The first days of Covid feel like years ago, but amazingly it’s only been less than 2 years that the masses began sheltering at home and shopping online in unprecedented numbers. Then just as some consumers started to venture back to in-store shopping, the Delta variant showed up to throw a wrench in our plans again.
With new variants and waves of Covid popping up, what does this mean for ecommerce both short-term and long?
During the first COVID wave, online retail grew 32%. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, online retail was worth over $790 billion in 2020. The frenzy of e-commerce slowed as vaccines became available and shoppers began to return to brick-and-mortar retail. The Delta variant reversed that trend quickly and online shopping is climbing once again. The existence of Delta also indicates that other variants are expected to emerge in the future. Naturally, this new reality of emerging variants is – and will continue to impact consumer feelings as well as our habits.
While most Americans are still visiting retail stores – colder weather in some regions could impact consumer behavior. During peak holiday season, some people will want to avoid shopping in-person to avoid exposure and crowds. That said, if the already strained supply-chain log-jam delays too many on-line orders, gift panic might set-in thereby creating a surge of in-store shoppers hitting the malls to get their hands on holiday items being delivered late.
Challenges will be felt all along the supply chain – particularly within last-mile delivery carriers who are running at record capacity. EMarketer forecasts that 2021 holiday retail sales in the U.S will expand by 2.7 percent, resulting in a staggering $1billion in sales value. Retailers and shippers will need to be very creative and prudent about how they pack efficiently to manage their carriers and keep costs down so that the holiday season remains profitable.
In all, the 2021 peak shipping season will be challenging for retail and eCommerce. However, with proper management of warehousing, shipping and carriers it can still be a profitable and happy holiday season.