e-Commerce in 2021 and Beyond

It should come as no surprise that in light of COVID-19 related closures, e-commerce has become an ever more integral part of our daily lives. Retailers of household goods, groceries, essential items, as well as non-essential, have in trial by fire fashion been required to provide appropriate infrastructure to ensure said goods are made available for consumers nationwide. This not only requires robust technological platforms, but sophisticated distribution networks including delivery services and warehousing in near immediate fashion.

A few short years ago, the percentage of e-commerce sales as related to the entirety of retail sales was a mere ten percent. As of 2020 that share has increased on average to slightly above sixteen percent with year-on-year figures accelerating by nearly forty-five percent. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the vast majority of our population were left to quarantine at home, consumers whom had previously shied away from securing their goods through “point and click” were given few alternatives. What began with the need for day- to- day essentials manifested into demand for non-essential items which novice online shoppers found to be just as easily attainable through e-commerce channels.

The result has been an incredibly swift shift in the way that everyday households consume and how traditional brick and mortar retailers have begun to and must continue to adapt. Omnichannel fulfillment has become paramount to the survival of goods-oriented retail. Stores such as Target and Walmart have embraced this idea by furthering their offering of “Buy Online and Pickup in Store” (BOPIS) services. This maintains retailer as relevant in the minds of consumers while allowing them to purchase in “point and click” fashion and still direct traffic to brick and mortar locations. Further to this, traditionally non-deliverable type operations have adapted to full-scale delivery services through partnerships or the implementation of their own on-demand distribution network. The growth in start-ups such as Shipt, Instacart, and various independent distribution networks has been explosive in 2020 and will likely continue to win consumers in 2021.

As retailers continue to adapt in ways we have seen and ways we may not have yet, there will be a continued need to house the goods to be acquired. The US as a whole is a nation of consumers who when provided with the means to do so will continue to purchase the goods they need in the most convenient way possible. This translates to continued growth of e-commerce and in all likelihood at an increasingly more rapid rate than ever considered.