Over the last couple of decades, online shopping has become increasingly popular, and it is now the preferred shopping method for many. There has been a consistent upwards trend in online retail sales across this time period, and it appears that the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to eCommerce websites.
Prior to the pandemic, online sales made up approximately 20% of total retail sales in the UK whereas now they make up approximately a third of total sales. It will be interesting to see if this mass migration over to online shopping stays when we return to normality post-pandemic or if this change in consumer shopping behaviour will become part of the so-called “new normal”.
So you may be wondering should I invest in an eCommerce website for my business? This blog post will highlight the current trends in consumers shopping habits and explain some of the key reasons why people are moving online to shop.
The Death of the High Street
Topshop, Debenhams, and Dorothy Perkins are just some of the big high street names we lost in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to of been the final nail in the coffin for many retailers that were already struggling. The continuous flip-flopping in and out of lockdown whether it was at a national or local level was a real blow to retailers who had to close their doors for much of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Furthermore, the uncertainty surrounding what qualified as essential retail and what did not also created more problems for retailers.
Unfortunately, the troubles appear to be far from over. John Lewis recently closed several of their flagship stores, and M&S are reportedly set to close at least 30 stores after suffering a £201million loss for the year. Gap has also announced store closures and is set to shut down all 81 of their UK outlets and move exclusively online.
Many of the companies that have gone bust have seen their brands snapped up by large eCommerce groups during the administration process. A number of the Arcadia Group’s brands were bought by online fashion retailer, ASOS. While the department store, Debenhams faced a similar fate, as their name and eCommerce website was purchased by online fashion giant, Boohoo.
Nobody was willing to bail these failing businesses out or buying their assets if it meant they had to keep stores open. However, evidently, the eCommerce sites that bought the brands saw value in them, and believe they will be profitable as online-only retailers.
This suggests that perhaps retailers no longer see the appeal of bricks-and-mortar stores that can have high running costs and overheads. It is also a reflection of the changes in consumer shopping behaviour and the growing popularity of online stores.
Why are Consumers Shopping More Online?
There are many reasons why consumers are choosing to forgo a trip to the High Street in favour of buying from an online store. Five of the main reasons consumers are choosing to shop on eCommerce websites are:
1) It is more convenient
Ecommerce websites are open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Consumers don’t have to worry about opening hours and can even shop at 2 am from the comfort of their own bed if they so desire.
This is a big factor in why people prefer to buy from an online store, as they don’t ever have to worry about opening hours and fitting shopping into their schedule. They can just shop whenever it best suits them and without having to travel to the physical shop locations and their order will be delivered straight to their home. Not having to carry heavy bags, or deal with long queues in-store.
2) It is easier to find specific products
Using search engines or the search bar tool on an eCommerce website allows consumers to search exactly what they are looking for with a few taps of the keyboard. It is quick and easy to find a specific product or to find products that match the criteria you are searching for using keywords.
For example, you might not have a specific brand in mind, but you can search for “black winter boots” and the search engine will provide you with hundreds of product listings for items that match that description.
On the other hand, in a physical shop, you would have to walk around, browse the products, and perhaps ask a sales assistant to help you locate what you are looking for. Then if you cannot find what you are looking for in that shop, you would have to go to another shop or even several more shops which requires more effort.
3) It is easier to compare products
Consumers can have different eCommerce websites open in different internet tabs to compare the different options available. There are even online comparison tools that allow consumers to compare products on one single webpage.
Online shopping allows consumers to conduct thorough research and compare products on product specifications and features, prices, reviews, and discount options available. This makes them feel like they are getting the best deal and value for money.
4) There is more choice
Ecommerce sites remove barriers like physical distance and geographical location that previously would have prevented some consumers from shopping at certain brands. Many eCommerce sites offer UK wide delivery and often run promotions where if you spent over a certain amount you get free shipping. Therefore, consumers can pretty much order from any brand they want even if there is no physical location near them.
In addition, eCommerce sites give consumers access to international brands that do not have any physical locations in the UK. As a result, consumers now have access to thousands of brands and can choose from masses of products that are available on the market.
5) It is safer
COVID has highlighted that public places can be hotspots for virus transmission and this has made many people wary of entering places like shops. Despite, retailers’ best efforts to provide hand sanitiser and limit the number of people entering their stores, an increasing amount of people are turning to online shopping.
This is particularly true of the older generations who are more at risk of becoming very ill with COVID and who have perhaps not previously bought from an online shop. At times, they have had no options but to shop online if they wanted items that were deemed “non-essential”. Now shops have reopened many have got used to navigating eCommerce sites and still feel safer using delivery services that offer contact-less delivery.
Should I Invest in an eCommerce Website for My Business?
If your business does not already have an online presence, you should definitely consider investing in an eCommerce website to sell your products. With more and more people shopping online, it opens up a lot of opportunities to generate more sales and gain new customers.
To create an eCommerce you will need to have some understanding of web design or web development. You need to design your eCommerce in a way that looks professional and visually pleasing but is also highly responsive and user friendly. You may wish to consider a third-party web design agency to create a bespoke eCommerce site for you, as they will be able to use their expert design knowledge to deliver a high-quality and functional site.
Once your eCommerce site has been designed, you can consider other important digital marketing aspects like how you are going to move your website up the Google rankings using search engine optimisation and put in place a content marketing strategy. You should also consider using social media platforms to promote the launch of your new website and to boost brand awareness.
While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly accelerated the demise of the High Street, was it inevitable? Retailers were already struggling pre-pandemic and consumer shopping habits were already showing a growing preference for online shopping.
Regardless, it is clear that online shopping has become a huge market over the last two decades and that there has been a shift in paradigm from physical stores. As a result, it can be said that the large majority of retailers would greatly benefit from having an eCommerce website to sell products and that retailers should incorporate online selling into their overall digital marketing strategy if haven’t already.
eCommerce Website Design UK
If you are looking to launch a new website or would like to refresh your existing online store, then Azzurro-Blu is here to help. Our web developers are experts in eCommerce website design and create bespoke, responsive sites that will set you apart from the competition. We develop online shop websites for our clients that are designed to provide exceptional user experience and are easy to navigate.
To learn more about what we can do for you, please get in touch at [email protected] or give us a call on 01224 600005.