The pandemic is rapidly changing customer behavior towards online channels, and the shift is likely to stick post-pandemic. While many businesses are challenged to survive in the short-term, the crisis also presents an opportunity; companies that ambitiously invest in their online business at the right time are likely to emerge as market leaders.

In the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers embraced online shopping experiences over brick and mortar stores. In most cases, this was because lockdowns were in place, stores weren’t open, and customers were reluctant to venture somewhere that might get them sick.

But the change in consumer behavior around shopping has shifted from something temporary to something more permanent. As per the data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital shopping, away from physical stores by around five years. Businesses that invest courageously in pivoting their businesses towards these behavioral changes at the right time can capture market share and emerge as market leaders.

Changed Consumer Behavior

People will continue to follow social distancing norms and avoid retail therapy even after the pandemic. The footfall to retail stores remains pretty low despite businesses being open. This is a direct result of social distancing measures and changed consumer preferences.

Consumers have realized that with AI and chatbots, online shopping has become more safe and convenient. The advanced shipping notice, popping online messages and home-delivery has made life easier for consumers.

A Permanent Shift to Online Purchasing   

Business leaders believe COVID-19 has accelerated the e-commerce growth to such an extent, which would have taken four to six years to achieve. The pandemic has resulted in a more permanent shift from brick-and-mortar retail to online retailing. Many brands have announced store closures and shifted their business over to the online space.

Read More: The Customer Journey and COVID-19: How to Keep Up

Businesses that did not have a presence on e-commerce, too, have hurried to rectify that. They are also adopting varied approaches to respond to the crisis both from a cash generation point of view and also to engage and maintain customer interest. Businesses have doubled-down on digital initiatives, including contextualized online and social media campaigns, increased online promotions, and omnichannel sales.

The pandemic has begun what looks like a second boom in e-commerce. A host of post-purchase surveys indicate that consumers are more satisfied with e-commerce experiences and would continue opting for them in the future as well. According to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey, 86% of those who shop online plan to continue even after social distancing measures are removed.

The Future of Bricks and Mortar

Even before the pandemic, brick-and-mortar was in trouble, and the divergence has only become more pronounced now. Brick and mortar retailers may just need to adapt and expand their online presence.

Read More: The Rise of E-Commerce Consumer Insights

The good news is that there is a future, and it’s going to be about delivering good experiences and embracing an omnichannel offline/online approach.

The effects of the pandemic are still uncertain. The scale at which the crisis will change the world will only become apparent in the coming years. One thing is for certain, e-commerce, in particular, looks set for a boom that will last longer than the pandemic itself. Consumers, by necessity, have come around to the benefits of e-commerce. So, businesses should be proactively preparing for the coming post-Covid era, which will be more digital than ever before.