What we’ve learned from e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic that can help us to prepare for future crises

The COVID-19 pandemic has yielded challenges that many organizations were not prepared to face. We have much to learn from the way ecommerce companies have responded to and navigated through the pandemic. Ideally, identifying these developments will help us all to better prepare for future crises.

Here are some key trends we can learn from e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic:

E-commerce has become essential

In a time when shoppers are unable to physically visit stores, ecommerce has become an essential function of the national economy. While U.S. overall retail sales are expected to decline by 10.5% by the end of the year, e-commerce is expected to grow by 18%. It has become clear that ecommerce cannot be ignored as a driver of profit in a pandemic economy.

Major sale events are no longer reliable

For many retailers, major sale events like Black Friday are vital to annual revenues. A day dedicated to swarms of buyers crowded through physical storefronts, though, is incongruous with the public health concerns we face. We can fully expect that these events will be shifted a largely e-commerce format. However, even Amazon’s Prime Day, a fully online sales event, has been delayed due to the pandemic.

Subscription programs are a hit

Amazon, with its Amazon Prime subscription program, reigns as the leader in U.S. retail ecommerce sales. Notably, Walmart’s new Walmart+ program has the second highest retail ecommerce sales and the highest retail ecommerce sales growth. Additionally, many now rely on membership offers from grocery delivery services like Boxed, FreshDirect, and third-party delivery apps from traditional brick and mortar retailers like Instacart and Shipt, marking growth in a blossoming industry.

Responding to changing customer needs is vital

As medical science uncovers how COVID-19 is transmitted, many customers have a heightened interest in the procedures behind the shipping and handling of their products. Smart online retailers have gone above and beyond to communicate touchpoints and sanitization practices throughout their shipping and handling processes, to assure their customers that they are taking all precautions to keep their employees and customers safe.