Did we just lose the e in e-commerce?

Sometimes it takes unusual or extreme circumstance to accelerate change. Trajectory that were already underway suddenly accelerate. Behaviours that were slowly evolving rapidly become the norm. And at the risk of using one of the now cliche phrases there is now doubt we are currently experiencing unprecedented times, strange times, a period in which our usual way of life is being disrupted.

Everything from meeting family, taking public transport, eating out, visiting the shops, has first been made impossible before re-emerging in a new form which is very different than before.

No industry or sector has been immune to the disruption. Those which may seem safe from the outside, have experienced huge supply chain issues due to travel restrictions. Or are over reliant on money which flows from those industries worst hit. Nobody has escaped completely unscathed, everybody has learnt lessons.

The new normal reality of the world we emerge into is very different from the one we left behind. And in a world where contact, travel and crowds are to be minimised, digitisation comes to the fore.

The acceleration of e-commerce

A recent report by Mastercard into the impact of COVID-19 on consumer spending with regards to e-commerce highlights just how drastically recent events have accelerated the shift to online.

In the US between April and May $53B of incremental spending occurred on e-commerce channels. And in the full month of May US e-commerce spending grew 93% year on year. These numbers are huge, and not exclusive to the US market.

In the UK total retail spending declined 8% year on year but e-commerce spending grew 64%. Without doubt a huge chunk of this was people doing their grocery shopping online, which grew 75% year on year in May, but that does not account for all of the increase.

Back to ‘normal’?

The big question now facing industries is what happens now lockdown is being eased more and more? For industries forced into shifting their business online, to offering delivery services, and contactless interactions. What next?

For some they will go try to go back to operating the way they were before, writing the period off as an anomaly and a way of surviving through the lockdown. The smart ones will recognise that they have just developed a new revenue stream that managed properly can make them a true multi-channel commerce business.

The pub that continues their delivery service having honed its processes over lockdown. The local clothing shop which quickly spun up a transactional website and is now taking online orders. The take away that started taking orders online for collection. They all emerge as commerce businesses where online and offline work harmoniously for a better service across a broader customer base.

There will always be a return to some old habits or more preferred behaviours. I am not going to order all of my meals of take out from the local restaurant, sometimes I will want to go and eat in. But having the ability choose gives me more options to buy from them.

Losing the e in e-commerce

This brings me to the title of the post. Whilst I don’t think the phrase e-commerce is going anywhere overnight, lockdown and COVID-19 have accelerated the move to commerce businesses being just that. A business I can trade with in any way I wish. Via a website, over the phone, in person and with one seamless customer experience. That’s the actual new normal…

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