As we all consider the short and long-term impacts of COVID, one thing resonates from almost all client conversations we have had.

“It’s time to blow out e-commerce!”

As you can see in the chart below, e-commerce penetration in the United States grew as much in March and April 2020 as it did in the entire preceding 11 years.

It’s just a stunning development for a channel that so many people have proclaimed as the future of commerce for so long. The future is here at last!

Certainly, the behavior has been fed by necessity. Only until recently, most people in the United States and most of the world have lived confined to the four walls of their own home. Without e-commerce, there would have been no commerce at all. People have to eat, entertain themselves, shop, etc. despite a global pandemic – and e-commerce has provided that opportunity in increasingly elegant and convenient ways.

While this spike may not last forever, I think we’ve endured enough of this to know that we are likely NOT going back to the 16% share of the end of 2019. The convenience of e-commerce, delivery, and carryout experiences will retain many customers in different segments. Simply put, money will flow out of in-person shopping experiences and into those driven by desktop, laptop, and most importantly mobile device.

E-commerce now has a decided advantage where companies can provide an excellent experience, superior overall to the in-person alternative. But there will be a give and take. For example, a seamless and easy shopping experience – relevant, chat enabled, and “right time, right message” – will overcome say the inconvenience of not having something for immediate delivery. It’s necessary for all of us in the e-commerce value chain to realize that we’re courting consumers who have their credit cards at the ready.

Take for example your local grocery store. If your shopping online is convenient and they can fill your order reliably, why would you spend an hour roaming the aisles every week? Maybe shoppers needing some creative inspiration may do so, but the traditional shopping experience can be disrupted.

How will this manifest itself in your industry?

If you’re contemplating a shift to focus on e-commerce in your business, consider the “commerce experience” you’re providing your customers today. Is it painless or is it clunky? Is it easy enough for a toddler to use, or does it require a PhD to decipher?

If you’ve nailed the experience, you’re ready to hit the gas. There are tremendous opportunities in e-commerce as people have shifted behavior, perhaps permanently, to enjoy its convenience.  

Chris Treadaway

Chris Treadaway is the CEO of Polygraph. He was previously Group Product Manager of Web Strategy at Microsoft and a Founder of Stratfor. He is the two-time author of Facebook Marketing An Hour a Day and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on data-driven marketing.