When the lockdown order came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses scrambled to convert their daily operations to remote workspaces. Luckily, we live in an age that offers enough technology, such as high-speed internet, online payments, and video conferencing, to make work from home (WFH) successful. Although WFH was difficult for some businesses, it proved to be a practical and sustainable business method for eCommerce companies. With the WFH culture in full swing, commerce habits switched heavily to online purchasing and affected consumers’ purchasing. As the Covid-19 public health crisis enters its third year, political leaders and business leaders are in the process of reframing Covid-19 as an endemic disease, one that society must learn to cope with indefinitely. As restrictions lift and case numbers decrease, employers must navigate unfamiliar waters as they attempt to return to normal business operations and embrace changes in the workplace. As companies adapt to fully or hybrid work arrangements, it seems WFH is here to stay. Therefore, the eCommerce industry will need to focus more of its efforts on B2C and D2C.
What Goods Are Consumers Buying Online?
A 2020 study by J.P.Morgan states that eCommerce made up 16.1% of all U.S. sales in the second quarter, compared to 11.8% in the first quarter.1 This trend continues upward even as the majority of stores have reopened to the public. Remote and hybrid work schedules may result in permanent changes to how Americans work, live, and spend. So, what is the average consumer buying? More time at home has allowed the workforce to create unique spending habits.
Covid-19 case numbers may be on the decline, but consumers are still spending money on cleaning supplies, including disinfecting wipes and sprays, gloves, masks, soap, and other essentials. Even as demand for cleaning products decreases from our stockpiling days during the height of the pandemic, people are still purchasing these items more than before. Shortages of essential items due to supply chain breakdowns resulted in many customers turning to online shopping to stock up. This forced eCommerce platforms to get creative with the increase in online shopping and logistics of delivery. A study out of IEEE discusses the impact of COVID-19 on digital platforms and how eCommerce is an effective method of buying and selling essential goods. With the help of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, route mapping makes it possible for deliveries to occur quickly and safely.3 Digital platforms have leveraged technology to help everyday consumers purchase essential goods online.
With employees spending more time at home, it’s no wonder that homeowners are completing projects they have been putting off. WFH flexibility makes getting projects done either by DIY or hiring a contractor easier. A study by Harvard University notes that in 2020 the economy shrank by 3.5%. However, spending on home projects was up 3%, almost $420 billion.2 How are consumers shopping for the materials needed to complete these home projects? Whether it’s a kitchen redo, home office build, or something else around the house, eCommerce provides the perfect B2C and D2C solutions to get the job done. However, the materials used in home improvement typically have a higher cost ratio. So, with more shopping done through eCommerce, businesses need to ensure consumers feel safe completing transactions online. The study out of IEEE also states how eCommerce businesses have adapted the use of secure digital wallets and blockchain technology. Blockchain technology allows eCommerce businesses to cut out intermediaries and distribute directly to the consumer.3
What Lessons Can Businesses Learn From WFH Culture
It seems WFH is here to stay as many employers continue to offer hybrid work schedules. Recent studies suggest 25% of all professional jobs in the U.S. will be remote by 2022, and opportunities to work remotely will continue to increase through 2023.4 It’s safe to say that some form of WFH will stick around for years to come, and with the continued flexibility of being home more often, eCommerce will only become more popular as an option for consumers. So what can businesses learn from pandemic era consumer habits? More consumers feel safe making purchases online because of improved digital wallets and blockchain and enhanced delivery with help from ML and AI. However, there are more lessons to be learned, including the importance of website optimization. With the influx of online shoppers, a business’ website is its most important asset. If the site cannot handle a large number of transactions each day, companies will lose sales. So, updating performance through user experience, omnichannel options, and bandwidth is a must. Business owners will need to start spending less on their real estate and more on the online marketplace.
It is undeniable that COVID-19 and WFH culture have changed the commerce landscape. Even businesses that have traditionally done well as solely brick and mortar need to prepare for an increased number of online consumer shopping. When businesses learn to embrace the recent changes in commerce habits rather than try to ignore them, they will be better suited not only to adapt to a new reality but to thrive in it. That’s why now is the perfect time for businesses to develop an effective eCommerce strategy for B2C and D2C.