Thanks to the COVID pandemic, 2020 has been a testing year for businesses. Many companies have reduced their services while others have been forced to cease trading altogether.
So what will next year bring for e-commerce fulfilment? Many consumers have been shopping online for the past decade, but 2020 has seen a boom in e-commerce. Will 2021 see the logistics and delivery sector expand even further?
Don't be fooled - in-store retail is far from a dead parrot
Before COVID, experts predicted that e-commerce would grow by 19% in 2020, accounting for over 16% of sales. But the latest figures show that during the pandemic—with its associated lockdowns and social distancing measures—there was actually a much larger increase of 77% growth in online sales. This boom is particularly evident in clothing, footwear and textiles.
E-commerce retailers were able to provide their products to consumers without any concerns over social distancing. However, consumers still love shopping in traditional stores, and this seems unlikely to change. As soon as lockdown measures ease, people flock back to the high street, where they can see, feel and try on their purchases while enjoying shopping as a social experience.
The key to success for retail businesses will be to adapt to the growing influence of e-commerce on traditional shopping, and the way in which this change impacts consumer habits. While in-store retail is far from dead, the winners will be those entrepreneurs who can react quickly to the changing relationship between high street stores and online shopping.
Will offline e-commerce become mainstream?
E-commerce businesses are booming and providing traditional stores with healthy competition, but although shopping centres have been quiet, plenty of people still prefer to shop the conventional way.
Luckily, there's a growing number of e-commerce sellers making a physical appearance on our high streets, with online retailers setting up interactive kiosks and pop-up shops in our town centres. Even online giant Amazon is getting a piece of the action, with its Amazon Go convenience stores. This trend looks set to increase during 2021, as the internet meets real life.
Technology is in the hands of the buyer
A study by Microsoft discovered that over half of all users believe that voice-activated assistants will help them with their purchasing within the next few years.
Around a fifth of those who own a digital assistant such as Amazon's Alexa are already using them to research, create shopping lists and purchase items, and adoption of this new way of shopping is steadily growing. It's not just with voice-activated speakers that voice shopping is on the rise: more and more of us are starting to shop with voice assistants on mobile phones, such as Google's Siri.
However, most voice shopping is currently directed towards the purchase of digital products, with movies, music and games at the top of the list. Consumers don't need to handle these items before purchase and are already accustomed to buying them online. It remains to be seen whether voice shopping will take off as successfully in other sectors.
2021 will see e-commerce fulfilment embrace change for the good
This year has seen significant changes as retailers were forced to reinvent themselves. There have been a few surprises: for example, the growth in purchasing online has helped local businesses as well as the larger online retailers. Another has been the shift in the status of logistics. Timely, careful and courteous deliveries have always been the trademark of successful companies. Now, businesses see the opportunity for interaction between delivery driver and customer as strengthening relationships and building brand loyalty.
The change from offline retail to e-commerce, which has happened gradually over previous decades, has accelerated and reached a tipping point during the past year. During 2021, online and offline retail look set to merge, driven by our passion for new technology and a newly discovered confidence that we can use the systems to improve our lives.