May 28, 2021 / Development

Did e-commerce soften the economic blow of the pandemic?

E commerce and GDP

Nottingham based digital marketing and web development agency, webdna Ltd, explore the impact of the pandemic on e-commerce.

The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a digital transformation that saw businesses advancing their technical capabilities by years and in a much shorter space of time than they had ever planned. It’s something we noticed with many of our clients, whether we were working with them in development, design, marketing or, as is often the case, all three. Now, the latest figures on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), suggest that the changes companies made to adapt have paid off - or at the very least, they have softened the blow a little. But what does a post-pandemic Britain look like for companies that invested in e-commerce and digital marketing? Will shopping habits revert or have they been forever changed?

The impact of lockdown on UK GDP

As you’d probably expect, during the first lockdown GDP plummeted and we witnessed the steepest drop in three years. By lockdown two the economy had started to adapt to conditions and the results were around 50% better than the initial estimations. Now, newly reported figures show that in the first quarter of 2021, GDP fell by just 1.5%. These results show that each lockdown had less of a negative impact than the previous one.

There are several explanations for this. Firstly, by lockdown number three, businesses were already operating with Covid measures in place. This meant that manufacturing continued, industries such as construction stayed open and businesses kept their staff working. Shops and restaurants had also adapted to include click and collect or take away as part of their offering. Most importantly, although we’ll admit to being biased here, consumers were more comfortable than ever shopping online and many companies had upped their e-commerce game.

Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping a clock to save time.

Henry Ford
Founder of the Ford Motor Company

For us, there was definitely a knee jerk reaction to the initial lockdown. As we’ve said before, every single client of ours with a CFO or an FD put their marketing and development projects on hold. But, for the clients where we deal directly with the decision-makers, we saw a very different approach. Whilst some of them paused temporarily, as a group they doubled down and invested in marketing and development during the pandemic. They didn't have a crystal ball, but after years of partnership, they had faith in the process.

It also became clear that those customers who had been investing in their digital platform and marketing month in, month out had built solid foundations which meant that they could adapt quickly. This undoubtedly gave them a head start and an advantage over their competitors.

We’re now well into 2021 and in a good position to look back over the past 12 months and what we see is that these clients, who continued to invest in their website and marketing, saw fewer negative impacts and for some, resoundingly positive ones. We’re not saying it was always a simple or comfortable process. They too found themselves accelerating any plans they had. But now, some of them are seeing their best online months ever recorded - our top clients are performing around 2.43x better than they were two years ago.

The future of e-commerce in the UK

So back to the question of whether or not customer buying habits will revert? Digging down into the first quarter of 2021, the GDP predictions could be misleading: A slump in January, a fairly neutral February and a slight recovery in March when schools among other things had reopened. All this suggests that people are returning to bricks and mortar. But research on consumer spending habits is painting a different picture.

Studies have shown that the UK’s e-commerce spending is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world. Plus, 43% believed their new online spending habits will continue long after all COVID restrictions are lifted. Yes, some are still concerned about safety, but many are finding that they are happy with the quality, speed and convenience of delivery of online purchases and the fact that they could shop at any time.

With so many buyers now comfortable shopping online, there are things businesses can do to improve the quality of their e-commerce. It might be time to consider if your website is working hard enough for you. Ask yourself:

  • Does your website work well on different devices?

  • Is your website easy to find in search? Is it time to review your load speeds, content or your whole SEO plan?

  • Is your customer journey working? Are you getting a good conversion level?

  • Are there processes in place to make sure you are communicating throughout the customer journey?

  • Are you making the most of the visitors you get? Following up abandoned carts, remarketing, capturing sign ups?

  • Are you asking for permission to market to customers to encourage repeat purchases?

Of course as well as these finer details it is important to remember the fundamentals. You need to consider your digital presence as a whole, including your marketing strategy. Does your website, and other digital content, tell the right story for your business? Does it enhance the customer’s experience and is it helping you to deliver the results you are looking for?

We’re here to have those conversations. To talk about how you might create something that your will customers trust and love. Get in touch today to discuss how we can help your business grow.