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Understanding the impact of the pandemic on ecommerce

The pandemic has had a seismic impact on consumer behaviour across a wide range of sectors. With two years of shuttered premises and strict social distancing measures, even the most hard-to-reach demographics, such as the baby boomer generation, have been forced to pivot to ecommerce.  

New research by Epsilon, in conjunction with Campaign, reveals that 78% of businesses believe this switch to online is permanent, with many respondents saying they expect ecommerce’s share of the retail market to grow even further. 

So, what exactly are businesses saying? Charlotte Langley, VP of brand and communication at Bloom & Wild, told a recent Campaign-and-Epsilon-hosted debate that the online florist doubled growth expectations in 2020 as consumers tried digital for the first time.  

“Shopping habits are now going back to being more mixed, but it was extraordinary,” says Langley. “There are only a few moments when you can make habits stick and we have been through one of these.” 

Deeper dive. What steps have businesses taken to assist this pivot to ecommerce? 

  • 79% invested in their online offering in 2020 
  • 28.6% said they had invested “massively” in ecommerce 
  • 70% invested in digital marketing  
  • 60% say they have improved website functionality 
  • 33% have invested in staffing 

“Frictionless commerce makes loyalty a burning issue online”

Epsilon Commercial Director, Ben Foulkes

What does the rise of ecommerce mean for brand loyalty?

The pandemic has introduced a new breed of online shopper to the ease of flipping between brands.  

In practice this means that offline shoppers browse and engage with brands a great deal more. Online, however, consumer behaviour is completely different. The buying journey can be faster and more targeted. A prime example of this is ‘spearfishing’ shoppers who know what they want and exclude all other options. 

This phenomenon is further exacerbated by websites designed to drive consumers from homepage to checkout as fast as possible, with little time to engage with brands.

 63.7% of businesses told Epsilon they are confident in their ability to attract second-time customers.

The bottom line

To thrive in this new ecommerce landscape, brands must combine their performance-based mindset with a renewed focus on storytelling. This will help them to reconnect with customers in a way that builds a longer-lasting relationship.  

Bloom & Wild, for example, has invested heavily in communications that connect to the emotional drivers that consumers associate with flowers, which the company describes as “a hug in the post”. 

Working with a partner that can activate first-party customer data and deliver a cross-device digital ID solution will enable brands to share the right stories at the right points during individual customers’ path to purchase – no matter how complex their buying journey may be.  

Armed with this information brands are able to build strong, long-term customer retention strategies and swiftly identify and leverage new customer behaviour and industry trends.

Find out more 

For more insights, download Epsilon’s new report How to Sustain the New Digital Momentum.