Many physical stores have had to close their doors entirely for long periods, which had a huge impact on them. Even when they re-opened, they had to enforce social distancing and follow stricter hygiene regimes, which made serving their customers more of a challenge.
All of this and the fact that a significant percentage of people are reluctant, or are unable, to visit physical retail outlets anymore has led to a significant rise in home shopping. It has forced every firm from the smallest to the largest to look at selling online.
The larger retailers that were already operating online have, in many cases, overhauled their sites and expanded their range. They have also had to quickly flex up capacity, to be able to cope with the surge in demand. For example, Amazon UK is hiring another 7,000 permanent workers. As well as 20,000 temporary Christmas workers. Far more than they have previously hired for the festive shopping season.
Many smaller firms that did not already have an online presence found themselves pushed into putting up a website with an inbuilt shopping cart. Others quickly began selling through social media, for example using Facebook´s Marketplace and more recently their Shop facility.
Customers have also had to adapt. Before the CoVid crisis, most people used their internet connection for leisure. Today, many are working remotely, video chatting with their doctors and buying virtually everything online.
Naturally, this has led to a surge in demand for fast internet connections. Hundreds of thousands of consumers visited broadband comparison websites seeking to answer the question of what is the best broadband in your area. They desperately wanted to avoid the frustration of trying to shop online when they had to wait minutes for product photos to load. Something that is all but impossible because it is so time-consuming. Especially for the older generation who were already struggling with a steep learning curve, because they have never shopped online before. Fortunately, in a lot of cases, their younger relatives were able to help out by guiding them through the process or by buying items on their behalf.
Lockdown forced many consumers to put aside the security concerns that had stopped them from shopping online before. They also stopped worrying about what would happen if the item they order did not fit or was not as described.
The vast majority of nervous first-time online shoppers had an excellent shopping experience. As a result, even when lockdown conditions were eased, a significant percentage of them continued to buy mainly online.
Businesses of all sizes are extremely aware of this and are adapting to this new reality. They are increasingly offering online consumers more ways to shop.
Supermarkets are designating more backroom space to orders that customers can pick up in-store. Enabling them to take advantage of the massive uptick in demand for their Buy Online Pickup in Store Service (BOPIS). Many online clothing retailers are also now investing in systems that enable customers to try on clothes virtually. Those firms that already had this technology incorporated into their sites saw its use triple during the first few weeks of lockdown.
There is little doubt that this is the way more and more purchases will be made in the future. Now, all retailers need to do is to keep pace with demand and come up with new ways to make the online shopping process even faster and enjoyable.