The rise of e-commerce: why small businesses must adapt or fall behind (especially during COVID-19)

In the last few decades, online shopping and ecommerce have undergone steady growth that doesn’t seem to stop, and digital marketplaces are overtaking physical ones.

Physical sales by themselves were more than enough to thrive in past decades, but relying on them is less viable with each passing day. Countless brands are adapting to this shift by giving digital mediums more priority.

Adapting to this change is particularly difficult for small businesses as they have fewer human resources and revenue to invest in building digital assets. 

But, as we’ll discuss in this article, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to run a profitable business without an effective digital strategy. 

Businesses, from small to large, need to learn how to thrive in today’s landscape to prevent thinner margins and to keep running.

The rise of ecommerce: younger generations crave online shopping

Even before COVID-19 (which boosted ecommerce activity almost overnight), the rise of ecommerce was already forcing businesses to change their strategies.

Millennials (born in 1981-1996) largely drove this change when they joined the workforce and became a larger consumer segment. 

Millennials were exposed to technology and ecommerce from a young age, and in contrast to older generations, they have a higher preference for online shopping.

When this generation graduated from college, their purchase power increased. As a consequence, more businesses planed their marketing strategies with millennials in mind.

A lot of their money went (and still goes) to online shopping, and it became a higher priority for brands to build a website, social media accounts, online stores, and other digital assets.

But millennials aren’t the only important factor responsible for the growth of ecommerce. The whole world is getting used to shopping online. Even older generations, such as Generation X and Baby Boomers, are spending a lot of money on online shopping.

Another huge factor contributing to the rise of ecommerce in the last few years is the arrival of the next generation, Generation Z (born in 1997-2012).

Generation Z is often regarded as “millennials on steroids”. 

Like millennials, Gen Z grew very fond of technology – but they did so from a younger age and with more advanced technology.

If you didn’t grow up with a smartphone permanently attached to your hand, that’s because you’re not part of Generation Z.

This young generation is obsessed with online shopping. Even more so than millennials.

Generation Z is becoming a larger consumer segment with each year. If you look at their age, you’ll notice that more of them are graduating from college and joining the workforce. 

For brands, this means that appealing to Generation Z is more important than ever – something that is nearly impossible to achieve without using digital channels and adapting to ecommerce.

While a few years ago it was acceptable to ignore going digital (which is basically the same as ignoring Gen Z), it’s not the best strategy if your goal is to run a profitable business, regardless of its size.

Why your small business needs ecommerce to endure the post-COVID-19 world

The unprecedented appearance of COVID-19 boosted ecommerce shopping significantly. 

Even before COVID-19, prioritizing ecommerce was a crucial topic marketing authorities didn’t shut up about. Can you imagine how important it is now?

According to a study by eMarketer, ecommerce in the US is expected to grow by 18% this year. Brick-and-mortar sales, on the other hand, are expected to decline by 14%.

Some estimations claim that COVID-19 accelerated the growth of ecommerce by 4 to 6 years!

“According to our data, it would’ve taken between 4 and 6 years to get to the levels that we saw in May if the growth continued at the same levels it was at for the past few years,” 

But even if this estimation wasn’t accurate at describing ecommerce’s growth, the decrease in sales from physical stores is enough of a reason to focus on digital. 

With people all around the world avoiding public places and non-essential businesses closing, this isn’t a surprise. Physical marketplaces are less reliable and profitable.

What’s more, people are being forced to purchase online. Even after the pandemic ends, they will be more habituated and familiarized with online shopping.

Conclusion

Many small businesses are having a hard time enduring the post-COVID-19 world. We are moving to an era where succeeding in ecommerce and digital is more important than ever before.

To adapt to this new landscape, your business needs to stop relying on physical sales and build digital assets.

The needs of consumers are changing.

Will your business fall apart when faced with them? Or will it learn to thrive in this digital era?

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