COVID-19 and e-commerce: what to remember from the period we have just lived

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By Margot Bonhomme, Marketing Manager @Botfuel

December 01, 2020

Covid-19 has disrupted consumer habits and accelerated companies’ digital transformation and therefore marketers’ work. We see a lot of data circulating on the e-commerce advent or on the contrary how it caused the downfall of some businesses. Neither all white nor all black, lockdown has had an impact on online sales. But in concrete terms, what are the trends to remember for the end of 2020?

“A marketing director recently told me,“ all the silos were shattered, we made decisions in a few days that would have taken us years in normal times. Containment is by far the best Digital Transformation Officer we have ever had” Guillaume Cavaroc, Retail and E-Commerce Director at Facebook

An increase in the share of e-commerce?

Despite steadily increasing numbers, online sales represent less than 10% of retail trade. They represent less than 2% of the food trade (excluding drives). Also, according to FEVAD, 76% of e-commerce sites have recorded a decline in sales since March 15 and for half of them, this decline is more than 50%.

But e-commerce is popular. The trend of online commerce is set to rise, as it gains an average of 0.7 market points per year. Particularly for large-scale distribution, which saw its traffic explode by 60% and its transactions by more than 84%. Other sectors have also benefited from the crisis such as:

  • Tech with an increase in traffic of + 46% and an increase in transactions of + 47.5%
  • Sport with an increase in traffic of + 48% and an increase in transactions of + 100%
  • Cosmetics with an increase in traffic of + 19% and an increase in transactions of + 53%
  • Banking and insurance services with an increase in traffic of + 24% and an increase in transactions of + 118%
  • Decoration and home with an increase in traffic of + 15.5% and an increase in transactions of + 49%

Among the e-merchant that experienced an increase in their turnover during the lockdown, we can talk about Fnac-Darty. The French brand has seen a + 100% increase in its online turnover. These exponential increases are due to e-shoppers who place an average of 3.5 orders per month and spend around €2,500 per year online.

This is why companies are reviewing their strategy and investing more and more in e-commerce.

Investments from marketers

Marketers, therefore, continue to invest in digital and e-commerce projects:

  • 75% of budgets are stable or increasing;
  • 33% of marketers plan to increase their acquisition, analysis/data, and content marketing budgets;
  • 50% of marketers revise their social media budget upwards
  • ⅓ of marketers increase their marketplace budget

E-commerce is important. It gains budget compared to 2019. Marketing teams are nevertheless forgetting their omnichannel strategy. 53% of decision-makers imagine a return to normal in 3 to 8 months, which is why they continue to invest in the in-store. They accelerate in-store digitization with a budget increasing of 36%.

Other sectors are also affected. Logistics has undergone a lot of change during the lockdown. It is one of the 3 most impacted budgets, upwards, or downwards depending on the activities and contexts of each company.

Acceleration of the points of sale digitalization

The digitalization of physical points of sale is underway! It is experiencing a renewed budget and an acceleration since lockdown. It is a key issue for retail players.

The study by Cabinet Mood Media revealed that the traditional physical store remains the favorite channel for customers. But it must adapt if it is to meet consumer expectations. For Nicolas Rebet, retail and customer experience expert at the strategy consulting firm Equancy, “the store, more than ever, will become the nerve center of emotion and customer experience. It will be difficult to relaunch physical retail on a lasting basis if the brands do not transform them quickly.” To meet these new needs, brands must invest in digital applications within the physical space, such as the use of tablets to help sellers better advise or interactive kiosks to allow customers to find what they want. They can search without delay.

These new configurations serve to optimize the customer experience. This is why brands must be innovative in-store. Those last have to be part of an omnichannel strategy to offer the same service regardless of the channel used by the customer. Web-to-store, Store-to-web, Ship-from-store, or click-and-collect are all channels on which brands must work.

“Before the crisis, the physical supported the web, after the crisis the web will support the physical. More than ever, the perfect complementarity of the two channels will have to be a basic one.” Nicolas Rebet

Emotion is the link between this omnichannel strategy. It also involves the technologies used in stores. They will be for many the differentiating factor at the end of the crisis. Like the technologies used online, they help improve the customer journey and help to remove friction in purchasing.

Marketplaces can also help in this, as explained Thierry Petit, co-founder, and co-CEO of Showroomprivé: “Marketplaces are very important relays for brands that have not had time to develop digitally or are too small to do so. This allows them to sell.”

After focusing on e-commerce in recent months, brands want to make the most of this learning to apply them to physical stores and thus create the most optimal omnichannel experience.

The customer journey is more than ever at the heart of concerns

We have to stop considering the customer relationship only after the sale. This begins as soon as the consumer comes in contact with the brand. Those last have finally understood that it is necessary to engage the customer even before the purchase. And for good reason. 97% of consumers consider the quality of customer service to be an important criterion in choosing a brand. And optimizing your journey goes through many criteria. First, merchants must offer a smooth shopping journey, whether in-store or online. As Arnaud Gallet, Director of Paris Retail Week, explains, “Opposing physical and virtual no longer makes sense because customers are used to switching from one to the other. It doesn't matter to them whether they buy in stores or online, what they want is the best offer”. Big e-commerce websites like Alibaba or Amazon have understood it. An infinite choice of products, express delivery… So many advantages that appeal to consumers. It is from those models that the big retailers and the big industry are drawing inspiration to develop their offers. Some would make the American and Chinese giants pale. For example, Carrefour, “with its 5,000 points of sale in France, Carrefour can deliver faster than Amazon in the 27 largest cities in France - 37 minutes on average for Carrefour against 2 hours for Amazon - because the store becomes a point of stock, but also of preparation, delivery, shipment”, explains Ismaël Ould, founder, and CEO of Wynd.

Another factor is very important. Companies must put people back at the heart of exchanges. For Nicolas Rebet, “It is certain that the model will evolve once again because the need for humanity in commercial relations is one of its main pillars.”

Without taking into account the human being, there can be no consideration of the customer or his needs. Interaction, advice, and expertise are qualities expected for the brands. Consumers want to interact with them. The subjective and the emotional have a more important part than we consider in the purchasing decision. Instead of targeting data and quantity, companies must refocus on people and quality exchanges.


E-commerce is turning a corner compared to 2019. It is attracting more and more retail players and more and more consumers. By its practical aspect, its notoriety, its logistics, and its business booster effect, it brings together a lot of advantages. This is why putting people back at the heart of the customer journey is today’s priority.

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