How COVID 19 is Effecting eCommerce

As of 9 am on 17 March 2020, in the UK, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative, and 1,950 were confirmed as positive. The risk to the UK has been raised to high and, the chance of a national lockdown is highly likely.

But what does this mean for our economy and eCommerce as a whole?

As COVID19 spreads throughout Europe and the rest of the world, so has the spread of changes in consumer behaviour. With a vast amount of countries urging residents to remain indoors and in self-isolation there’s been a noticeable shift in how we shop, with consumers favouring the safety of their homes for buying essentials as appose to risking spreading the pandemic in traditional brick and mortar shops. 

Looking back at a recent pandemic

Historically we can look to SARS for relative guidance. When this deadly outbreak spread throughout China, it aided the acceleration in developing the eCommerce landscape we’re so fond of today. Once a successful brick and mortar shop, JD.com faced a drastic downturn when the SARS outbreak happened in 2003. Richard Liu, the founder of JD.com, saw an opportunity to showcase his products in more accessible ways, harnessing the power of the internet and moving his store online. Present-day, JD.com is the largest online retailer in China. 

Although this story may be inspiring, it’s also important to note that SARS was significantly less contagious than COVID 19 with the spread of fear and panic much less subsided. This means that although eCommerce is booming right now, the future is uncertain. Especially for brands selling non-essential products.

What this means for UK businesses

According to Esther Ho, Nanyang Polytechnic school of business management director, in a Straits Times article, “Physical store sales will be the most impacted in light of the COVID-19 situation. This may provide the impetus for retailers to seriously consider (going) online, especially if there are success stories to share.” Although we’ve seen a significant rise in online shopping, this new customer trend is almost exclusively related to essential products—putting luxury item business at great strain amid fears of a complete economic collapse.

The British Retail Consortium has also said that retailers would be more than happy to deliver online goods to doorsteps. With fears rising on both our health in our loved ones and the economy, finance minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK government will be aiding the UK’s businesses with a £330 billion government-backed loan. Stating “We will support jobs, we will support incomes and we will support businesses… We will do whatever it takes.”. 

Looking to the future

This change in consumer behaviour has affected the first quarter of this year in a big way, ultimately creating a knock-on effect for future quarters in 2020. This could have a profound and unprecedented impact on holiday sales as consumers comfort in online shopping and job insecurity rises.

Although there are valid fears on both a personal and business level amongst the spread of this pandemic; it’s crucial to be mindful on how our panic could put those who need help most at risk. In these trying times, it’s essential we show support to those working hard to fight this disease and do our part to support small businesses and protect those most vulnerable. And don’t forget to wash your hands.

If you have any questions about anything discussed in this blog or if you’d like to chat about a project, feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to help businesses reach and surpass their eCommerce potential.