The COVID-19 pandemic has already disrupted shopping habits around the world and, with the Delta variant infections now surging, retail and e-Commerce are likely to experience new changes by the end of 2021. However, retailers everywhere did manage to profit during the holiday season of 2020, so there are good reasons to believe this holiday season will prove a success. As worries about the new strain of the virus grow, consumers might decide to give up on leisure travel and large events—and focus on holiday gifts and personal purchases, instead.
Online shopping grew by 32.2% during the 2020 holiday season. It totaled $188.2 billion, as many buyers worked remotely, spent more time at home, and did their shopping online, as a consequence of the pandemic. While this gives online retailers good reasons to hope for growth in 2021, it’s important to note that e-Commerce is also facing new problems. The global chip shortage is no longer limited to cars, having spread to other electronics, while shopping cart abandonment continues to be an important issue. Maybe even more important is the fact that the unstable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic still causes shifts in consumer trends.
Why the Chip Shortage Matters
The US is now facing multiple shortages in both finished goods and parts for locally-made goods. This means that not only is the shortage of semiconductors now expected to cost the auto industry $210 billion in revenue worldwide—but US policy-makers are also getting involved. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo recently announced that the time has come to become “aggressive” when dealing with the deteriorating chip shortage that has led to many carmakers and other manufacturers cutting production.
However, the problems plaguing the automotive industry are just the tip of the semiconductor chip shortage iceberg. As the crisis grows, the number of available laptops, smartphones, large-screen television sets, and other premium electronics is steadily decreasing. Raimondo said that these problems will probably pose a challenge this holiday season, when demand for such goods is expected to soar.
Dealing with Shopping Cart Abandonment
Shopping cart abandonment is by no means a new issue for e-Commerce, as it has plagued the industry from its very beginning. However, this problem poses new challenges for online retailers during the holidays, when it tends to get even worse. Cart abandonment rates seem to peak during the holiday season, with December now being the month with the highest rate of cart abandonment in the United Kingdom (UK). Considering the fact that many shoppers browse Christmas present ideas in November and December, it comes as no surprise that many give up on purchase ideas during these two months. The trend is likely to extend from British shoppers to Americans and beyond, as shopping habits during this time tend to be similar.
With the holiday season approaching, online retailers should probably find new ways to prevent potential customers from leaving websites before completing their purchases. Another way of dealing with this problem might be developing marketing strategies designed to persuade cart abandoners to return and complete their orders.
Adapting to the New Normal
Adapting to the new normal in e-Commerce—and beyond—is challenging, and the surge of the Delta variant has made it even more so. The COVID-19 pandemic has already altered shopping habits around the world, and it will probably continue to do so in the near future. While online sales showed significant growth in the US in 2020, when compared to previous years, there’s no way to know for sure if the future will prove as bright as the past. According to eMarketer, online sales in the US are expected to grow to $908.73 billion this year, but only time will tell if this prediction is accurate.
Not all product categories will perform the same in terms of holiday sales, meaning that most online retailers will have to develop good marketing strategies in order to maintain or accelerate growth. With uncertainties still altering shopping habits around the world, and problems like chip shortage and shopping cart abandonment plaguing the industry, it will be up to online retailers to overcome all difficulties and provide their customers with new reasons to shop online.