COVID-19 ecommerce, what's next for the UK?

UK ecommerce

Will COVID-19 leave a lasting impact on the UK and Europe’s ecommerce? Let’s see…

The impact of COVID-19 has been nothing if not dramatic. Dolphins in Venice. Airports slowing to a crawl. High-streets empty and quiet until recently.

In Europe and the UK, as in many other places, ecommerce received a dramatic boost in trade, resulting from the closure of all non-essential stores. But will that kind of shift have substantial long term impacts on the ecommerce marketplace? Or is this just a brief blip on the radar screen? Consider the following data points to help answer that question.

Europe saw a 54% ecommerce drop when UK high streets re-opened

The UK government’s policy shifts to allow the re-opening of non-essential commercial properties came into effect on 15th June. On the week ending 21st June, reported that it’s ecommerce data tracking showed a 54% drop in European ecommerce sales.

Whilst claiming direct cause and effect is too simplistic, it is hard to deny some impact. 15th June saw long queues across the UK for stores like Nike, Primark, TK Maxx and Foot Locker. It seems the average Briton’s appetite for commerce cannot be satiated by online activity alone.

However, even with the media’s attention-grabbing pictures of long queues, and the 54% drop, ecommerce sales in Europe in the week ending 21st June were still 35% above what had been seen in the first week of March, the pre-lockdown yardstick. Britain’s ecommerce scene may have taken a hit when the high street re-opened, but it remains stronger than it was pre-lockdown.

52% of customers won’t go back to in-store grocery shopping

Even supermarkets, which stayed open during lockdown, felt an ecommerce impact. Data gathered by Nielsen showed that the four week period ending 16th May contained a 103% year-on-year growth in UK supermarket ecommerce revenue, reaching £1.2 billion. Supermarkets also reported that 13% of all sales in that period were ecommerce, nearly double the percentage from the same period in 2019. Overall in this period, 7.9 million UK households made online supermarket purchases, up from 4.8 million in the same period in 2019.

This is a dramatic shift in the most basic of UK shopping habits and data from reveals this could be permanent. 52% of European grocery shoppers do not expect to be returning to brick-and-mortar supermarkets regularly after the crisis. If this is true, COVID-19 will definitely have a permanent ecommerce legacy.

60% of Europeans plan to continue current levels of online shopping post-lockdown

For many European shoppers, it seems that now they’ve transitioned to shopping online, they don’t want to revert back to brick-and-mortar stores.

Surveying by Kantar found 60% of French, British, and German shoppers do not plan to return to their previous levels of brick-and-mortar commerce after the outbreak. Instead, they will continue shopping online as much as they had during the COVID-19 lockdown. This suggests the outbreak was a watershed moment, likely to leave a lasting mark on consumers’ shopping habits.

40% of customers find brick-and-mortar shopping less enjoyable than pre-lockdown

The reality of physical commercial life in 2020 may dampen the desire to return to the high street. Long lines, masks, and endless hand sanitiser may have become a hindrance to the overall high street shopping experience. This is what data from over 1,000 UK shoppers said to ChannelAdvisor and Dynata, of whom 40% said they found physical shopping “less enjoyable” than pre-lockdown.

While restrictions will be lifted eventually, July and August of 2020 have revealed that the process of a return to “normal” will be neither linear nor inevitable. This will be a gradual and gentle process, during which ecommerce will constantly retain the home-field advantage. Many people will have long-standing negative associations with the brick-and-mortar shopping experience due to the circumstances in which their closure occurred.

The data covering the European and British experiences of COVID-19 would seem to suggest that the impact we’re feeling here is likely to be felt for quite some time to come. To learn more about what’s happening, see our upcoming follow-up piece that looks at the global picture. For more information or guidance on how your business could maximise its ecommerce offering, OrderWise can provide a truly connected ecommerce shopping experience for your customers. Visit our dedicated ecommerce solution page today, or speak to an expert on 01522 704083.