E-Commerce Takes Center Stage as Top Retail Trend in 2020

In 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce went mainstream, with Amazon and Walmart earning top spots as retail’s biggest successes. According to GroupM, e-commerce will grow by “low-double-digit percentages through the next six years,” even after social distancing rules abate. In addition, new services are being offered. Amazon opened its first Fresh grocery store with smart shopping carts and introduced prescription delivery and a hand-scanning payment option. Walmart introduced Walmart+, its membership program and partnered with Shopify and TikTok.

Adweek reports that it queried leading analysts about shopping trends in 2020. At Mindshare, executive director/lead of the unit Shop+, Jeff Malmad said that “62 percent of Gen X and 44 percent of Boomers are shopping online more now than before the pandemic.”

At Jungle Scout, an Amazon seller platform, chief executive Greg Mercer noted data “shows 34 percent of consumers spent more online in Q3 even as their overall spending dropped” and that “Amazon [was] the clear winner as 70 percent of consumers surveyed shopped there in Q3 versus 35 percent on Walmart.com and 26 percent on Target.com.”

The shift to “omnichannel retail” — such as Walmart both opening new test stores and transforming others into online fulfillment centers — was also evident in 2020. “A lot of brands and a lot of retailers turned some of the local stores they had into mini distribution centers [in 2020], which puts them in a better position for 2021 than they were going to be otherwise,” said Gartner principal analyst Matt Moorut.

Another trend in 2020 was shifting loyalties, with McKinsey data revealing that, “36 percent of consumers tried a new brand during the pandemic, and 73 percent plan to incorporate those brands into their new routines.” On unnamed executive said that, “the availability of services like contactless payments and curbside delivery started to influence consumer loyalty in 2020.”

Branded content also came to the fore in 2020. “Not just promotional messaging, but inspiration on how to use what you have and make the best of the new normal,” said Malmad. “We’ve seen brands put forward programs or messaging around different holidays in particular to help people update their holiday traditions in light of the pandemic.”

The Wall Street Journal reports GroupM also noted that, “global retail e-commerce will amount to $3.9 trillion in 2020, or 17 percent of global retail sales … [and] anticipates that sum will rise to $7 trillion by 2024, or 25 percent of retail sales, and reach $10 trillion globally by 2027.” GroupM global chief executive Christian Juhl added that, “brands selling more products online are spending a greater portion of their budgets on digital marketing and placing more emphasis on advertising that directly drives sales.”

“It’s a continued migration of talent sets to people who understand data and performance,” he said. “On the supply side, publishers have to quantify the value of their inventory. We’re not settling for broad reach and awareness.” Forrester Research principal analyst Jay Pattisall said that, “brands will need to switch strategies to be more about the brand experience and values rather than just the functional convenience of e-commerce.”