December 9, 2023


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How To Succeed At E-Commerce During A Pandemic

Jessica is the Chief Digital Officer of Digitzs and Founder of Valux Digital, a nationally recognized full-service marketing and PR firm. 

We’re told to expect the unexpected. But none of us expected Covid-19. Pandemic-era life unfolded before our eyes. From personal relationships to business frameworks, we’ve been forced to rethink, reset and readjust.

And the world of business was not spared. With malls closed, businesses boarded up and everyone at home, shutdowns have forced small businesses and big commerce alike to do business differently.

Our world was already moving online. And in my experience, it was those forward-thinking businesses with online provisions already in place that rode out the initial waves of pandemic uncertainty with the greatest success.

Why? Because, as time has proven, the pandemic has actually been good for one type of business in particular: e-commerce.

Here are some statistics to prove it:

• According to 2020 Acosta data, 58{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} of U.S. consumers are now comfortable using digital/online tools to assist with grocery shopping.

• Fewer new brick-and-mortar locations opened in 2020 than in the previous three years, according to Coresight Research (via Practical Ecommerce).

• Social commerce could grow from 3.4{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} to 4.3{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} of e-commerce sales in 2021, according to eMarketer research.

In this article, we’ll delve into some of the latest e-commerce market trends and discuss how to succeed in e-commerce for the pandemic era. One thing is for sure: Online is where it’s at.

Latest E-Commerce Market Trends

So what are some trends shaping the e-commerce market today? From an online shopping boom to a new era of customer expectations, retail is changing as we speak.

Let’s take a closer look.

Pandemic Purchases Moving Online

DigitalCommerce360 estimates that U.S. e-commerce sales grew more than they have in at least two decades thanks to the pandemic. According to McKinsey, at the height of the pandemic, a whopping 10 years’ worth of e-commerce penetration happened over just 90 days.

The Importance Of Fulfillment

But this surge in e-commerce business means more deliveries need to be completed. Fulfillment expectations are soaring; research suggests that many customers now expect free shipping and fast delivery.

Customers Behaving Differently

Purchase behaviors are changing. People are buying items online that they previously reserved for shopping trips: things like groceries, according to Inmar Intelligence data (via Supermarket News). Spending habits are shifting online, and many pandemic-era consumers want fast, convenient online shopping experiences. 

The Importance Of Omnichannel Expansion

Customers aren’t just changing what they buy online but also how they buy. It’s important to provide shopping experiences across multiple channels (e.g., online stores, marketplaces and social media).

The Business Boom: Pandemic Era Could Prompt Surge In Online Startups

The pandemic has ushered in the opportunity for an online startup renaissance. Our physical world may have become more hostile toward new businesses, but the online world can still welcome entrepreneurs with open arms. After all, crisis breeds innovation.

Problem: we’re all being asked to minimize our social interactions.

Solution: make more products and services available online.

But the startup opportunity isn’t just about demand. I believe job precarity could also drive this trend. With many people losing their jobs, they could turn to creating new businesses at an unprecedented rate.

In fact, according to Census Bureau data reported by The Guardian: “This year’s [2020] third quarter saw a whopping 1.6m new business applications filed, an increase of 86{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} compared with the corresponding quarter last year.”

Covid-Safe E-Commerce Opportunities

The pandemic is doing something right for e-commerce. But what makes a Covid-safe e-commerce opportunity? Here are some of my favorite “Covid-approved” business models.

1. Online Fitness

With gyms closed, why not commercialize your fitness skills online? We’re all stuck for fun and effective ways to exercise. The increase in fitness gear sales suggests that home workouts could be the way forward. 

2. Online Accounting

If you have professional skills, it could be time to go online. Thanks to high-quality digital communication tools, it’s fast and easy to arrange remote accountancy consultations from any location.

3. Box Subscriptions

There’s arguably never been a more opportune moment to start a subscription company. According to McKinsey, box subscriptions have been on the rise for a few years, but data suggests that they’re gaining more traction during the pandemic. In a survey of over 1,000 shoppers, CouponFollow found that one in five purchased a subscription box during the pandemic in order to have products on hand. 

Marketing In A Pandemic 101

If you’re already a business owner, you’ve probably got a marketing plan. But times have changed. Your marketing plan might need some Covid-friendly tweaks.

Here are some of my top tips for marketing during a pandemic.

1. Social Media Marketing

The pandemic caused people to spend more time logged into social platforms. As of March 2020, 29.7{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} of people in the U.S. were using social media 1–2 hours longer per day — so don’t dismiss the power of social marketing and paid advertising.

2. Email Marketing

Email is still a valuable marketing channel. When the pandemic began, data from Omnisend showed that email open rates increased by nearly 32{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} year-over-year.

3. Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

I believe PPC is an internet marketing must. In a nutshell, PPC is a way to drive visits to your site. Advertisers pay publishers (e.g., search engines) every time someone clicks on their ad.

4. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is important if you want to drive traffic to your online platform. Using the right keywords will help you rank on search engines and improve visibility.

5. Content Marketing

Have you noticed that brands are adding blogs to their websites? This is a type of content marketing. Did you know that distributing great content can help engage customers? Try using content like blogs and newsletters.

Piloting Your Business Through The Pandemic

The pandemic has been a tough time for everyone, but there’s no reason why your business can’t succeed during these unprecedented times. And I believe the magic ingredient can be found online. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, e-commerce has experienced rapid growth. With the right business idea and marketing strategy, making it in e-commerce could be very profitable indeed.

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