What might the ‘new normal’ look like for eCommerce?

By Jennifer Macrae

As the ‘new normal’ is affecting the globe, I reflect on a few of the major behavioural shifts we have observed so far and the impact they might have on eCommerce in the months and years ahead.

 

Seismic shift to online ordering and delivery

Lockdown has been a huge catalyst for shifting behaviours to embrace eCommerce. I’d be very interested in seeing the adoption curve for online grocery purchases but suspect this has moved from incorporating innovators and early adopters to rapid uptake by the early and late majority.

The large groceries stores have done their utmost to scale their logistics network to cope with such a rapid increase in demand. It remains to be seen how much of this demand will continue when we return to our ‘new normal’ but I’d hazard a guess that many will see that good quality produce, conveniently delivered to your door is not only a time saver but reduces food waste.

I’m sure the acceleration of the eComm adoption curve hasn’t just been in grocery. There have been some other surprising growth categories for online purchase; including home & garden items, bicycles & exercise gear, outdoor & indoor games, office equipment and reading matter as people across the country shift their offices and entertainments to home.

Gardening Tools

Forever disrupted supply chain

Many small businesses that usually supply the (now closed) restaurants, café’s, etc, are pivoting to supply groceries and other household items direct to consumer. My family and I have started using a local event caterer for our weekly grocery delivery. These businesses have the means to make deliveries, but they need to build out a way to handle consumer payments, orders and increase their brand awareness.

The businesses that are doing this successfully are fast attracting and retaining customers with the delivery of their grocery boxes brimming full of high quality, beautiful produce, often in less packaging than your average supermarket delivery would generate.

I believe these businesses will create a loyal customer base during lockdown and likely be faced with a choice when the world returns to normal – to keep delivering direct to consumer alongside their ‘normal’ business, or not. The demand from consumers to purchase high quality, local produce in less packaging is there, will the small business sector grow in the long term, as a result of their new D2C offering?

Business Owner Sorting Packages

Social buying

Whilst social distancing moved from buzzword to part of our daily lexicon in record time, group wide video conferencing usage has risen dramatically. With large families and groups of friends spending virtual social time together I’m noticing a proliferation of new business opportunities here, and opportunities for commerce. For example, an artisan chocolate producer advertising delivery of a tasting box for you and your friends to have a tasting experience together (virtually of course).

Other entrepreneurial ideas have included the mass movement of in person classes online. Anything from baby sensory, to group yoga and even HIIT sessions. These businesses still need to collect payments for their services but are having to use separate platforms for payments vs. video conferencing.

Consumers have embraced this move to online and, as with the disrupted supply chain, I expect we will still see a new swathe of customers who want to consume these services from the comfort of their own home in a post-lockdown world

Perhaps video conferencing platforms will incorporate group ordering and payments in a simple intuitive way as they see the uptake of their platforms by small businesses looking to charge for their video presence.

Friends on a Conference Call

Summary

Never has there been a moment in time when the right technology, to connect families and friends or buyers and sellers, been so critical to people’s mental health and wellbeing. 

Times of difficulty are great drivers of change, of innovation and there are so many good initiatives being started up around the globe. I’m certain that in a post-lockdown world many of these changes will persist. The innovation being driven across the world is contributing to defining our new normal. A new, improved normal.

By Jennifer Macrae, Vice President, Product Management, Mastercard

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