How COVID is forcing eCommerce to thrive

COVID is largely responsible for eCommerce growth in 2020

Covid-19 has presented many a challenge for retailers all over the globe. For one of the first times in modern history, consumers are shopping out of survival instinct, and online eCommerce is being treasured as an essential tool rather than just a convenient one. Businesses of every sector are fast adapting and are growing to meet the needs of their consumers under a `new normal`- and unarguably, they’ve had to in order to survive and thrive. The global pandemic has had a lasting impact on the habits of shoppers, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon- so let’s get our heads around this, shall we?! We explain how COVID has largely influenced eCommerce to thrive (or not) in 2020…

1) COVID has forced businesses to adapt- sink or swim?

At the start of COVID, struggling businesses were faced with two options: broaden your online offering, or join the COVID-sized hole in the economy. It was sink or swim! Of course, adapting the way you sell your products and services is always going to be easier if you are a big game player. But for smaller and more traditional businesses, shifting how you sell and the market at such a quick turnaround requires more money and manpower than you can find. COVID has affected millions of businesses in the blink of an eye, but for those with eCommerce savvy skills, it’s all about transforming and riding out the wave.

2) Online shopping was advised by the government

One of the largest factors of eCommerce growth in 2020, is that the UK government evangelised online shopping because it was a point-blank safer way to shop. We can clearly see the results of this too, given Tesco and Asda are the 4th and 5th most successful eCommerce sites of 2020 in terms of web traffic and subsequent online transactions. And because everybody living in the UK was advised to go into lockdown to protect vulnerable groups and not just vulnerable groups that needed to self-isolate- that’s a huge portion of the nation readily available to online retailers.

3) Online shopping was used to ease boredom

National lockdown for Covid-19 lasted three months (is it over?)- and let’s be honest, there was little else to do with our disposable income. We could squirrel away or spend- and we knew which one was more fun! Browsing the cyber aisles over at Amazon and eBay became one of our favourite past-times, especially once the stockpiling saga had worn off and we needed to gift ourselves with pretty things from the outside world. And with Amazon UK seeing roughly 362 million monthly visits, we were not alone. It only makes sense that eCommerce soured in popularity during COVID- it was the only safe, and feasible- way to shop.

4) COVID measures sucked the joy out of shopping

Now human beings get used to a new way of life pretty quickly; we guess it goes back to that caveman/cavewoman survival instinct again. But at the start of COVID, the `stop the spread` measures that we do on autopilot now, seemed so alien back then. Face coverings, having to slap hand sanitiser on every few minutes, keeping exactly 2m apart from every other shopper (how long was 2m anyway? Come on year four maths, help us out!). Although these `tasks` have become second nature to us, it sucked the joy out of shopping for many. One of the main perks of shopping in an actual shop was having the option to try things on- we may as well order online where we can do virtual try-ons!

Drum roll… the winners & losers of eCommerce in 2020!

Unsurprisingly, travel companies and financial services suffered a sharp decline in revenue since the start of lockdown, with 69% and 29% decreases respectively. Who was ever going to purchase holiday packages and flight tickets during a global pandemic, or take up a loan for cosmetic surgery or a mortgage? Not us.

On the other hand- online retailers selling food, household goods, clothes and textiles saw a swift incline in eCommerce activity. Retail aside from clothing has enjoyed increases of 14% in users, 24% in conversion rate and 34% in revenue, when comparing March 2019 numbers to March 2020 (start of lockdown).

It may not make sense for clothing retailers to be on the up while people are in lockdown and there’s nowhere to flaunt their new wares. But apparently we weren’t the only ones to shop out of boredom during lockdown; clothing retail is boasting a 7% increase in users, 9.8% in conversion rate and 4% in revenue.

Read more about the aforementioned figures here.

Customer behaviour certainly keeps us on our toes, doesn’t it?! An additional factor to note is that our government actively encouraged us to shop online from lockdown day 1, so we have Boris to thank in some capacity. Thanks Boris!

So… would eCommerce be up this year without COVID?

Apparently, no. According to, online shopping rates grew 129% week-on-week in the UK during COVID. Attached to this, consumers are expecting more from eCommerce and online shopping services: contactless delivery, better online experiences, and plenty of stock to facilitate panic buying of essentials.