Will the Coronavirus Pandemic be the death of non ecommerce enabled retailers?

The Coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic with an unprecedented impact on individuals and the economy at large. Times are uncertain, and while we don't have all the answers, one thing is for certain that commerce will be forever changed. This period of isolation and uncertainty has also dramatically changed the consumers shopping behaviors. From bulk-buying to online shopping, people are changing what they're buying, when, and how. In economic downturns, consumer demand for "nice-to-have" products goes down as buyers focus on their more basic needs. Health, wellness and safety - products that fit into the lower parts of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - become the top priority.


Ecommerce activity, particularly related to health and grocery, is booming in the US in general. U.S. ecommerce sales surged in a number of categories in March 2020, with e-grocery sales doubling and overall ecommerce sales rising 25%, according to data from Adobe Analytics. Those retailers who had invested in making their operations ecommerce enabled are now reaping the benefits of those investments.

There may soon be two types of retailers - the digital and the out-of-business.

Many brick-and-mortar retailers of non-essential items are shuttering stores. Either voluntarily limiting hours and customer traffic, or mandated by their municipalities and states that are passing restrictions on how consumers can congregate and how businesses can operate.

Brick-and-mortar stores were in trouble before the Coronavirus pandemic, but now most will be fighting for their livelihoods. But any retailer that does not offer Omni-channel shopping options is going to run into serious issues with revenue flow and that's assuming they can make it to the other side of this pandemic. 

Not every brick-and-mortar chain has a well-established digital presence. Many smaller retailers (and even some larger ones) do not currently engage in e-commerce. Perhaps up to this point they had no reason to even consider Omni channel given a thriving physical location with a loyal customer base. But the Coronavirus pandemic changed all of that. It is imperative for brick n mortar retailers to think outside the box and move with haste to capture the market as it shifts quickly towards ecommerce.

As consumers opt to stay home now, and in foreseeable future, delivery, curbside pick up the ability to allow the consumer to avoid physical contact and still get their needed merchandise is paramount.  

Even retailers with a robust digital presence will need to consider options as back-up or complementary infrastructure. Companies need to pay extra special attention to their digital and ecommerce experiences right now. Consumers are less forgiving during these times, and the retailers that meet and exceed their needs will build loyalty and lifetime value.

Though it is too soon to know the true impact of this crisis, most economists agree that a recession is now almost certain. And the retailers who were least prepared will go first.


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