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Ecommerce Proves Essential in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond

By: Ted Rogers
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Retailers entered 2020 already facing strong headwinds from the rise of ecommerce and shoppers who don’t discriminate between buying in store, on their phone or from their laptop. Enter a global pandemic, and many retailers worldwide found their operations severely curtailed or stopped completely. As parts of the world begin to reopen, brick-and-mortar stores might find other hurdles- shoppers who aren’t comfortable venturing out and shoppers who have adopted their new ecommerce buying habits.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the world on many fronts. From a business perspective, it has sped the adoption of ecommerce in 2020 and beyond. Notably some businesses have retooled altogether or because of their ecommerce channel, have found themselves in a position to be part of the solution for the millions of people suddenly working from home, in need of essentials or looking for a way to cope with stress.

Digital River’s own data confirms certain sectors have seen an increase in business as shoppers were looking for ways to cope with stay at home restrictions. Companies selling PC accessories performed 56% better in Q1 than Digital River projections. B2B software was up 10% and gaming saw a 9% rise. On the entertainment front, it was hardly a surprise that Netflix saw 15.7 million new users globally for the streaming service in Q1.

Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at Bloomreach, says his company’s research is finding similar examples of ecommerce strength and even growth during the height of restrictions.

“What we’re seeing is 50% of consumers are buying in categories online they’ve never bought online before, including grocery, but also many others.”

The Wall Street Journal cites beauty products as one such category, where shoppers who traditionally preferred seeing the product in person are now open to skipping the brick and mortar experience for an ecommerce experience.

Workplace Heroes

Some B2B companies found themselves taking a more active role helping customers navigate stay at home orders. Digital River client Citrix offers digital workspace solutions that leverage the automation, scale and ubiquity of the cloud. As companies found themselves in need of a secure and reliable way to access their information and work tools, Citrix found itself in higher demand.

From the State of Illinois that was able to get 30,000 workers up and running from home within a day to deliver critical services, to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), which had to keep data flowing for policy makers to manage a crisis situation during a strict lockdown, Citrix was able to deliver solutions through its ecommerce channels. Even the San Francisco 49ers found a need for a virtual desktop to stay connected for its off season moves.

“It’s tough to predict how things will play out,” said Vishal Ganeriwala, vice president of product marketing for Citrix. “We really believe that being equipped to fully enable remote work for people, no matter the situation or where they are in the world, will be mission critical for the future of work and global companies.”

Pandemic Pivot

While some companies are working hard to keep up with new demands, others saw their demand come full stop. SPACES is a company that provides cutting-edge VR experiences for theme parks and malls around the world. With those types of gathering places closed, SPACES executives found themselves on endless video conferencing calls, discussing their next steps. That experience inspired them to take their VR expertise and apply it to an application for video conferencing. Lacking the time or bandwidth to stand up an ecommerce store, SPACES turned to Digital River and its MyCommerce solution to begin selling subscriptions to its pro version of the app within days.

“It’s been extremely exciting to see the initial interest we’ve received in the app and the different ways it’s being used for business meetings, live events, classroom teaching and everyday entertainment,” said SPACES CTO and co-founder, Brad Herman. “The team at Digital River has jumped all in to help us accelerate the curve of user adoption and quickly grow the business.”

Outlook for Opportunity

No one can forecast with any confidence what the months ahead hold for brands navigating a world that looks very different from the one they thought they were heading into when 2020 began. What is clear is the importance of ecommerce and the ability to adapt to customer needs. From the boutique moving its wares online for pickup curbside to the B2B giants in position to reach customers 24/7, an ecommerce strategy is a priority for businesses looking to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

What’s Your Ecommerce Strategy?

Digital River is working with some of the top thought leaders in the ecommerce world to help you learn why and how to take your ecommerce business global for ongoing growth, and also how to build a D2C channel to nurture customer relationships, build loyalty and grow your business.

We hosted virtual events as part of our Commerce Passport and Uncertainty into Opportunity series and you can see past live events here. Plus, listen to industry experts go deeper into these topics on our Commerce Connect podcast, available wherever you like to listen to your podcasts.