Online Shopping Boom Predicted to Last Beyond Pandemic: Reports

September 16, 2020 Updated: September 16, 2020

While the pandemic-driven surge in online sales has leveled off, executives and researchers are increasingly saying that the digital shopping boom will persist even after the CCP virus outbreak is brought under control.

The latest data from Adobe, which analyzed 1 trillion visits to retail sites, found that online shopping activity declined in August as more lockdowns lifted and more physical stores opened up across the United States. Online sales reached $63 billion in August, up 42 percent year-over-year, a clear softening from July when online sales grew 55 percent year-over-year. Still, “buy online pickup in store,” or BOPIS shopping, continued to surge, growing 59 percent month-over-month in August and 259 percent year-over-year.

Adobe also found that the pandemic has driven $107 billion in additional online spending since March, with the first eight months of 2020 driving $497 billion in online spending. Adobe’s findings that digital shopping surged amid the pandemic echoes a recent report by Digital Commerce 360, which analyzed U.S. Department of Commerce data for the first six months of the year and found that consumers spent 30.1 percent more online compared to the same period in 2019.

John Copeland, Adobe’s VP of marketing and customer insights, said in a recent post that while it’s normal for new digital channels to see fast rates of growth, e-commerce is not a new trend, and prior to the COVID-19 outbreak it was experiencing “much slower growth.”

“The fact that even while states are starting to open up, the numbers remain so much higher than typical proves that things will never really go back to ‘normal.’ E-commerce is more embedded into our lives than it has ever been before and that is irreversible,” he said.

Executives in retail and related industries have also noted the boom in online shopping and delivery business, and believe it will last.

Chipotle Chief Executive Officer Brian Niccol told Bloomberg in a recent interview that he believes much of the pandemic-driven surge in business is permanent. He told the publication in March that he expected online to account for between 30 percent and 40 percent of Chipotle’s business within several years. The outbreak has accelerated that trend significantly.

“That was before digital became 80 percent of our business for a time. Now we’re in that 40 to 50 percent range, and that will fluctuate as the dining rooms reopen, but I definitely think there’s a real possibility that’s where it could stick,” he told Bloomberg.

The head of Whole Foods, which Amazon bought in 2017 for $13.4 billion in a bid to expand its brick-and-mortar footprint and gain an edge in the $700-billion grocery industry, said he believes the trend away from in-person shopping is here to stay.

“When things return to normal, there will be a lot of people who don’t go back to shopping in-person,” CEO John Mackey told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. He said that the grocery chain closed some of its stores to walk-in shoppers to meet the spike in demand for grocery deliveries amid the outbreak.

Rob Garf, vice-president of industry strategy and insights at Salesforce, told CNBC in an interview that for many retailers, the pandemic brought concerns not about profitability, but about how to keep warehouses stocked and meet the surging demand for deliveries.

“In the first two quarters of this pandemic, many retailers weren’t as concerned about profitability: They were more concerned about product availability and getting it to the consumers’ doorstep,” Garf said.

“One of the most common questions I get from our retail customers is: How do we sustain this new shopping behavior in a profitable manner?” he added.

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