Retail on the high street is suffering and with a record number of stores closing, consumers buying habits have shifted online.
People are going out less so they are spending more time online browsing and shopping. In the last six months, e-commerce has grown significantly with 85,000 businesses launching an online store, in effect pushing the sector forward five years.
This trend has also been seen in our own company. IRP Commerce has been transforming the online fortunes of some of Ireland's most successful retailers, manufacturers and distributors for 20 years and in particular over the last six months. Overall growth rate during this period has been 80% compared to the same period in 2019. This success for our clients has seen investment in staff to scale and meet shopper demand.
This growth however has not come without its challenges, from supply chain issues, warehouse storage issues and having enough staff in place to handle the demand and get the orders out the door ensuring customer expectations were met.
Overall, our clients have handled the surge in demand very well and have propelled their growth further than expected. Some industries that experienced significant growth during lockdown were the food and drink industry and the health and wellbeing sector, with growth rates in excess of 400%.
This wave is set to continue into Cyber Monday on November 30.
The Cyber Monday phenomenon began as the online version of Black Friday where online retailers offered big discounts to match their brick and mortar counterparts. It is usually the biggest trading day of the e-commerce calendar and 2020 is on track to break previously set records.
During the Cyber Monday period, consumers will be trying to get the majority of their Christmas shopping early to firstly ensure there is the stock available and secondly that they have allowed enough time to post their gifts to their family and friends as the current travel restrictions may continue well into the festive period.
From our research we believe the pinch point for shoppers will be if delivery companies are able to handle the demand. We are seeing this already with delivery companies hiring lots of roles in the last few months to ensure they can cope with the predicted surge.
Shoppers might notice less discounting this year as manufacturers have already sold through a lot of the stock during lockdown and many have backorders to fulfil. The shortage of stock will keep demand high and prices less favourable for the consumer. Overall this will make businesses more profitable during this time which has always been known as a time for deep discounting.
My main piece of advice to retailers during this Cyber Monday period is to provide an excellent experience for customers from the first time they arrive on their website until their order arrives - this will go a long way to ensuring they stay a customer for many years to come.
Going forward in preparation for Christmas, it is important that retailers prepare their website early and also have quality content and buying guides on hand. There are going to be a lot of new shoppers online this year who would usually purchase on the high street and may need support steering through the complex online experience.
Retailers should also understand their customers and the products they want to purchase. Having looked at previous consumer trends for new year, the main things people usually do is join a gym or take up a new hobby. Along with home gyms, fitness clothing and running shoes will also see demand pick up between now and January.
From an advertising perspective this quarter historically sees costs rise, so the sooner a retailer can start building an audience, the more profitable it will be in the long run and also help balance the leaner months in the early part of next year.
Covid-19 has forced people online, but it has also created a massive opportunity for e-commerce businesses. My advice to them is to prepare today and make the most of the golden retail period.
David Dickson is head of customer success at IRP Commerce