January 6, 2021

What will happen to ecommerce after the pandemic?

COVID-19 inflated ecommerce performance even as other industries faltered in 2020. But is this type of growth sustainable even after we eventually move away from "the new normal"?

By now, the market trends are clear — industries that are conducive to social distancing are thriving, and all others aren’t. Ecommerce is a major beneficiary of the pandemic, with ecommerce growth said to have accelerated the equivalent of 4 to 6 years under non-pandemic projections

However, now that 2021 is here and coronavirus vaccinations have begun, there’s an end in sight to the pandemic — and to “the new normal.”

So, what’s going to happen to the ecommerce industry after the pandemic is over? Will consumers go back to their old ways, or will they continue their newly-developed habits of online shopping? The short answer is, it’s hard to know for sure, but it seems like COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on consumer behavior

Adobe’s Digital Economy index tells us that “COVID-19 has changed business forever.” It’s true that, at the beginning of the pandemic, total consumer spend on ecommerce retailers was $52 billion more than that of the previous April and May. However, only time can really tell if this massive increase in online shopping from the early days of the pandemic will continue past the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. 

Even if consumers have gotten into the habit of online shopping, they might not actually need to continue online shopping. Consumer panic and the “panic buying” phenomenon have been well-studied over the past year, and the trends in online shopping could simply be chalked up to mass anxiety. 

In other words, COVID-19’s effect on ecommerce will be decided by either consumer habits or consumer emotions. On one hand, if consumer habits come out stronger, then people are likely to shop online to meet all their needs, and ecommerce retailers can rejoice. On the other hand, if consumer emotions prevail, then people will be calmer and may no longer continue to make panic purchases online, and demand for ecommerce may decrease. 

While it can be fun to speculate, we will never be able to predict the future for certain, so it is best to focus on the things we can control.

Now’s a great time to revisit your business model to make sure it’s conducive to online and in-person shopping. It doesn’t hurt to prepare for both possibilities. And whatever you do, make the customer experience your top priority, so that you can build strong customer loyalty that can outlast the coronavirus pandemic and its vaccine.