E-commerce Growth Despite Crisis

This has been a roller coaster year with so many unprecedented events. E-commerce growth and purchasing behavior has been one such occurrence.


It would be foolish to think that overall consumer spending will not contract significantly in the next few quarters ahead. However, opportunities are abundant in e-commerce. Perhaps more now than ever. So take time to plan and execute on your digital strategy. It will pay off in the long run. Consider the following:

  • Manage your fundamentals and be poised to weather the storm. Listen to the unfavorable realities that your Head of Finance is forecasting for the quarters ahead and manage the business financials on worst-case modeling.
  • Evaluate your tech stack and find ways to reduce cost using best of breed SaaS solutions.  This aligns with point #1.  Prioritize technology initiatives that accelerate point #1 and consider SaaS solutions that get the job done at a lower cost.
  • Understand your customer and build low-cost omnichannel experiences that cater to them.  The tech tools exist to build quickly and at a low cost.  Now is the time to double down on your digital strategy.  Delight your customers, create new sales channels, and deliver on a seamless e-commerce experience.  Be a winner in this race and good luck getting to work.  The future is now.

No Surprises

I’m sure you heard about Wall Street’s negative reaction to last month’s significant decline in retail sales.  It is undoubtedly startling – the 8.7% decline is the largest that has been seen in historical government data. That said, are you surprised?  For the broader good of society, no one is leaving their home to spend money and millions of people don’t currently have the money to spend as unemployment soars. 

There will certainly be a lot of healing required in stabilizing the impact of COVID-19 on our economy, but there’s a bigger story here. A story of hope, opportunity, and adapting to what the future holds.

retail sales growth over time
Source: St. Louis Fed FRED Economic Data

It’s not where this started, it’s where it will end.

I recently read an interesting Nielsen article that does a good job of contextualizing the rapidly evolving responses and effects of this global pandemic on consumers into six consumer thresholds.  Consumer behaviors have been erratic, with category sales drastically changing on a week to week basis. In the end, consumer habits will change forever.  

e-commerce adoption curve

At this point it seems that we are somewhere between quarantine living prep and restricted living. Consumer habits have shifted in each threshold. During proactive health minded buying the online sales of hand sanitizer were up 1,700% (almost two thousand percent!).  During pantry preparation, the online sales of toilet paper were up over 500%. Numbers have since come down. The point is simple: as we move into future thresholds of this crisis, we will continue to see dramatic shifts in purchasing behavior.  The outcome will be a dramatic shift in what we buy and how we buy. Therein lies the opportunity.

e-commerce growth and decline by category
Source: National Retail Federation

Things aren’t all gloomy.  Seize the opportunity.

E-commerce is not a stranger to growth.  In 2019, online sales grew roughly 15%. That is before the world was suffering from a global pandemic.    Based on data from Adobe Analytics, e-commerce growth has increased 25% since mid-March. Consumers have increasingly adapted to the purchase of goods online. Living a new normal will further exacerbate an already surging sector.  Growth equates to blue waters. Yes; there are complexities concerning supply chains, budgetary constraints, and a plethora of other dependencies.  However, the future of consumption is no secret.  

Embrace the world ahead, adapt quickly, and maintain a laser focus on your e-commerce sales channels.  The SaaS technology movement provides you with the tools you need to turbocharge your online sales efforts quickly.  Build intuitive digital experiences for your customers and delight them with extraordinary customer service. Although we are currently in the middle of a huge storm, a rising tide will lift all ships.  Embrace e-commerce as your rising tide.

Finally, thanks for reading!

From Around the Web

Interesting Reads:

Nielsen – Tracking the Impact on FMCG and Retail
This article has the graphic I included above.  COVID-19 will affect consumers in the short- and long-term.  Thinking about the problem globally and on a localized basis provides great perspective as to how consumer behavior will look in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

NRF Report – Convenience and the Consumer
NRF paints a compelling story as to the importance of convenience for consumers.  Their data suggests that purchase decisions and cart abandonment rates are largely reflective of consumer’s purchases.  

Way to Help:

Mutual Aid Network
The mutual aid network is a database of initiatives across varying causes and geographies.  While the spreadsheet is a behemoth, there are a ton of great ways to help others currently in need — filter the database down to some causes that inspire you!

Gleaners – 2019 Foodbank of the Year
I have been volunteering with Gleaners.  I’ve been really impressed with the organization and their ability to mobilize in the most needed communities.  While it’s a local organization, they are doing great work.

Developer Resources:

Awesome Corona Virus – An Open Source Project
This GitHub repo provides a variety of projects that empower developers to leverage APIs related to virus data.  I hope cool and helpful tools are created as a result.

Postman – COVID-19 Resources
Similar to the GitHub repo above, Postman has provided a list of API resources that developers can check out.