A book the size of War and Peace—1,225 pages, for those keeping track—could be written on the changes and effects on society that took place during the year 2020. Some of it was positive, much of it was negative (which happens during a global pandemic and social and economic unrest), and everyone was impacted.
That statement fits well for the state of commerce. There were positives, especially for ecommerce. Digital Commerce 360 estimates that ecommerce sales grew 44% (to $861.12 billion) in the United States in 2020. For context, the year-over-year growth percentage in 2019 was just 15.1%, and the 44% jump in 2020 is the highest in the last two decades.
There were also negatives and challenges. Brick-and-mortar stores have struggled to reopen after the stay-at-home orders. Brands had to quickly and drastically pivot their strategies in order to meet the new demands placed on them by consumers as a result of the world events.
Digital Commerce 360 estimates that ecommerce sales grew 44% (to $861.12 billion) in the United States in 2020.
Companies rushed to implement new features and distribution models—curbside pickup, DTC channels, and new delivery and shipping methods—while trying to adjust to the fact that its tried-and-true brick-and-mortar stores were no longer a valid option.
And as we know, everyone was impacted—brand and consumer alike.
The key to all of this is that the changes that took place were not temporary. Brands’ reactions and adjustments may have been rushed and thought of as stopgaps until life returned to “normal,” but the truth is there is no going back to the days of 2019 for commerce. Now, it’s about brands enhancing and optimizing those quick fixes and turning them into a permanent pillar of their programs.
In our latest ebook, we outline this new era of commerce and provide strategies for getting started.
The New Ecommerce Baseline
Instead of focusing on the changes themselves—which again impact virtual every aspect of the customer experience—the question to ask is, what is the result of this change? And at the highest level, the answer is this: we have established a new baseline for ecommerce’s role within marketing and the customer experience.
Digital commerce has always been growing; the pandemic simply accelerated this growth. Ecommerce now accounts for 21.3% of all retail sales, marking the first time it has eclipsed 20% (Digital Commerce 360). The channel has been steadily rising for years, but 2020 more than doubled the next-biggest jump in the share of retail spending. That means one in five purchases now happens online. Even more impressive is the fact that ecommerce represented 101% of all retail revenue gains last year. So, while every other channel saw declines in revenue, ecommerce soared.
Ecommerce now accounts for 21.3% of all retail sales, eclipsing 20% for the first time.
That’s not to say ecommerce will continue to grow by 40% every year or take another 5% of the total market on an annual basis. That is an unfeasible pace. But perhaps instead of looking at ecommerce’s new ceiling, the better place to look is the new floor. There has been a permanent shift in the way that consumers buy from brands, and a world where ecommerce represents a serious chunk of the retail pie is now the norm.
As Cindy Liu, eMarketer senior forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence, puts it: “There will be some lasting impacts from the pandemic that will fundamentally change how people shop…We believe consumer shopping behaviors will permanently change. Many consumers have either shopped online for the first time or shopped in new categories (i.e., groceries). Both the increase in new users and frequency of purchasing will have a lasting impact on retail.”
No one has a crystal ball to know for sure how commerce will continue to evolve. But it is clear that the last year has accelerated ecommerce’s growth and turned it into an even more integral part of the shopping experience. Brands have had to move at a sprint in order to keep up after altering their plans on a dime. Now is the time to enhance and optimize last-year’s commerce activities and ensure these features fit seamlessly into your customer experience.
Ready to evolve your ecommerce program? Schedule a quick call with one of our commerce experts.