E-commerce in an immobile world

With the majority of consumers needing to stay at home, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced the world to stop.

This new and unprecedented situation has shaken the world of economics, marketing and advertising as we know it. Many questions have been raised in the marketing sector around consumer tendencies in lockdown and how it is affecting e-Commerce in an immobile world.

There have been different historical and life-altering moments where changes to the advertising model have had to be made. We saw a paradigm shift with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution (mid-eighteenth century), where advertising was focused on serial production at lower costs, shorter production times and an increased volume of production. This need to sell products extensively brought advertising into its golden age.

During the different World Wars, the message in advertising was focused on the need to mobilize the public to take action for the good of the community. Many such messages were delivered as public service advertisements (PSAs) and the fine line between advertisement and propaganda overlapped.

Now with the world affected by COVID-19, it has become clear that there has been a shift in advertising messages through television, computers and mobile’ phones. Under the hashtag #stayathome, a unique message has echoed through the world as the lockdown wave dismantled the earth’s routine economic system. Population behaviour has been forced to change, not only in a working environment but also in buying journeys as we adapt from a physical retail shop to the online world. The fear of getting infected with the virus has triumphed over any hesitation at the check-out of an eCommerce purchase funnel, and online sales have lifted to numbers never seen before. Italy, the first European country to lockdown, witnessed their eCommerce rising by 80% and the online searches to 150% in the first week of confinement.[1]

Digital analytics has not been able to predict the pandemic and its spread, but it should be a great help for consumer behaviour if it follows trends. After toilet paper sales dramatically increased and left the shelves bare, it was easy to predict that board games, computers, televisions, home-craft materials and gym equipment were the next to hit the “most sold” online products worldwide. Nevertheless, it may not have predicted that ‘wheat’ would also increase in sales and be declared a precious commodity as people baked their own bread at home. What will be next, yeast? And after that, baking soda and cream of tartar? We hope not!

To live within the confines of our own home changes everybody’s lives, and new ‘Unique Selling Propositions’ need to appear to give value to the imprisoned consumers. The change of paradigm from the linear communication model in older advertising models to a more conversational one has allowed room in digital advertising for the perfect intersection and connection between the consumer and brand. Advertisers and marketers had it under control until now as basic commodities are at the forefront of the mind of consumers, and ‘freedom’ is at ‘top of their heart.’

Many retailers will not be able to open their shops when the world ‘unlocks’, as their fixed expenses have eaten their small savings. What we do know is that the fear of making an e-Commerce purchase has dissipated, and many people will continue to make use of e-Commerce sites long after lockdown has ended.

by Cristina Gonzalez

[1] Retreived 14 April 2020 (González Marcos, J. (2020) ‘Ecommerce Italia ¿Cómo está afectando el coronavirus?’. Available at: https://ecommercerentable.es/ecommerce-italia-como-esta-afectando-el-coronavirus/