Last updated: Post-pandemic e-commerce: The unstoppable growth of online shopping

Post-pandemic e-commerce: The unstoppable growth of online shopping


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E-commerce grew by leaps and bounds during the pandemic—a jaw-dropping 33.6% in 2020, to a total of nearly $800 billion. The question is: What happens to post-pandemic e-commerce? As shoppers start heading back to stores in droves, will the growth of online shopping continue to boom?

The answer, experts say, is yes. While e-commerce growth won’t be as sky high in 2021, online shopping will still expand and accelerate far more than it did before shutdowns and social distancing.

Growth of post-pandemic e-commerce: 2021 predictions

In fact, Emarketer recently estimated that e-commerce will grow another 13.7% in 2021, reaching $908 billion. This is the case even as the pandemic subsides and in-store shopping rebounds, and a larger share of consumer spending goes back towards services such as travel and live entertainment.

Total e-commerce sales in 2021 will be over $147 billion more than would have been expected prior to the pandemic.

Of course, retail as a whole is enjoying some rosy results these days. Walmart recorded the strongest first-quarter sales in its history, with US sales rising 6% year-over-year. This was partly attributed to people spending stimulus checks, but also was clearly connected to the retailer’s e-commerce success: Walmart’s reported online sales rose 37% YoY and more than doubled over the last two years.

So why is the growth of online shopping becoming unstoppable post-pandemic? Here are five key reasons for continued e-commerce popularity — that have nothing to do with shutdowns or social distancing:

  1. Convenience
  2. Technology improvements
  3. Social media e-commerce
  4. SMB e-commerce
  5. Amazon

Online shopping grows as more consumers become comfortable buying online

In many cases, e-commerce has become the ultimate in convenience.

For example, I recently decided to try buying eyeglasses through direct-to-consumer leader Warby Parker. The process was seamless: The company sent me five frames to try on for free, I uploaded my prescription onto the site, and a week later had perfectly-fitting glasses. No awkward try-ons in a corner of a mall store, no driving back to a crowded parking lot to pick up my new pair.

At the same time, more consumers have become comfortable buying online, after a year of pandemic-hoarding experience.

Older shoppers became accustomed to filling online carts with groceries, local shoppers learned that community businesses were selling online, and everyone got used to Amazon boxes arriving on their doorsteps.

I can see clearly now: AR improves online shopping

Better photos. More angles. Short videos. Virtual/augmented reality. It’s clear that content is king when it comes to e-commerce, and technology seems to have fully caught up to what shoppers want and need to see before committing to a purchase.

Ulta Beauty and nearly every other beauty e-commerce brand, for example, allow shoppers to try on products virtually. And — back to Walmart — the retail chain recently acquired Zeekit, a startup that allows consumers to virtually try on clothes when shopping online.

Social media e-commerce keeps getting better

While some may not love being bombarded with ads on social media, I’ve been amazed how seamless and simple social e-commerce advertising has become over the past year. Even TikTok has gotten in on the action, moving aggressively to launch new in-app shopping options.

Here’s just one example: I started searching online for summer sandals, and, naturally, started seeing plenty of ads on Facebook and Instagram.

But they were useful, helpful, fully-omnichannel ads. They included click-to-buy image carousels and quick checkouts, which made purchasing easy. Before I knew it, I had three new pairs of sandals from three different brands.

Small, local businesses continue to expand post-pandemic e-commerce offerings

During the pandemic, the e-commerce giants benefited the most. But small businesses, which were hit hard during extended shut downs, also discovered that e-commerce could be a business lifeline.

Now, platforms such as Spotify, Etsy, Wix, and Squarespace make it simple for small businesses to get started or grow online. This trend will likely only expand post-pandemic.

Amazon dominance

One of the top reasons post-pandemic e-commerce will continue to grow is the same reason e-commerce has expanded since the very beginning: Amazon.

The company enjoyed a meteoric rise of 44% in 2020 US sales, and Emarketer recently predicted Amazon’s US e-commerce sales would grow another 15% in 2021 to $367 billion.

There are plenty of reasons why Amazon dominates every other e-commerce competitor, with more than 36% of all US e-commerce sales, but consumers certainly clung to the company’s Amazon Prime service, with one-day delivery, during the pandemic.

With a continuously growing marketplace and easy returns, it’s hard to imagine the playing field changing anytime soon.

Amazing every time.

A CX that drives loyalty + bottom lines starts HERE.

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