Will The eCommerce Shift Last?

Social-distancing measures have forced many workers to manage their responsibilities from the confines of their own home, which in turn led many retailers to pivot to eCommerce operations with greater enthusiasm than ever before. Many in the retail industry have been quick to point out the immense benefits related to eCommerce, but others continue to doubt whether or not the ongoing shift towards digital operations will last very long. It’s not unreasonable to believe that working from home remains the long-term norm whereas a pivot to eCommerce is mostly temporary, for instance.

Will the eCommerce shift our economy is undergoing last in the long term? Here’s what we know right now.

Retail changed rather rapidly

The retail industry underwent an overnight evolution to ensure it could keep selling items to customers in the era of social-distancing. While certain companies such as the Schurman Retail Group and Lucky’s Market have already filed for bankruptcy, other companies have managed to remain on their own feet with the help of digital operations that kept them sustained for the early portions of the economic shutdown.

We can thus see that some brands are pivoting to eCommerce operations more readily than others, something that’s probably the result of a wide number of variables. The tech-savviness of these brands, for instance, coupled with the amount of cash they had on hand to invest in digital operations, likely led to some disparities in which retailers lived and which died in the opening days of the pandemic-induced shutdown.

Tangentially related to eCommerce is the idea of working from home. Many speculators have already loudly announced that working from home is here to stay, even after the coronavirus passes us by and allows us to reopen large swathes of the economy. This is because many professionals, including white collar professionals who possessed home offices before this crisis, seemed to really enjoy working from the comforts of their own homes. Others have argued that the shift to eCommerce will be similar; while some people will want to return to brick-and-mortar operations, many customers and companies alike will find their new digital mediums to be more cost-effective in certain instances.

Serious changes are nevertheless coming

Despite the benefits associated with eCommerce operations, some serious changes are doubtlessly forthcoming. Some companies will find their traditional model to be more profitable than the digital model they pivoted to, for instance, and will change back at the first opportunity. Nevertheless, eCommerce has become more popular and normalized than ever before thanks to this shutdown, and has earned some serious prestige even amongst its former critics.

As long as people can order groceries online, have creative cabinets and faux finishes delivered to their doorsteps, and even see whether or not clothes fit them with the help of apps, eCommerce will endure. While it may be more popular with wealthier consumers who have more expendable income in the long run, we’ll also see more affordable eCommerce operations crop up as time goes on. Much like the pivot to working from home, the end of this crisis will see many retailers return to their original playbook while others stick to their new, digital models.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.