Covid has transformed our lives in many ways, including the way we shop. In June 2020, Forbes estimated that the pandemic accelerated e-commerce growt
Covid has transformed our lives in many ways, including the way we shop. In June 2020, Forbes estimated that the pandemic accelerated e-commerce growth by four to six years, while the online grocery app Ocado reported a 40% surge in sales during the last lockdown period. However, as we’re reaching the tail end of a year and a half of intermittent lockdowns, things are slowly going back to normal.
Delivery services, for example, became a staple during the pandemic. We were not allowed to leave the house as much or even physically visit non-essential shops considering they were closed, and at some points those that were open ran out of goods much quicker. As a result, even people who were anti-online shopping started dabbling with it, though this does not mean they’ll continue doing so. That being said, some changes are here to stay. So what will the delivery market look like post-pandemic? A couple of trends are already starting to emerge, particularly when it comes to speedy deliveries and food orders.
Lockdown meant being unable to pop to the shops when we wanted considering we were only allowed to leave the house once a day. Without proper planning, locked down folk could find themselves unable to go out and get baking powder for their lockdown banana bread (remember when that was a thing?), nor could they deliver a slice to their elderly parents whom they were not allowed to visit. Brick-and-mortar retailers had to shut down, forcing individuals to move onto online shops even for items of moderate urgency, be it Zoom-appropriate job interview attire or a wrench to fix a leaking sink.
It’s no wonder that online shops like ASOS have tripled their profits during lockdown, while in-person retailers like Debenhams and Topshop have gone bust. But it’s not just about the fact that ASOS sells online — it’s also because they offer free next-day delivery. The main benefit of going shopping in person is the immediate gratification — sometimes, you just need your items ASAP. Quick and free delivery alleviates this disadvantage of online shopping.
What’s more, according to Invesp, next-day might not even be enough. 56% of consumers aged 18-34 expect to have same-day delivery, and a quarter of all shoppers admitted they would abandon their online cart if the website did not offer it. Perhaps most staggering, 96% said that ‘fast delivery’ means same-day delivery to them, showing that our standards for speed have seen drastic changes. Consequently, some couriers, such as CitySprint, boast of not only offering same-day delivery, but also an additional priority service for “urgent deliveries, when even same-day isn’t fast enough” that works on a ‘last on, first off’ service.
The fear of cramming into tight spaces with dozens of others has led to more and more people ordering their groceries online. That being said, this boom is marked to end the more restrictions are removed. In fact, while an additional £3.3 billion were spent on online shopping in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, this stands at a downward trend now, with sales remaining flat in June.
Online grocery shopping was particularly critical among high risk individuals during the height of the pandemic, even the elderly, who either got their younger family members to help them or dabbled in it themselves. In May of this year, Bloomberg reported that over a third of all American senior citizens recently bought food on the web. However, they also pointed out that they are quicker to abandon those services when things go back to normal. In the UK, it’s fair to assume we’ll see a similar trend. This means online grocery shops will need to find ways to build on their momentum and entice people of all ages, but especially the older generation, to stick with them. As a result, we might see faster delivery, an increased number of slots, as well as a better user experience that is geared towards this sector of the population.
‘Top-up’ online grocery shops becoming the new normal
Despite the stagnation of web orders from big grocery chains, ‘top-up’ online shops are still on the rise. These services do not aspire to provide a full grocery experience and replace your weekly shop altogether, but rather to help you ‘top-up’ quickly when you run out or suddenly need a few ingredients. Prime Now, an Amazon service which promises to deliver groceries within two hours, launched in 2014, and will now be fully integrated into the main Amazon app. Of course, Amazon deliveries as a whole surged massively during the pandemic — not just its food services. The company was even named “one of the biggest winners of the pandemic” by Reuters. But the assimilation of its grocery supplement service shows the potential they recognise in this offering.
With Prime Now teaming up with Morrisons, many other UK grocery giants have followed suit with takeout delivery apps like Deliveroo and UberEats. Other similar services have been popping up on social media feeds in recent months, with Getir, Gorillas, Dija, Weezy and Zapp being the most prominent ones. Some even claim to deliver within ten minutes, fulfilling the orders directly from their warehouses. These ‘quick commerce’ businesses are now valued at £1.4 billion, and are becoming the new way to balance physical grocery shopping and convenient top-ups for consumers, capitalising on the growth of delivery services during the pandemic.
It’s clear to see that as humans, we require a sensory feel of what we buy. We like touching and seeing what we buy in person. That’s why shops were inundated with people queuing for hours as soon as they were allowed to re-open in April 2021. At the same time, the pandemic proved, even to the sceptics, that online shopping can be convenient, quick and useful. As long as retailers embrace what their consumers enjoy about their services, and adjust the ones that deter them from online shopping, the future of the deliveries market will be brighter than ever.