What Will Happen to E-commerce After the Pandemic Is Over?

By now, the market trends are clear — industries that are conducive to social distancing are thriving, and others aren’t. E-commerce is a major beneficiary of the pandemic, with e-commerce growth said to have accelerated the equivalent of 4 to 6 years under non-pandemic projections.

However, now that a coronavirus vaccine emerges, there’s an end in sight to the pandemic — and to “the new normal.” So, what’s going to happen to the e-commerce industry after the pandemic is over? Will consumers go back to their old ways, or will they continue their newly-developed habits of online shopping?

The short answer is, it’s hard to know for sure, but it seems like COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on consumer behavior.

Adobe’s Digital Economy index tells us that “COVID-19 has changed business forever.” It’s true that, at the beginning of the pandemic, total consumer spend on e-commerce retailers was $52 billion more than that of the previous April and May. However, only time can really tell if this massive increase in online shopping from the early days of the pandemic will continue past the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.

Even if consumers have grown accustomed to online shopping, they might not actually need to continue shopping. Consumer panic and the “panic buying” phenomenon have been well-studied over the past half year, and the trends in online shopping could simply be attributed to mass anxiety.

In other words, COVID-19’s effect on e-commerce will be decided by either consumer habits or consumer emotions. If consumer habits come out stronger, then people are likely to shop online to meet all their needs, and e-commerce retailers can rejoice. However, if consumer emotions prevail, then people will be calmer and may no longer continue to make panic purchases online, and demand for e-commerce may decrease.

While it can be fun to speculate, we will never be able to predict the future for certain, so it is best to focus on the things we can control. Now’s a great time to revisit your business model to make sure it’s conducive to online and in-person shopping. It doesn’t hurt to prepare for both possibilities. And whatever you do, make the customer experience your top priority, so that you can build strong customer loyalty that can outlast the pandemic and any vaccine.