eCommerce during and after COVID-19

Since signs of COVID-19 first became a public matter, leaders from all industries knew there was a significant change coming. However, even when the big ripples resonate down to bearable frequency, COVID will remain a factor. Fighting through the storm, we need to figure out how our future will include a game-changer like the pandemic.

Following isolating quarantine conditions, countries and cities will go through temporary or still ongoing lockdowns. When the virus post-effects finally fade away, is our eCommerce project ready for the after-effects?

eCommerce in a post-COVID reality

There are two factors involved that are very relevant to online business: how soon the second virus wave will hit and the mental and physical impact. In the best-case scenario, it is all over this fall, but we would like to be extra prepared. What are some of the worst COVID outcomes? We might gain it as a seasonal routine.

In time, the virus will quite possibly mutate and make it difficult for the vaccine makers to keep up. The battle against corona is most likely going to be years-long, with lots of changes and possible casualties. We think a considerable economy recovery could become noticeable in late 2021, even 2022.

There’s always a chance people overreact to whatever ends up happening. When the fear is greater than the threat itself, businesses suffer immensely. When global hysteria rules the world, governments have a tough time managing behavior in general, let alone customer behavior. A global recession looms around the corner, and both businesses and consumers are likely to play it safe and be a little more passive than usual.

This situation looks terrible for customer engagement. It is easy to forget how important health is when there are no health problems. One of the reasons behind the coronavirus’s threat is that it strikes the very base of human needs – health.

If COVID becomes a consistent part of our lives, coming and going with seasons, the best business decision is to focus on how these conditions will affect work practice. Decision-makers will be more interested to learn how the human mind changes under the stress of the new requirements.

COVID post-reality will also have a different relationship between eCommerce and brick-and-mortar shops. Since the virus spreads physically, eCommerce becomes “immune” to it, comfortably sitting in the digital domain. This statement is not entirely true; let’s see how the virus breaks eCommerce’s digital barrier.

Corona Virus Warning

The role of hygiene in COVID worst-case scenarios

One beneficial side of the virus outbreak is that people are much more concerned with hygiene. Imagine the natural improvements in the food & restaurant industries due to heightened hygienic precautions. On the other hand, the food industry has taken a direct hit from coping with social distancing restrictions and practices. Some restaurants have already opened their doors, but it will be some time till they can fill tables like before.

Hygiene is a crucial factor when food is involved, but for eCommerce, hygiene is almost a non-factor. Almost. Industry giants like Amazon now consider looking deeper into how the coronavirus affects last-mile delivery. Some of the latest delivery prospects—at least for lighter parcels—include drones and walking robots.

When it comes to transmitting the virus, where is the most exposed link in retail? The ‘business-as-usual’ attitude exposes low-wage workers willing to accept the risk while doing a delivery or while working anywhere in the supply chain. One thing is for certain – bad hygiene can open up daunting scenarios, with corona waves recuring for decades.

How united we stand

Some claim that coordinated efforts across countries are our only hope of surviving the virus.

Do countries cooperate with the intensity that matches that of the epidemic?

If countries with intense global relations begin to act separately, the outbreak has more precedents to complicate our lives even more. What we know is that prevention rules about the virus continuously change across countries. Each government seems to have its predictions and assessments about the course of the outbreak. Whatever the success in how countries collaborate, we believe we might have to get used to working in a more restrictive environment. A rather gloomy future, but one must prepare for nonetheless.

Recurring epidemic waves can reshape how shopping intensity changes. People will be more prone to stockpile and get ready in advance. For example, Christmas sales might happen earlier than usual; shoppers feel safer after re-stocking before celebrating. 

What is best for the eCommerce customer during COVID?

Market research samples logically point out that people prefer to eat and drink at home rather than out during the pandemic. Although the picture of people locked in their homes looks like a comedy sketch, it is no laughing matter. Social isolation has led to several dramatic behavioral changes in consumers. The same study graph also shows that buyers prefer necessities over long-term projects or crowd-, or team-based activities. They would rather postpone events with a higher chance of exposure to the virus.

When restaurants close, tourism feels the ripple effect very profoundly. And with tourism and travel directly affected by the virus’s consequences, we see how the pandemic categorizes as a high-priority global problem. Retail appears to be a bit less affected than does the food industry. However, retail stores without a strong eCommerce presence might find it challenging to survive the COVID landscape. Shop owners who run an omnichannel strategy to reach their customers will most likely prevail.

Commerce Statistics Week 18 - 2019 vs Week 18 - 2020
Source: Nordea and Macrobond - Commerce Statistics Week 18 - 2019 vs Week 18 - 2020

Suppose standard predictions about a market shift towards eCommerce are accurate. In that event, one of the best solutions for vendors remains complete online solutions like Shopware 6, where content and commerce merge to produce maximum product impact and effect. Smart investors will bet on subscription-based services that preserve customer loyalty on a digital ground. During crises, small companies tend to give way to the banked capital of bigger businesses. This is where solutions like Shopware provide a colossal chance to less powerful enterprises to have still an opportunity to realize their ideas.

eCommerce as a digital ground for improved sales

Let’s not forget some of the other perspective changes when moving to eCommerce. Some ‘middle-man’ services—previously valuable links in the business chain—will not be there thanks to tools like online shops. With eCommerce, some Intermediary tasks from the product creation cycle are eliminated. This condition means that e-shops reduce Time-To-Market (TTM), which is the total time it takes to bring the product on display for customers. TTM sometimes starts as early as a product idea and is a significant variable in determining revenue and profit improvements.

Some of the other things brewing amidst disturbed times are the B2B marketplaces and Social Commerce. These are relatively new concepts with increasing value, and we closely follow how they change under pressure. 

Bigger businesses capitalize on the undeniable strength behind techs like headless and microservices. Although influential enterprises often chose these methods, they are not exclusive to them. Smaller companies with long-term investment plans can also adopt them. Headless commerce is ideal for those who rely on versatile remote teams, which is just one of the many benefits of this tech alone. During the pandemic, microservices-approach is the logical answer, especially with the comfortable upscale and the ability to change the technology you use.

Conclusion

Even if the COVID effect does not last as long as we predict, the fear of it coming again will linger long after the virus’s last signs have disappeared from the planet. The prolonged nature of such post effects is one of the worst consequences of the pandemic.

Our prediction for the post-COVID world is that successful eCommerce is the one who innovates. We believe resilient leaders are the ones who walk through the storm unscathed, and with the right approach to digitalizing a business, resilience is what translates into achievement.

The discrepancy between restriction rules across the globe will considerably slow down the recovery period. However, what we think is more relevant to eCommerce during harsh times is people’s overreaction. The more people remain calm, the better - no business works with stressed-out customers.

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Author

Andreas Maier | CEO

Andreas is a result-oriented CEO who brings nearly 30 years of experience gained in the high-tech industry. His experience ranges up to leading positions in Fortune 100 companies such as rentalcars.com (PCLN) or Intrasoft International, a leading EU based R&D software vendor. He holds a Ph.D. in Neural Networks from the University of Cologne, Germany.
In the past Andreas has successfully founded and co-founded several startups among others XXL Cloud Inc., eShopLeasing Ltd, and WDS Consulting SA. His expertise is strongly focused on modern headless Commerce and the optimization of processes in IT ecosystems.