Marketing Insights

How Digital Shopping has Grown Over The Pandemic

The pandemic caused many to grow increasingly dependent on online shopping. This trend was foreseen almost immediately once quarantine protocols went into effect across the United States and abroad.

Starting in March 2020, people were advised to remain indoors as much as possible and limit outings to only essential grocery runs. The pandemic caused many to grow increasingly dependent on online shopping. This trend was foreseen almost immediately once quarantine protocols went into effect across the United States and abroad.

The only question left to answer is a matter of numbers. How much has the digital retail industry grown over the past fourteen months of chaos and confusion?

The Companies Who Benefited

News sites such as CNN Business began asking this question long before we did, publishing an article back in October discussing the amount of influence online megaretailers such as Amazon were able to accrue over the prior months. 

The pandemic, they report, “forced” Amazon to hire more workers and open new locations around the country to keep up with the ever-growing demand for goods. The rise of Amazon Fulfillment centers also coincided with the rise in furloughs common in other professions. According to a study by Time Magazine, advertising revenue for Amazon, targeting both those seeking work and those seeking products, was up 43.8% as of March 2020.

In total, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is estimated to have made a total of $24 Billion in profit in just the first two months of the pandemic, a rallying cry for the “eat the rich” protests seen in the subsequent months in major cities across the country.

The Ones Who Changed

Other major retailers quickly found they had no choice but to fall in line or fall behind when it came to Amazon’s business model. Walmart also experienced a major year of growth over the past year. One article even compared their power and influence to a pre-pandemic Amazon. In the second quarter of 2020, Walmart experienced a 74% growth period.

They did this by enlisting the help of a digital distribution service and shipping company called Shopify. Shopify receives a customer’s order truth and their distribution centers and mail carriers make sure the package arrives on time. The partnership has proven endlessly profitable for both parties. 

The website has also grown and complexified over the past year, now resembling something closer to Amazon’s format. Again, Amazon has experienced such a meteoric rise in wealth and power that other retailers and e-commerce services can either follow their path or be crushed by them.

The Ones Who Lost

Meanwhile, in 2020, at least 30 major retailers filed for bankruptcy and cited the pandemic as one of the main contributing factors. As is often the case, small businesses have fared far worse, though their exact numbers are admittedly harder to track.

The better question we are all left with is what will happen next? The pandemic cemented the rise in e-commerce and the plummeting fall of brick-and-mortar retail. Some may wonder if the death of corner shops and retail stores could reverse as restrictions are lifted, but that seems altogether unlikely.

E-commerce began to chip away at brick-and-mortar stores nearly a decade ago, and the pandemic was only the final catastrophe that sealed its fate. Then, as well as now, commercials and ad campaigns urged people to support their local businesses, but this past year made it hard for consumers to justify doing that and even harder for local businesses to turn a profit with or without them.

What The Future Holds

Digital shopping is the future of commerce, as it was always going to be. The question we as consumers face is what that will look like in practice. A few individual e-commerce companies profited heavily from the pandemic, causing some to worry about a potential monopoly in the industry. In short, the virus caused e-commerce to grow and it is showing no signs of slowing down soon.


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