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Why online retailing is here to stay

It seems that 2020 has become the year of webinars – with physical learning opportunities unable to go ahead, and so much insight, data and advice to share at such an unprecedented time, it has been digital technology that has provided that solution.

It’s also this shift to digital that has also had an unquestionable effect on retail. After tuning into ChannelAdvisor’s recent webinar entitled Life After Lockdown: Consumer Attitudes to In-Store Shopping, it rapidly became clear that retail as we know it is unlikely to ever quite be the same again.

The headline statistic from ChannelAdvisor’s survey of more than 1,000 consumers was that in August 2020, 55% of consumers were shopping more online than prior to the pandemic (compared to 48% in May).

But now it’s not just already digitally-savvy young people who are comfortable shopping online. There has been a 70% increase in online shopping in the 46+ age group. Compare that with the fact that 28% of consumers across all age groups haven’t shopped in a physical store (excluding grocery/supermarkets) at all since lockdown eased and it is clear that the shift towards online shopping has advanced by a year or two because of the pandemic.

The key messages from the webinar? Retailer can no longer ignore marketplaces (such as eBay) and online selling from an omnichannel strategy. A popular term in the digital marketing world is Digital Darwinism, as we enter an era where technology and society are evolving faster than businesses can naturally adapt. This then sets the stage for a new era of leadership and a new generation of business models, with a “survival of the fittest” outcome. Never has this been more fitting.

None of this is to say that bricks-and-mortar is to be replaced by online retailing – we strongly believe that there is an essential role for high street retail, and many retail jewellers offer an in-store experience and expertise that simply cannot be replicated virtually. But what the past six months has also taught us is that nothing is certain; how many retailers will lose out if there is another lockdown, simply because they are unable to play an active role in their customers’ lives from afar? Now is the time for local retailers to future-proof their businesses and mitigate risk by diversifying sales channels and embracing the inevitable.

By Frances Hopes, Head of Marketing, CMJ

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