Amid all of the economic confusion resulting from the COVID’19 pandemic, not all appears to be a loss. As people have been shut in throughout Europe, e-commerce has not only served as a solution to many retailers vying to maintain their revenue streams but has also penetrated deeper into new markets. It appears that the current crisis has served as an accelerator to e-commerce growth, which could be here to stay.
To begin, new data reveals that across Europe there has been an increase to the scope and magnitude of e-commerce’s impact within retail sales. According to the newest coronavirus impact report from Ecommerce Europe, 67% of represented sectors predict an increase in non-food online sales. This fact is corroborated by another report from eMarketer that claims that in Germany, retail e-commerce sales [are expected] to rise 16.2% this year. Despite overall retail sales falling, e-commerce has proved to not only be a viable alternative to brick and mortar, but a strong one. As more and more businesses are forced to pivot online to respond to the crisis, this upward trend is logical.
The rise of e-commerce, however strong, is not equal across all of the EU’s member nations. The reason why some nations, such as the Germany and Britain, have seen such sharp increases in online retail is because they have the preexisting digital infrastructure and consumer behavior to support it. Due to the lockdown, Britain has seen upwards of a 30% increase in online sales as a proportion of the retail sector, reports McKinsey & Company. They claim that this is due to the already high penetration of e-commerce in the nation. On the other hand, “Italy and Spain have among the lowest rates of ecommerce penetration in Europe at 4 per cent and 5 per cent of total retail revenues respectively” explains the Financial Times. As such, they have been much slower in their transition to online sales. However, the Financial Times go on to report how despite the slow start, e-commerce is on the rise in these countries and will likely be there to stay. As more people are exposed to online retail, even in sectors such as groceries, their habits will change. This is coupled with new business efforts, like that of the Dutch store Action, to better cater to their online customers by providing services like a virtual shopping basket.
One factor to keep in mind in the midst of this increase is the current volatility of supply chains that can affect even online retailers. The aforementioned report from Ecommerce Europe notes that 78% of EU nations are experiencing supply chain issues. Thankfully, this is mitigated by the fact that parcel delivery services are adapting and had more success in May than back in March.
Overall, it appears that COVID’19 has served as an accelerant in the EU’s pivot towards e-commerce. Not only has it served to help customers gather essentials, ecommerce has also forced countries previously unexposed to online retail to embrace it. It is then reasonable to predict that even as we come out of this crisis, the retail landscape will never quite return to the old normal as consumer spending habits remain digital.
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