E-Commerce in the Age of COVID-19: An Analysis


When 2020 started out, there were many hopes and promises in the worlds of marketing and e-commerce. But the emergence of the coronavirus, or what is known as COVID-19, has dented many of these hopes.

Not only has it made a sizable impact on what people are buying, but also how they are buying it. In other words, the coronavirus has affected e-commerce.

In this article we will highlight the data and the situation of e-commerce in the age of COVID-19.

Coronavirus Statistics and Data

According to the latest data by the World Health Organization (WHO) for 4 April 2020, there have been 1.056 million confirmed coronavirus cases globally spread across 208 countries and territories and 57,026 confirmed deaths.

Earlier this month, the WHO declared COVID-19 a “pandemic.”

The outbreak has had people across the globe take measures to protect themselves and their families. From self-imposed lockdowns, especially for the elderly and people with immunity disorders, to constantly wearing gloves and face masks, the COVID-19 has made us change the way we act and react. But the most important thing people are beginning to avoid now is going to crowded spaces, which means offline shops will be – or rather are – witnessing a massive drop in footfall for March and probably for a few months.

This drop in footfall is likely to be replaced by a rise in e-commerce and already some data is emerging to support this theory.

E-commerce Data Pre-Coronavirus

report published by eMarketer in December 2019 projected a rise in retail and e-commerce spending in 2020 by US consumers. It had not taken into account the coronavirus outbreak, since it had not yet been disclosed.

However, the stats for the December report forecast that total retail sales would rise by 2.0% to $5.574 trillion, while e-commerce sales were likely to grow 12.8% to $666.28 billion.

E-Commerce growth in the Age of COVID-19

With many countries on lockdown, companies are switching to e-commerce or boosting their online presence.

A report by Coresight Research surveying 1,121 US internet users, in late February, indicated that 27% of those surveyed said they were avoiding going to public places like malls and entertainment venues, whereas 58% said they were likely to avoid these locations if the situation worsened.

With more people staying indoors, reports indicate that this situation will slightly be similar to holiday seasons, where people spend more time at home and therefore do more online shopping.

As for what shopping categories are likely to be impacted during the coronavirus outbreak, a Forbes report published earlier this month noted that “health and beauty, grocery and consumer product goods” were the categories that were “more prone to increase during times of physical retraction of a population.”

Moreover, a report by predictive retail analytics platform Quantum Metric showed that the coronavirus has increased online traction amongst US consumers. As people spent more time at home, their online spending has increased.

E-commerce shops reported a 52% year-on-year rise in online spending in the fifth to eighth weeks of 2020 (that’s roughly from 27 January to 23 February); that’s when the Coronavirus began spreading outside of China and Asia as whole.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting E-commerce and Buying Habits

While the data supports a growth in e-commerce, some online businesses are struggling, not just because of the surging demand but supply chains across the globe are being disrupted.

For starters, and since the Coronavirus broke out in China, Asia’s largest exporter has had to cut ties with the world to stop the coronavirus from spreading, which in turn meant that countries which relied heavily on Chinese imports saw declines in their product offerings.

In addition, online stores are seeing difficulty when it comes to delivery. After all, deliveries are made by people and companies do not want to risk their employees getting sick. This is a sector that relies on people who cannot work from home.

Moreover, the bigger the outbreak, the more people are reportedly planning to stay away from public and crowded places.

The below graph by eMarketer using YouGov data shows that 85% of Chinese users were likely to stay away from crowded areas, while 83% of respondents in Hong Kong said they were keeping their distance from public areas.

In the US and the UK, 27% and 14% of respondents, respectively, were not going to crowded areas for fear of the coronavirus.

Infographic by eMarketer using YouGov data

COVID-19 and the Elderly

The Coronavirus has affected the elderly and people with immunity deficiencies the most. A March 2020 survey by eMarketer indicated that around 85.6% of respondents who were aged 60 or older said they would avoid shopping malls during the outbreak.

However, older people are also that segment that prefers to shop and buy on-ground. They are the most resistant to technology and prefer to be there. But with the Coronavirus spreading, it’s likely they, too, will change their habits.

Infograph by eMarketer using data by Coresight Research

“This could mean more adoption of ecommerce, an area where they’ve been laggards. People whose attitude has been ‘I’d rather die than buy online’ may rethink this if they feel going to crowded, germy stores truly could kill them,” comments eMarketer analyst Mark Dolliver.

The Shift and Steps Forward

With the Coronavirus taking more people online, away from shopping malls and local shops and changing buying habits for months to come, companies have a double whammy of wanting to keep their customers – during COVID-19 – online and later when the virus lockdowns dwindle.

The best solution to keeping customers is through loyalty. In other words, brands need loyal customers, whether there’s a virus or not, whether they want to be out and about, or prefer to do everything from the comfort of their homes.

Loyalty, though it sounds like an intangible aspect, is actually easy and not as vague as its dictionary definitions suggest.

Creating a sense of loyalty between your brand and your customers will not only keep them coming back, but it will keep them excited about your shop and products, regardless of where they are. Loyalty in this case becomes a kind of habit, just like washing your hands for 20 seconds after you get home these days.

How to Build Loyalty with Customers

Speaking of loyalty means you should consider creating a loyalty program for your business or shop. This doesn’t mean that it has to be an online-only thing.

The customer loyalty program can extend to your offline shops as well. It’s a creating a community through loyalty regardless of where your brand is and where your customers are.

It acts as a bridge between your brand and customers. It establishes a long-term relationship.

Taking Loyalty a Step Further

Of the world’s 7.75 billion population, 59% or 4.54 billion people are internet users, according to the newest Digital 2020 Global Overview Report created by We Are Social and Hootsuite. That’s not to say that they are all ecommerce users, but the numbers continue to grow year after year.

Digital Around the World by We Are Social & Hootsuite via Digital Reportal

Between January 2019 and January 2020, the number of internet users increased by 7.0% or 298 million people and with the coronavirus taking the world by storm, more people are spending more time at home and online.

With this growth in internet users and the rising awareness about health and hygiene added to the rising footprint of e-commerce, it’s no surprise that you want to keep your customers online and engaged too, which brings us back to the long-term relationship a loyalty program can do for your business.

At Gameball, we’ve been working on and developing loyalty and referral programs for a while now. We’ve done our research and testing, which allows us to tailor the best loyalty experiences for our customers.

If you’re considering a loyalty program, we recommend you try out our free trial.

Gameball offers you:

  • Loyalty and rewards management
  • Gamification and engagement across your store
  • Multiple languages support
  • Moment-based popups
  • Integrations with your CRM’s and email marketing tools
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