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E-commerce Acceleration due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way consumers spend. E-commerce accelerated four to six years into the future and it’s not letting up.

In terms of impact on industry, retail and e-commerce were both heavily affected by the pandemic — but what changes are here to stay?

Rapid e-commerce acceleration

During the first half of 2020, retailers experienced holiday-like traffic and sales via digital commerce channels, since stores were largely closed and stay-home orders deterred in-person shopping. As a result, e-commerce growth accelerated and according to an Adobe report, online spending in May 2020 hit a record-high of $82.5 billion, up 77% year-over-year.

The adoption rate of digital commerce accelerated by four to six years in the timespan of a few short months, and businesses with pre-established ecommerce sites reaped the benefits of increased traffic and sales (at least for as long as supply could keep up with demand). Conversely, those who had neglected the switch to digital had a lot of catching up to do, and quickly.

Trending now

No one can say exactly how consumer expectations and preferences will change in the future, but here’s what’s trending and some numbers to back it up:
  • With a rise in e-commerce spending, department stores are seeing fewer sales. In Q1 2020, department store sales and other “non-essential” retail sales declined by 25% and this continued further into Q2 (Forbes).
  • 9 of the top 10 global e-commerce companies (by revenue) experienced double-digit growth in 2020 (Global Data Statistics).
  • Global e-commerce sales rose to $26.7 trillion in 2020 (United Nations Report).
  • Globally, consumer spending on mobile is expected to reach $270 billion by 2025 — almost 2.5x the $111 billion spent throughout the pandemic, signalling the dominance of mobile spending (SensorTower Market Report).
  • Shopify experienced 94% YoY revenue growth to reach $977.7 million in Q4 2020 and brought Shopify’s overall revenue to $2.9 billion through 2020 (Shopify).
  • 43% of global consumers are interested in shopping for clothes by leveraging new technologies such as VR/AR technology. This shift from traditional shopping is pushing brands to change their investment strategies to support digital commerce (Supply Chain Digital).
  • 54% of consumers worldwide prefer browsing for new products online than in-store (eConsultancy Report).
  • One-third of U.S. survey respondents declared they will continue to leverage online grocery shopping instead of shopping in-store (Mood Media Research).

In summary, e-commerce was already growing quickly and COVID-19 forced even faster development and most of the developments we’ve seen in e-commerce are here to stay. As a result, it makes sense for companies to continue improving the customer experience they offer to online shoppers.

Market demands and resulting changes

Commerce transactions are faster than ever, shipping is more efficient, and inventory turns over quickly and is stored near shoppers for rapid fulfillment. Customers have come to expect on-demand shipping, quick transit times and visibility into shipping processes.

To meet these expectations, 3PL providers are supporting incredibly complex supply chains and are developing more agile processes to accommodate market shifts. What was previously a behind-the-scenes industry is more visible than ever and the importance of supply chains has been amplified around the world. Some companies are investments in internal supply chains, while others are looking for more immediate support through 3PL providers.

If you’re seeking a supply chain and fulfillment partner with experience, flexibility, a strong physical network and modern technology, get in touch with us to talk about your needs. Peak Season is right around the corner — let’s get your business ready with Shipwire.


Sarah Shaffer
Sarah Shaffer
Associate Business Analyst
Sarah Shaffer is an Associate Business Analyst at Shipwire. She works cross-functionally across teams and her work involves network optimizations, profitability analysis and managing transportation communication channels. Sarah is a creative, data-obsessed analyst who, when not at the office, finds joy in skiing, yoga, backpacking, and open-water swimming!
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