The impact of COVID-19 on global eCommerce and customer loyalty

It’s hard to ignore the rise of eCommerce – both at home and abroad. At the turn of the year, online channels accounted for a fifth of all retail sales in the UK. Just 10 years ago, online was still a bit-part player; its share in single-digit percentage points. But the restrictions that were introduced to combat the coronavirus outbreak have since shifted that balance even further.

A combination of people being asked to remain at home and non-essential shops closing their doors meant that eCommerce gained even further traction. But it’s not all about revenue and sales. Recent trends also have the potential to overhaul what it means to be a loyal customer – and what customers now look for in eCommerce brands post COVID-19 they previously had or hadn’t been loyal to.

eCommerce COVID-19The rise of eCommerce at home and abroad

The growth of eCommerce at home and abroad is a challenge for many established brands who could previously count on loyal customers for repeat business. With increased competition from newer online retailers, consumers have more choice – and it’s making them ever-more fickle in who they choose to shop with.

While the rate at which global retail eCommerce sales is expected to slow, it’ll remain in double digits at 16.5%. This means the battle to build brand loyalty online still needs to be fought. For those who get it right, the opportunities are lucrative. Customer retention has always been key to business growth. But, in a crowded digital market, it now matters even more.

Key changes in COVID-19 consumer behaviours

One reason that some digital loyalty programs are proving extremely successful for the brands who operate them is their ability to recognise the shifting nature of consumer behaviours. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, eCommerce could provide better prices and more convenience when it came to products and specific services. The pandemic, however, is taking that to new levels.

This is because, as a population, we were asked to stay at home and – more recently – remain socially distant from others. For work, education and socialising, the internet is the lifeline that keeps these things going. It’s the same for shopping. That impact is highlighted in official data from the UK, with the share of online retail rocketing up from a fifth to a third of all retail sales.

What you need to offer people for their loyalty

One of the biggest factors that can encourage greater loyalty towards an eCommerce brand is personalisation and experience. This will be a big focus for those sectors most impacted by the pandemic such as travel. But it will apply across the board. So, instead of putting a lot of focus on spend-based rewards, consider creating unique digital touchpoints for those consumers.

This runs through into another core element to consider and that’s communication. As trust is such a vital component of loyalty, being open and in touch with consumers demonstrates that, not only are you listening to them, you’re actively looking out for their interests. This is where the data you hold on your customers can be used to maximum effect and to your benefit.

The hope is, of course, that COVID-19 becomes a thing of the past as soon as possible. But it’s not a given that consumers will return to old shopping habits. The way in which eCommerce is seeing such widespread (and enforced) adoption in these COVID-19 times are providing platforms with a chance to attract new shoppers and win their hearts and minds to build enduring relationships.