in the towel, there are many new ways to adapt and come out on top.

Embrace the opportunity

According to Edelman, 81% of consumers say that trusting a brand to do what is right shapes their purchasing decisions. So there’s no time like the present to reexamine your brand’s purpose to connect with consumers and earn their confidence.

Let empathy be your guide. Apparel brand For Days started making hospital masks for purchase or donation. Sustainable shoe brand Rothy’s committed to helping the medical community. And IKEA sent out its famous Swedish meatball recipe so people could enjoy the dish at home.

Larger brands that have traditionally relied on retail partners for distribution can adopt a more D2C model. With the usual distribution channels slowed or shut down due to the pandemic, brands need to connect more directly with their customers. According to Bigcommerce: “Owning the customer relationship is what allows you to have much more leverage to increase customer lifetime value.”

A path forward

The data shows us that people are still shopping online — and they are being more thoughtful about it. Not only do companies have a chance to reactivate dormant customers, but they can also capture new buyers willing to try something different. The lessons learned transcend these unpredictable pandemic times: Meet people where they are, give them a reason to consider your brand, and make it easy for them to purchase.

We look forward to a time when we can take our time browsing the carefully curated aisles of our favorite stores. Until then, we’ll keep browsing, buying, and gifting in our new normal, so we need you to send your product suggestions our way. See you online.

Maggie Ryan
Maggie Ryan
Maggie is a marketing + sales enablement specialist for Belo + Company. She has experience in various aspects of business, including starting her own company in Uganda, Africa, while she was serving in the Peace Corps. When she is not creating at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and making jewelry.