COVID-Sparked Ecommerce Rise Drives Massive Content Demand

Posted on Monday, October 12, 2020 by Kelli Hackett

Ecommerce was growing globally before the coronavirus reared its ugly head in early 2020, but the increase was relatively steady and methodical. COVID-19 changed all that.

As the virus rapidly escalated from a modest concern to an imminent danger across the world, the resulting lockdowns and general fears of going out created a massive demand for online shopping.

And of course, ecommerce is fueled by content: That's why all online marketers understand that "content is king." That's never been truer than now, as enormous consumer demand has sparked a simultaneous need for high-quality content.

With consumers far less likely to shop in brick-and-mortar stores and spending much more time at home, online shopping has transformed from a useful convenience to a virtual necessity for many.

But even as much of the world has made substantial strides in mitigating the crisis, no one should assume that the skyrocketing growth of ecommerce will slow anytime soon. It's far more likely that global consumers' increased reliance on online shopping will become the new norm.

With virtually every type of retail product now being available online—by necessity—the demand for content has gone through the roof.

According to a report from the Common Thread Collective in the last week of July, ecommerce revenue worldwide soared 152 percent in the first half of 2020, compared to the same time frame in 2019.

"Everything we're seeing with ecommerce is unprecedented, with growth rates expected to surpass anything we've seen since the Great Recession," Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst for eMarketer,stated in the report.

He added: "Certain ecommerce behaviors like online grocery shopping and click-and-collect [ordering online but picking up an item at a store, either with curbside pickup or going inside] have permanently catapulted three or four years into the future in just three or four months."

The virus has affected buying behaviors in a variety of ways. ROI Revolutionreported in August that global retail sales were expected to be down 5.7 percent overall for 2020. However, online purchases of clothing were up a commanding 76.7 percent.

As analyst Alban Kwan noted in aJuly 31 report, ecommerce revenue in 2020 grew over the same time frame in 2019 by 110 percent in the United States, 69 percent in the European Union, 45 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, and 200 percent in the rest of the world.

COVID-19 hasn't only escalated the need for more content but also better content, as consumers display an interest in trying out new brands.

When browsing online, consumers "especially value complete product information and clear images," according to an August report onDigital Commerce 360. The report summarized the results of surveys in March and June by Periscope by McKinsey, a unit of McKinsey & Co.

Periscope twice surveyed 2,500 people in the United States, France, Germany, and United Kingdom regarding how their shopping behaviors changed due to COVID.

A particularly notable point in the survey was that consumers in June more highly valued complete product descriptions and accurate imagery than they did when surveyed in March.

The report determined that highly informative descriptions and images were especially important to consumers during a time when they were unable to directly interact with products in a store.

The clear takeaway: When people can't physically view or touch a product, they're far more likely to purchase if they're provided a comprehensive, accurate, well-written description.

The Periscope report also highlighted the importance of a "zero friction" digital experience, including "clear and detailed product descriptions and images, and quick page loading."

"As consumers move more seamlessly between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores, they increasingly expect the brands that serve them to do the same," stated an Augustarticle on McKinsey.com credited to a team of five authors.

It noted that the pandemic has given rise to "a hybrid model that combines digital commerce with products and services delivered by a neighborhood store."

All of this occurs as people around the world were already adapting to purchasing more of their items online pre-COVID.

Smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous, with even older demographics becoming accustomed to the devices and their features, and intuitive apps make it easy to select items and complete purchases with a few taps on a phone.

Voice-enabled smart devices from Amazon, Google, Apple, and other tech heavyweights also have soared in popularity, making purchasing as simple as speaking aloud for a few seconds.

COVID-19 has likely changed consumer behavior for good.

It might have required an unprecedented crisis to force "old-school" shoppers into widespread online buying. But now that they know how many products are available through ecommerce—and now that brick-and-mortar retailers have had to adapt quickly to make ecommerce especially user-friendly—there's no turning back.

Consider that Walmart—the retail behemoth that accounts for about 9 percent of all U.S. consumer spending all by itself—is currently launching Walmart+.

It's intended as an Amazon Prime competitor that similarly works as a subscription service ($98 per year) and includes same-day delivery of groceries.

Long after COVID-19 has subsided as a constant concern, that type of service is sure to be popular with the millions of people who typically visit Walmart Supercenters several times a week for groceries and other needs.

Arecent analysis by ACI Worldwide Research noted that ecommerce is likely to "remain a consistent and convenient option for customers until the pandemic abates, and an extended economic recovery could give shoppers time to reinforce online shopping habits so they last long term."

While no one wants this pandemic to last any longer than necessary, the reality remains that its lingering effects will continue to reinforce those habits, making ecommerce more of the "norm" for many. At the same time, the unfortunate closure of so many brick-and-mortar stores can only push more consumers to online shopping.

The result is that online retailers must put a stronger emphasis on a friction-free user experience with rich, detailed product descriptions and lots of high-quality images, replicating the "in-person" experience for both established digital shoppers and the global consumers coming on board.

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