The Year ‘Viral’ Gained New Meaning
Rounding the corner into the second year of a near-complete disruption in every facet of life, the COVID-19 virus is still on pace to wreak havoc. Nary an element of public and private interests has been shaken to the core, with forced quarantines and stay-at-home orders, business closures, pared down access to essential services, and education interruptions.
The good news is a recent release of long-awaited vaccines that experts say will begin to slow the spread in a significant way. The not-so-good news seems to reflect resistance among a substantive number of skeptics who, for one reason or another, may not partake.
Overall, we are heading in a good direction. And if you are engaged in online commerce, you should feel relieved to discover that the uptick in ecommerce business that began last year is likely to continue. Some smaller entities experienced a noticeable increase in sales, while major retailers and top brands grew exponentially. Market analysts believe the ecommerce industry is the most prolific beneficiary of the COVID-19 debacle, with penetration rates exploding from their current level of 15 percent to 25 percent by 2025.
This did not happen in a vacuum. As consumer habits and preferences have evolved over time, many have enjoyed the convenience of digital shopping. Not only has online commerce become more and more popular, but using a device to find and purchase goods has become one of the most popular activities conducted online. Ecommerce sales are projected to grow from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to $4.5 trillion in 2021. This increase can only be considered revolutionary.
As this global pandemic has forced restrictions to public activity, essential and non-essential buying over an electronic device effectively forced consumers to become comfortable with digital commerce. This trend has spread across demographics of age and region, making it prolific and noteworthy. In response, wise online merchants have prioritized improving website navigation, presentation, and ease of use. Though major brick-and-mortar retailers have developed or improved their own online platforms, their customer base has not significantly grown. Put another way, their loyal customers who once shopped from their physical shelves are now using their websites to place orders.
That leaves a lot of room for the smaller independents. Google searches still return top hits of the big players, but smaller shops that have mastered the art of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) have had success in attracting interest. Niche, boutique-themed merchants have had remarkable success in meeting needs not filled by large national retailers. There are drawbacks, as with anything – profit margins will naturally adjust downward after factoring in extra costs of shipping, and processing returns. That said, part of conducting a successful business is anticipating and readying for contingencies. If you become proactive and build these factors into an operational strategy, you may still realize that there is a silver lining to one of the most devastating global phenomena of our lifetime.