Retail and E-Commerce in the Age of Coronavirus

Retail and E-Commerce in the Age of Coronavirus

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I worked my last freelance role in May (last month) amidst the coronavirus panic. Sitting in-house, I offered my freelance copywriting services while observing all the action from inside.

The company, an established fashion label, had only recently come to terms with the potential of digital. This happened in the wake of coronavirus, of course. Having previously put most of their focus on brick-and-mortar stores, it was evident there was a dramatic shift happening in the world and that they needed to take action – fast.

With customers no longer able to enter a physical store, those who had never shopped online before had to start doing so. Those who only shopped online partially had to start shopping online exclusively. And the avid online-shoppers just continued to do what they do best: shop from the comfort of their own homes.

Brands are now relying on their digital efforts to make big sales. This shift has become the make or break for some companies. Luckily for this company, it has been the make. With digital sales shooting through the roof, I observed the company’s scrambling efforts from an insider’s point-of-view. Determined to adapt to this new way of selling, the well-known fashion label began rushing to develop a brand new, solely digital team.

I couldn’t help but think: What’s happening from the inside of other companies right now? Which brands are succeeding with their digital sales and why? Which brands are failing and will close shop altogether in the next coming months? And finally: What should we expect from a new world order, within the industry of e-commerce?

As noted by Forbes, “companies that have fully embraced e-commerce may never go back.” And from my experience in-house, this really seems to be the case. There also seems to be an undeniable rush to stay ahead of the game. Those in retail who don’t adapt to online platforms quickly are likely to fall behind, and those with no place online may become entirely obsolete.

people lining up to get in store during coronavirus

If you have been to the recently re-opened brick-and-mortar stores, you’re likely feeling a little weird about it all, just as I have. The whole thing feels entirely foreign and post-apocalyptic somehow. For many stores, you are required to line up outside, standing an awkward 1.5m from others. Like a nightclub, there are security and door girls at the entrance, monitoring ins and outs like it’s the hottest new party destination on the scene. Staff may even be armed with thermometer guns, checking your temperature in order to permit entry.

Leisurely browsing might feel wrong to you, what with the lineup of people waiting to come inside and all. You could also be hesitant to touch things. Even more hesitant to try on things. Physical shopping might become more of a ‘get-in-get-out’ type scenario. This, in turn, is likely to influence the growth of e-commerce.

Speaking from personal experience, I can confidently say my own shopping patterns have shifted due to the novel coronavirus. While I used to enjoy going into stores and trying on clothes, coronavirus pushed me to do all my shopping online. I soon figured out it’s not that hard to try on clothes at home and return them if I don’t like them. I also soon figured out that there’s a huge range of items online for far cheaper, and that scrolling with a single finger is far less tiresome than traipsing down a mall from store-to-store.

The world is changing. Digital is king – at least, for the moment. I can only imagine it would be wise for companies, retail or not, to start reassessing their online presence. Assuming there’s others out there like me – those who have only just realised how convenient online shopping is – we must also assume there is a whole new market to tap into.

As for brick-and-mortar stores, what will change for them? Only time will tell. But one thing is certain, e-commerce is now (and likely forever) critical for retail businesses worldwide hoping to survive.

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