Online Retail is the New “Going Shopping”

Online Retail is the New “Going Shopping”

Due to consumers remaining home under shelter-in-place orders that are intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, online shopping has overtaken in-person shopping for the first time. Amazon especially has benefited from online orders after a brief dip in stock prices at the start of the stay-at-home orders. Rumors even circulated that Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos would become a trillionaire thanks to the increase in online shopping. While the rumor mill may have missed the mark, Amazon finds itself accompanied by Walmart, Target, and other retailers that have seen a boost in online sales since spring. 


Smaller online retailers


Although many traditional and corporate online retailers, not to mention Amazon, have seen an increase in sales, it’s not just the large companies that are benefitting from this shift toward online shopping. Many smaller businesses, including those owned by crafters, have also seen an influx of orders. Many sellers with stores on the Etsy marketplace found themselves inundated with orders as consumers searched for protective gear such as face masks and hand sanitizers, which suddenly became unavailable in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


It isn’t just grocery-type stores that sell essential pandemic products. Many brick-and-mortar clothing retailers are struggling to keep up thanks to more people shopping at home. As businesses shrink to a barebones staff to keep everyone healthy, it takes longer for stock to arrive at warehouses from the manufacturers and longer for those orders to leave the warehouse.


However, there has been a positive ripple effect. Smaller retailers are finally able to compete with chains and corporations. This is true for stores such as Perfectly Priscilla, a company that sells plus size tops for women, swimwear, underwear, dresses, shoes, and accessories. These smaller stores are often able to create and ship orders more quickly, which shoppers appreciate. Even when orders are delayed, smaller companies keep buyers informed while companies such as The Gap, which also owns fashion retailers Old Navy and Banana Republic, have shut down their customer service departments entirely.


Delivery services


The increase in online shopping means that shipping couriers, including FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service, are working as hard as ever. USPS is especially busy with last-mile deliveries, handling packages that other couriers will only deliver so far into the hands of shoppers. This has sometimes resulted in longer shipping times than in the past.


When these retailers report an increase in online sales, they often include a particular sort of online ordering: curbside pickup. Rather than entering a store and shopping, consumers rely on employees to shop the shelves for them. All the consumer has to do is pull into the parking lot, let the store know they’ve arrived, and their purchases will be loaded into their vehicles with as little contact between people as possible. This convenient mode of shopping might explain the burst of sales that the home-improvement store Lowes has seen since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on American soil.


Grocery stores


Even the local grocery store offers online pickup, and services such as Instacar make shopping easier yet! All shoppers have to do is log onto the app or website to place an order, and a personal shopper will go to the store, pick up items, check out, and deliver goods to the shopper’s home. Many delivery services offer contact-free deliveries, which further minimize the risk of spreading any infections.


Although curbside pickup has been available from sellers such as Target and Walmart for some time, both stores are among those that heavily advertise this convenience as a way to shop safely in the time of COVID-19. Consumers seem happy to use it, too: 2 million shoppers used Target’s drive-up service for the first time in the first quarter of 2020. Other stores have rushed to provide online ordering with drive-up pickup in response to the pandemic to prevent sales lost to online retailers such as Amazon.


Experts anticipate that levels of online shopping will remain high through the rest of the year and that online shopping will remain more popular than it was pre-2020. Online stores of all sizes may see a permanent increase in orders if they’re able to meet the demand in 2020.


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