How E-Commerce Fits into Retail’s Post-Pandemic Future

24th September 2021

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Even as the pandemic is gradually subsiding out of our lives, e-commerce and online shopping are becoming more inculcated as habits of the society as a whole. In the post-pandemic world, this could have drastic implications for the retail industry.

E-commerce grew by 33.6% last year. Online shopping hiked the sales in retail up by 3.5%, to a total of $5.6 trillion. Beyond shutdowns and social distancing, factors like convenience, tech advancements, social media e-commerce are really adding up to create world where online shopping is the first preference for consumers across the globe.


Small Businesses’ Sharp Pivot to E-commerce


While giants are moving into 3D, VR and AR-enabled online shopping experiences, small businesses are exploring the state of e-commerce in 2021 and beyond. Platforms like Wix, Etsy and Squarespace are making it extremely easy and comfortable for SMBs to also taste the success of online retail.


Main Street America led a survey and the results showed that the popularity of e-commerce has been growing at a very fast pace amongst small businesses. 18% SMBs advocated that at least a quarter of their revenue came from online sales in January of 2021, a substantial increment from 7% in April of 2020.

In the last holiday season, small businesses saw an average of 104% increase in online sales compared to last year.

The fact remains, consumers of most demographics have grown a lot more tech savvy after the pandemic-hoarding, and e-commerce is bringing SMBs closer to this audience which is suddenly very conscious of public spaces and physical interactions.

Small businesses are also pacing up to reap the benefits of omnichannel sales for the consumers who want a seamless online-plus-offline experience. For instance, curbside pickup, door-to-door delivery, and buy online, pickup in store options.


How AI is Shaping Post-Pandemic Shopping Experiences


Artificial Intelligence is strengthening the retail supply chain in ways never imagined before. From connecting various systems for a streamlined managerial experience, to enhancing demand forecasting and upcoming trends – AI has the power to transform the way retail works. A report from Symphony Retail shows that half of the retail leaders are embracing AI in today’s day and age.

AI is also enabling shoppers to find the right products for them quickly and accurately, thereby enhancing their entire understanding of online shopping, and reducing the overall complaints and returns of products. The forward-facing technology is also boosting personalization and customization processes.

Walmart recently acquired Zeekit, a startup that allows you to virtually try clothes before shopping. Apart from virtual try-ons, technologies like avatar-based UX, AR for cosmetic products – they are the ones that will define shopping in the future. They are collectively enabling the end user to make more confident and economically and ecologically sound decisions.


Social Media - the New Primary Engagement Platform


Of course, social media was bursting brand engagement charts way before the pandemic started, but the lockdowns brought in an entirely unexpected and unprecedented surge of consumption and interaction over platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Recently, even the popular video sharing app TikTok started its pilot for in-app shopping!

Some say that this is owed to the extra time people found locked in their homes, others say that social media became the only channel of self-expression, more like a window to the outside world in the dire times. Regardless of the roots, one thing we can say confidently is that this power is going to continue to lie with social media platforms and their retargeting-intensive algorithms.

Consumers love being “just a few clicks away” from their favorite products, and until now, it’s been working out really well for B2C and D2C brands. Influencer marketing has also seen a huge spike with the rise of social media. All of this is pointing only in one direction – more share for social media in marketing briefs.


Conclusive Thoughts: What are The End Users Looking Forward to?


Well, this question is actually really simple to answer. Just look at yourself as a consumer freed from the lockdown after 18 long months, and you’ll know exactly what you want from the brands that you trust and look up to.

Number one, certainly, more convenience, more accessibility, and more inclusivity. Businesses have to go beyond the basic “add to cart/buy now” interface to win the hearts of their users. The list of constant operations for businesses is not short - keeping up with the newest trends, staying active on socials, offering services in local languages, and adding new features as much as possible.


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