How the rise of e-commerce is boosting independents

27 May 2021, 07:51 AM
  • Justin Wanstall, digital production director at Kayo Digital, describes six trends in online shopping today, and why Amazon isn’t the only retailer who will benefit
How the rise of e-commerce is boosting independents

In the last year, we have seen the UK’s internet use surge to record levels and shopping behaviours change permanently as a result of the pandemic. Experts estimate Covid has accelerated online shopping by five years in the UK.

The pandemic has transformed shopping behaviour. Many have now discovered the ease and convenience of ordering online and home delivery, having tried it for the first time in 2020. This shift is no knee-jerk reaction, but rather an acceleration of a natural progression fast forwarding things in a matter of months instead of years.

Digital is here to stay – 92% of people say they want to continue to use online shopping, and consumers are saying that purchasing online offers a greater product range and more opportunities and product information than regular high street shopping.

This change has been touted to benefit Amazon and other larger entities, but there is a lot more to the story than this.

Food producers, retailers and restaurants that have been able to pivot and serve the public by providing an online service have seen a boom in their sales online. However, as the country comes out of lockdown, clients of ours, like Parson’s Nose, who recently saw online sales go from £6,000 a year to £1 million, have started to plan for the ‘new future’ by focusing on e-commerce trends.

6 e-commerce trends

1. Customers’ expectations have changed.

Consumers are buying and will continue to buy into purpose-led brands (i.e. why the company exists), people and their local communities, and they want to engage with the brands themselves.

2. Local e-commerce is important to customers – both for the novelty and to support local independent businesses.

36 percent of consumers over the last year tried a new brand and 25 percent incorporated a new private-label brand. The key drivers? Trying new brands by supporting local/independent and purpose-led businesses (as long as it was convenient to them).

3. Convenience is fundamental.

We are in a time of change, and when it comes to online purchasing, convenience is central to it all. Nothing symbolises that more than the Royal Mail planning to deliver parcels on Sunday to meet the new demand Amazon has created in the UK.

Convenience does not just come down to the day you are able to have the products delivered, but is also down to how customers can receive the package and/or how they purchase the products.

4. Online purchases are down to convenience while ‘offline’ purchases are down to experience.


There are a number of opportunities out there when creating a more convenient experience for your consumer:
• Click and collect service
• Home delivery service
• Subscription purchase options so people can have a recurring order – this is something that will continue to grow and become more common. There are even subscription services for pants these days!
• Timed delivery options – the ability to let people book a particular time to have their products delivered
• Editing orders – being able to amend your basket up to the day before your order is planned. This helps consumers use the basket as a shopping list that can be amended as the week goes on.
• An app – if you’re able to service your customers using an app you undercut your competitors by literally being in your “clients’ pockets”. Don’t let them go to Google – get in front of them before your competitors can.

From click and collect, click and deliver to subscriptions, consumers are expecting the experience to be tailored to their needs.

5. Being a purpose-driven business is key.

As online shopping continues to grow and purpose-driven and ethically motivated businesses become more sought after (especially as we move towards the UN’s 2030 sustainability goals), a business can not shy away from promoting the individuals, personality and purpose of the business. This will become increasingly popular to consumers. Rather than being seen as a faceless entity, people want to know what and who they’re investing in and how it may impact the world.

6. Buying from social media.

Finally, we’ll see social shopping become more of an opportunity. Social shopping, the ability to buy directly from social media, is being tested now, and as we see the introduction of being able to buy from Facebook and Instagram, social media will become a key sales tool.

Learning from these e-commerce trends will help independent businesses make the most of their offline and online shops.

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