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COVID-19 drives ‘businesses online and away from the high-street’

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Digital channels for consumers and businesses have been maturing for more than two decades, but the coronavirus has pushed digital from a supporting function to a primary touchpoint for many, new data finds.

COVID-19 drives ‘businesses online and away from the high-street’

These digital touchpoints have become a real lifeline for many whilst social distancing measures have been in place across the UK. The need to digitalise has also pushed many businesses to rapidly overhaul their digital commerce experiences to keep customers spending; many smaller retailers have even had to enable online buying for the first time.

The findings are part of a new research study conducted by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by Bloomreach. The research report, entitled The State of Commerce Experience, comes as many non-essential stores reopen for the first time and the BRC questions whether footfall will return to the UK high-street, after an abysmal few months. The State of Commerce Experience report suggests that many consumers have become accustomed to shopping online and the pandemic is set to have a profound impact on commerce in the long turn. The key findings include:

• Digital commerce is driving growth – nearly half of decision makers whose businesses sell online (46%) report growth as a result of COVID-19

• Customers will pay for a better digital experience – nearly 40% of consumers and 56% of B2B customers say they would pay more for a better experience, and they will not buy from the same business again if they have a bad experience

• Businesses are looking to increase investments in core digital commerce technologies to enhance the customer experiences – since the coronavirus outbreak, investment has shifted to online channels like web (64%), apps (58%), social (52%), and third-party marketplaces (46%). Planned investments in brick and mortar stores have dropped by almost 30% since the start of the lockdown (from 52 to 24%).

• Technology is the answer to the current situation – more than half of decision makers report their companies plan to significantly or moderately increase investment in digital technology, with investments in eCommerce CX technology and eCommerce platforms (64%), AI capabilities (40%), advanced search capabilities (38%), and mobile apps (38%).

“COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown has had an unprecedented impact on commerce businesses. Non-essential shops may have opened this week but there is no guarantee that customers will go rushing back, particularly whilst many restrictions are in place. The State of Commerce Experience research shows that many consumers have bought things online for the first time during lockdown, with many now becoming accustomed to the convenient experience. Whether your business is in survival, adaptive, or growth mode, now is a critical time to reallocate funding to deliver enhanced digital experiences and set your business up to be more competitive as the world shifts to a new normal post-pandemic,” said Michael Schirrmacher, UK MD at Bloomreach.

“Even pre-pandemic, we were seeing a shift to online shopping, but this has really accelerated in the last three months,” Shirrmacher added. From these research findings, it’s clear that businesses understand this shift and are pivoting their investments to enhance the digital experience they are offering customers. Shoppers are more unforgiving than ever before when it comes to a bad digital experience, so it is vital that businesses offer experiences that are seamless. Digital will be absolutely key in a post-pandemic world.”


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