COVID-19 Is Making Retailers Go Online

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Everything was normal. Things were going as planned. Calendars were followed diligently. Meetings and brainstorming sessions finally started paying off when interesting business decisions were taken. Employees were hired, and tons of recruits anxiously counted days to join their preferred organizations.

Funding was received, and finally, that expansion plan was about to start. A failing business model was identified, and a lot of companies finally decided to pivot. There was hope and a ray of light during the beginning of the year when all these happened across organizations – regardless of industry, niche, shape, and size. But then the most unexpected happened.

A virus invisible to the human eye entered and brought in a wave of catastrophe along with it. The virus rattled all our plans, actions, and work scope and left us clueless for the coming weeks, months, and even years for some companies. Now, all the news has layoffs, losses, shutdowns, silent pink slips, and more.

Tech businesses did not just experience the consequences and effects of the virus but retail stores, too. Several business owners had to close their brick-and-mortar stores, with several companies around the world implementing lockdowns and shelter-in-place. 

With only essential services allowed for business, the livelihoods of tons of business owners were at stake. Apparel stores, bookstores, jewelry stores, boutiques owned by freelance stylists, agencies run by freelancers, the gig economy, and more took a huge hit.

However, amidst all the chaos was also the solution.

The Renaissance

Soon after their businesses’ disruption, the owners realized they couldn’t go like this for long. An alternative was required to keep the show running. That’s when the foreordained plan of action struck thousands of business owners – the idea to take their business online.

The Birth Of Their Online Stores

One of the first things business owners realized was that the demand for their products or services was not a problem, but access to them was. With strict rules and panic in place, customers were skeptical of coming out of their houses and exposing themselves to the risk of a contagious disease in the process of getting a product or service.

Customers were ready to pay for services and products if they were ‘somehow’ delivered to their homes. That’s when the gap between the demand and the supply at the time of a global pandemic was bridged.

While people flocked to retail stores to get their products and buy things in a state of panic, Target’s digital sales figures skyrocketed silently. Many people ordered essentials and groceries and got them delivered home. 

Target’s digital sales increased by over 100% at the end of March, and in April, it was up 275%.

Though this fact does not mark Target’s digital stores’ birth, it drives home the need for an eCommerce portal.

Why COVID-19 has Made eCommerce Inevitable

One of the significant fears during a pandemic is the fear of contracting the virus; regardless of whether there are many people on the road or just a few, the uncertainty in who carries the virus and who doesn’t is a gamble people don’t want to indulge in.

With WHO reporting cases to be asymptomatic as well-meaning, people carrying the novel coronavirus and not showing any symptoms of it – makes it worse for others. At the same time, what had to be bought had to be purchased.

That’s when businesses turning to eCommerce becomes inevitable. On one side, when the economy is crumbling right in front of our eyes because of deviation from work and revenue generation, there is also the struggle to keep the business afloat.

Having an online store becomes essential. Many retail businesses are looking to build an eCommerce website to stay in the game or change the existing ones to beat the competition. 

Depending on the budgets businesses have, they invest in eCommerce development services and online campaigns focusing on safe delivery options and on-demand services.

This has allowed people to access what they need even during the crisis but ensures that what is delivered is safe and has gone through optimum hygiene standards. Concepts like contactless delivery have cropped up where delivery agents or business owners would keep the orders outside customers’ homes and send out a notification and leave. Customers would then pick it up from there.

With such implementations, retail stores are being pushed to upgrade to an eCommerce store to keep the cash registers ringing.

The Change In Customer Behaviour

Before the pandemic, there were two kinds of people – those who preferred retail shopping and those who preferred online shopping. But the breakout of the pandemic has sort of turned retail shoppers into online shoppers by showing them it’s convenient and not as bad as they thought it would be.

This is a paradigm shift in customer behavior, and this could be the basis of a new norm for tomorrow. And this is not a generic statement to support the ideology of an eCommerce website. Stats support this, too.

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According to the research shared by Bain and Company, only 3-4% of the population constituted the online grocery shopping category before the pandemic. But after its outbreak, this has surged to 10-15%.

Experts also believe that this could be permanent as customers have tried out a few services through apps and websites and gotten a taste of how online shopping feels like.

The Way Forward

A business that fails to adapt to changing trends and circumstances is bound to fail or stagnate. This COVID-19 is a wake-up call for several ventures out there to go digital with their service delivery. 

With people seeking more convenience, instant gratification, and, most importantly, with their health and wellbeing at stake, it is highly recommended that offline businesses use this time to set up their online store.

We don’t have to explain the edge eCommerce stores have over retail stores, but if you’re still hesitant about going digital, you’re missing out on many potentials to grow your business.

From developed to developing countries, this change is evident everywhere, and it’s on you to ride the wave. With eCommerce being the way forward, it’s time to upgrade now.

Get in touch if you need help with taking your business online.


Jignesh Solanki leads Simform’s Product Engineering team by DevOps Institutionalization, end-to-end product development, and consulting-led transformation programs. He loves to talk about eCommerce trends, cloud computing, mobility, security, swift, and anything in between them.

COVID-19 Is Making Retailers Go Online

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