Yup, it’s that word again, and this time it’s not just a cheeky Friends reference.
Pivot. The word for 2020, undeniably, is pivot.
When small businesses shut down in early March as a response to the threat of the novel coronavirus, a new normal began to emerge from the changing landscape. Now, midway through August, questions about the future still linger, but business owners — a tenacious bunch to start with — are no longer thinking about short-term solutions.
COVID is here to stay, additional government support is in limbo, and if a small business is going to survive, it needs to embrace the eCommerce pivot, specifically. Business Insider said eCommerce growth is expected to rise 18% this year:
“Our 18% growth forecast for US eCommerce in 2020 reflects a notable increase in both the number of digital buyers and the average spending per buyer. These gains reflect the pandemic’s impact on new buyers joining the online retail space, including 12.2% growth for those ages 65 and older,” Business Insider said.
It didn’t take long for businesses to realize the value of giving their traditional brick and mortar stores a bigger eCommerce presence.Â A report by Square stated that according to their data, may sellers moved online just weeks after shelter-in-place orders took effect. “Sellers in cities large and small are embracing eCommerce as omnichannel selling becomes a necessity for long-term success,” the report said.
Businesses & Consumers Embrace New Habits
Back in March, when shelter-in-place and mandatory shut-downs for non-essential work began, eCommerce sellers reported to Digital Commerce 360 their initial projections for how their businesses would fare. The report was a mixed bag with 38% of retailers projecting increased overall sales and 36% losing sales.
Grocery eCommerce certainly saw the biggest gains in growth with many consumers turning to online ordering as a result of grocery shortages or initial concern of grocery safety. The other industries that did well were household cleaning supplies, pet supplies, beauty/health products, at-home fitness products, and home entertainment. Subscription services also saw an increase in consumer demand.
Consumers increased their spending on groceries by 15-20% and said they increased the amount they spent on at-home fitness by 35-40%. In general, consumers were admitting they were spending more online, even though they weren’t terribly hopeful about the state of the economy.
Morning Consult, a global data intelligence firm, reports that nearly a quarter of surveyed adults said they wouldn’t feel comfortable shopping at a mall in the next six months. (An equal percentage said they had no idea when they would feel comfortable returning to normal shopping habits.) Those trends are holding steady — which means that it’s not too late to embrace the eCommerce trend for your small business.
The market research company Neilsen looked at consumer behaviors linked to the pandemic and their results on markets. Neilsen said consumers were:
- Proactively buying health and wellness products (flu medicines; cough and cold medications)
- Reactively buying health management products (hand sanitizers; N95 masks)
- Buying to stock their pantries
- Buying to stock for quarantine
- Buying to prepare for restricted living (in the instance of mass COVID cases, communities are relegated almost entirely to online purchasing)
- Buying as they live a new normal (preparing for eCommerce to replace many buying options in the wake of the pandemic’s aftermath; accepting a permanently altered supply chain)
A survey from Civis Analytics says that while traditional consumer activity has increased since March, most industries are still operating below pre-Covid earnings.
Unsurprisingly, the two biggest eCommerce options that surged in popularity amid the pandemic were click-and-collect and curbside pick-up. And those are likely here to stay as shoppers have continued to show an affinity for using these options even as economies open back up fully around the country. With CDC guidelines asking restaurants to limit contact, many organizations used Square or Toast systems to set-up online or contactless payment systems. A switch to self-ordering kiosks might become the norm in places that do not want to accept the risk of exposing their employees.
Your Business’s Next Steps To Make The eCommerce Pivot
A survey showed that 92% of small businesses have had to pivot in some way due to COVID. And according to our Merchant Maverick post on the subject, “For 58% of businesses, pivoting has included incorporating ‘a new online delivery channel.’ Other common tweaks mentioned in the survey include adding a new virtual service (40%), offline delivery channel (36%), or product (31%).”
For brick and mortar businesses wanting to expand into online options, services like Shopify are even advertising to help provide some type of crisis support to assist owners through the changes. If you are looking into moving into eCommerce, you can follow these steps:
- Research and compare eCommerce platforms — decide on the right fit for your business. Compare Shopify and BigCommerce or WooCommerce to other online shopping centers like Etsy.
- Research shipping options.
- Set up and research the best payments system for your type of business.
- Research how to market your new online presence.
The new reality is that has COVID pushed us into the future at record speed. This pivot into the world of eCommerce might not be what small business owners had imagined for 2020, but consumer expectations and pandemic restrictions will continue to shape spending — we want your business to be ready.
Check out our Coronavirus Hub for all things pandemic and small business-related.
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