Across the globe, COVID-19 or simply coronavirus has had a huge impact on how we’re conducting our business–both personal and professional–on a day-to-day basis. While we don’t know how everything with the global pandemic will unfold in the coming weeks and months, we do know there are going to be shifts towards online experiences versus being out and about in public spaces.
Coresight Research reported that 27.5% of internet users in the United States would be avoiding public places. If the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen, a reported 58% would also adopt their personal “no public places policy”, including avoiding shops in general. So what does this mean for consumer traffic?
Sales may shift from retail stores to eCommerce
During the beginning of the pandemic while people are still navigating the outbreak, your sales data may begin to shift. With in-store shopping experiences declining as a result of social distancing and government mandated lockdowns, foot traffic will naturally decline and affect your sales. That leaves consumers with one alternative: online shopping.
For businesses that operate an eCommerce store in addition to their brick and mortar, sales may start to shift away from in-store buying to online purchases while adapting to the restrictions of the outbreak.
Esther Ho, the director at the Nanyang Polytechnic School of Business Management, told the Straits Times, “Physical store sales will be the most impacted in light of the COVID-19 situation. This may provide the impetus for retailers to seriously consider (going) online, especially if there are success stories to share.”
Making the shift to eCommerce
eCommerce has already become incredibly important over the course of the past decade as technology continues to evolve and consumer shopping patterns change with the times. Beyond online marketplace giants like Amazon, retailers have been evolving their digital strategy with the implementation of social media and a heavy focus on accessibility to their past, present, and future customers through online shopping experiences.
We know that the behavior of consumers adapts to technology, but it can also be affected and influenced by our environment, the economy, as well as sociological factors. The fear of existing in public spaces for the time being may be an opportunity to drive more eCommerce traffic and sales, beyond just the health care and cleaning supply industries. In Italy alone, peak internet activity has increased 30% since a nationwide quarantine was enacted. Tourism and experiences along with the hospitality and restaurant industries will surely see a decline during the corona outbreak, but it might also give other industries the chance to flourish.
What categories are most likely to thrive during the disruption of physical shopping habits? Health, of course, but also beauty, grocery, and consumer products. With certain products being sold out in-stores, like food, cleaning products, and hand sanitizers, consumers have already made the switch to online shopping to see if they are able to locate these hard to find items in stores. Over time, this may change consumer behavior while they continue to adapt to the eCommerce situation and buy these kinds of products online for the first time. From there, it can snowball into a larger buying situation.
At the end of 2019, it was predicted that 2020 eCommerce sales would grow nearly 13% to $666.28 billion in the United States alone. Beyond retail giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Target, direct-to-consumer brands were expected to thrive while traditional retailers like department stores and shopping malls would struggle. With these predictions in mind coupled with the current state globally, eCommerce business may increase even more due to consumers becoming more comfortable with shopping online, especially for items they traditionally would pick up in person.
So, what should brands be doing?
As consumer mindsets start shifting towards online shopping, retailers and D2C brands should keep this on the forefront of their minds when it comes to new marketing opportunities. Digitally native brands like Entireworld are offering special discounts during the coronavirus outbreak, giving a special 25% discount on their best-selling sweatsuits for work from home attire. Sephora is offering free-shipping throughout the entirety of March, recognizing that many shoppers will choose to shop online rather than visit their retail locations.
Now more than ever, text reviews on your eCommerce website are vital. As you have an influx of new visitors, customer testimonials will help convert more potential consumers into actual sales. Reviews, both on your own website as well as relevant retailers, are a common use of social proof in eCommerce. 91% of consumers trust positive reviews when making a decision. Take advantage of onsite reviews and repurpose them into testimonials on your homepage to leverage social proof in an effort to boost your online sales. Make sure your individual product pages are equipped with an eCommerce review platform to allow customers to give their opinions on your products, making it easier for potential consumers to see and be influenced by.
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