How Covid-19 Has Affected Shopping Online And Locally
By Mike-Dave Ayeni
Sustainable Fashion Writer
2020 came with the biggest surprise no one would have expected. The COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, leaving people, businesses, and countries scampering to make sense of it all. Like many other institutions hurt by the pandemic, small businesses took most of the brunt. Months into the pandemic, streets, schools, and shops were near empty.
Unfortunately, the shopping habits of individuals changed drastically. Shoppers started shifting their dollars away from physical shops in their local vicinity, taking them online instead. This could mean only two things for business owners- they had to either adjust and meet their consumers where they were (online) or stick to their pre-pandemic strategy and hope for a significant return to how things were.
According to a survey carried out by Tech.co, 80% of small business owners were resigned to the reality that the pandemic had done a lot of damage to their businesses. 55% of small business owners were, however, hopeful that their business would make it out safely in the future. These drastic effects have led to small businesses crying out for help, imploring consumers to shop local and interestingly, many people have heeded the distress call. In this article, we will discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the habits of small businesses and consumers shopping online and locally.
THE EFFECT OF SHIFTING BEHAVIOURS ON THE DISRUPTION OF THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Almost immediately after the pandemic seized the whole world, the supply chains were one of the first to feel the brutal effects. The disruptions in the supply chain were evidence of the global changes ranging from impaired transportation to government-mandated lockdowns.
Transporting inventory from or into outbreak regions became impossible, meaning introducing new inventory was delayed or postponed entirely. The resulting effect meant businesses needed to find alternate resources if they were to keep up with the tide. On the other hand, consumers had to adjust to these changes as well. Inaccessible inventory with local shops means that they would need to find alternative resources as well.
And as such, the significant and historic online shift was born. As expected, businesses followed their consumers. In October 2020, business owners claimed that nearly 80% of their customer interactions were entirely digital, while customers spent 76% more when shopping online. Online retail sales increased by 32.4% in 2020, and in only the first quarter of 2021, online retail sales saw a whopping 39% increase.
THE “SHOP LOCAL” MOVEMENT
While essential businesses were allowed to remain open to cater to the needs of the public, other businesses such as clothing stores were forced to shut down. To help local businesses continue to thrive in the online space, the “Shop Local” trend came up. This trend encourages people to support local businesses with actions as small as buying a cup of coffee or a t-shirt at an area shop. Even more incredibly, these local shoppers do not hesitate to show their support via online local shopping and curbside pickup or home deliveries.
This movement has also encouraged customers to tip better, while small scale food producers have seen a remarkable increase in consumers seeking to shop locally for produce. This significant change in consumers’ intentional spending is keeping small businesses afloat. Not only is this shift to local businesses widespread, but it is a symbol of true unity.
As a consumer, seeing small businesses in your area struggling to stay afloat due to the pandemic must have touched your heart. The best way to help such businesses is to shop locally and patronise their online services as much as you can. Many consumers feel this way and have a renewed interest in shopping locally.
HOW CAN BUSINESSES BENEFIT FROM THE “SHOP LOCAL” TREND?
At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was thrown into a frenzy. Many businesses forgot to maintain the one thing that they needed the most: communication with their consumers. Let your customers know that you are working on bettering your services for them despite the situation. If you already have digital platforms such as a website or an app, inform them and encourage them to reach you via those platforms.
If you have not moved your business or at least the crucial parts of it to the digital space yet, then now is the time. While having a physical storefront is great, the times have changed so much that consumers have found online shopping to suit them better.
Using social media to connect with your consumers is a vital part of digitalising your business. The pandemic is one shared experience that cuts across the board. There is no better way to let your customers know that you share their experiences than via social media interactions. Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, Pamela Rutledge, said to Vox:
”The ability to connect via so many different platforms not only helps alleviate feelings of isolation but increases the sense of psychological comfort.”
Help your customers locate you by promoting your businesses. Whether through social media, physical advertisements, or favourable recommendations, your business would greatly benefit from getting people to talk about it.
To follow the social distancing guidelines, businesses set out to meet their customer’s needs by implementing pickup and delivery services. Retailers of all forms, even fashion-oriented businesses, can creatively work with customers to get their purchases to them without them having to leave the comfort of their homes. Even with these guidelines relaxed in some regions, consumers now enjoy such services for the ease.
Partnerships can be a tremendous help for small local businesses. As a fashion brand, keep an eye out for businesses whose products and values align with yours. What goes great with a brand new outfit from your store? Possibly, a new pair of shoes or makeup from another store! The community can grow itself with the right idea.
HOW CAN YOU HELP LOCAL BUSINESSES AS A CONSUMER?
- Patronise local businesses when they provide services similar to other big-name brands
- Tip as best as you can whenever you can
- Patronise small businesses’ online services
- Promote local businesses that you have used and found to be great!
THE FUTURE OF LOCAL AND ONLINE SHOPPING
The effects of the pandemic are still changing as the months go by. There are reportedly 60% fewer customers visiting physical shops in 2021 while 43% of customers prefer to shop online for the same products they would have bought in a store. Customers are now realizing that geographical location is no longer a real barrier. As long as there is an internet connection, they can get whatever they need from wherever. This means that small businesses can spread their reach and interact with customers no matter where they are. Shopping online and locally is about to get a whole lot easier for both consumers and business owners who are proactive enough to get a hang of it. The past year has seen retailers making efforts to reinvent their e-commerce strategies and we can only wait to see the long-lasting results in the next couple of years to come. Until then, we urge consumers to continue shopping ‘local’.
Shopping locally is a great incentive to help small businesses around us thrive and serve us as best as they can. The effects of the pandemic were drastic, but consumers and businesses can work together to make sure that these changes are beneficial for all. Click here to sign up for our Local Threads newsletter for news on local brands to support and more!