The pandemic was both good and bad for online retailers.
Serious supply chain chaos and delays created major challenges for many retailers. Despite this, the pandemic boosted eCommerce sales by $219 billion in 2020 and 2021. Lockdowns and restrictions pushed customers to online shopping, from both necessity and boredom.
This boost in eCommerce is not a temporary one. Necessary safety precautions, changing routines, and broad economic factors have forever changed the digital retail space.
There are implications of this shift that will far outlast the pandemic and move us to a “new normal.” Here are 5 post-pandemic trends online retailers need to be aware of and how to prepare for them.
5 Post-Pandemic eCommerce Implications
Increased eCommerce volume
Either by choice or by law, people stayed at home for much of 2020 and 2021. Popping into a shop for necessities or leisure items became more challenging. This resulted in a general increase in eCommerce volume across industries.
- How to adapt: Higher eCommerce volume means retailers need to maximize the efficiency of their supply chains. One key way to do this is to purchase supplies in high volumes and take advantage of warehousing solutions—you benefit from economies of scale and don’t have to worry about being unable to get supplies when you need them.
More time at home = more time on social media. Social buying—or sales derived from social media (paid and organic posts)—is steadily on the rise.
Influencers, brands, and companies are capturing the market share of consumers on Instagram and TikTok. One part of this trend is the “unboxing” experience, where influencers or general users show what they received from an online retailer. This boosts visibility and interest and can be a strong marketing technique for retailers.
- How to adapt: Online retailers should make the most of their packaging. Creating an unboxing experience for your customers with custom packaging promotes satisfaction, excitement, and social sharing.
More returns and exchanges
With the general rise in eCommerce comes the rise of product returns or exchanges. This is most relevant for the apparel and shoe industries—with no changing rooms available, customers often buy multiple sizes and return what doesn’t work.
- How to adapt: Increased shipping and returns mean more packaging is required and companies need to stay on top of their inventory. Additionally, returns need to be simple and straightforward for consumers.
Our poly mailers have resealable strips that allow customers to reuse the original packaging to return an item, making it a simple task to do.
New eCommerce industries
When most people think of online retail and eCommerce, industries like apparel, electronics, and beauty are usually top-of-mind. The pandemic, however, marked a shift for new industries into the eCommerce space, such as groceries and household goods.
- How to adapt: Companies that may not be traditionally in the eCommerce space should not count themselves out. Shifting consumer demands and environmental conditions mean that any retail company should consider how eCommerce aligns with its marketing and sales strategies and goals.
Shifting to eCommerce during the pandemic may have started as a necessity for many companies. But now, customers are expecting online retail options from most companies—it’s the new norm, even for traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
Customers also expect efficient and reliable service, good communication, and quick deliveries. This comes down to operational efficiency and strong supply chain planning.
- How to adapt: First, online retailers need to get the basics right—good communication, efficient service, and protecting their supply chains. On top of that, focus on adapting the brand experience to best serve their customer base.
The pandemic brought challenges to the retail space. Even post-pandemic, we’re still facing supply chain disruptions and economic challenges like inflation that pose a risk to online retailers.
That said, the pandemic also boosted eCommerce sales and presented an opportunity for retailers to increase revenues and reach new customers. The pivot to eCommerce is not a one-time thing, but an ongoing trend.
These post-pandemic implications will continue to impact online retailers. Adapting through supply chain management and maximizing the customer experience is the best way to safeguard against future challenges.