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In the current environment with how coronavirus is impacting large and small businesses, putting a focus on e-commerce is absolutely essential.

I’ve been in the e-commerce world since 1996 (when Wine Library launched an online store) so I’m a huge believer. 

But at this point, the cat’s out of the bag. I just can’t imagine anybody not recognizing the need for an e-commerce presence in 2020. This is a tragic event on so many levels that’s happening right now, but if it wakes up a business that would have been inevitably put out of business by not taking this seriously, then I hope that the decision maker understands what’s happening here.

I hope more businesses have finally figured out how it is literally essential if you want to sell something in today’s world. 

Here’s my two cents on how the current pandemic is affecting the e-commerce world, and what retailers and businesses need to consider as they transition. 

The short term vs long term impact on e-commerce

In the short term, the numbers have exploded for most companies that sell essentials, for sure. Not all e-commerce companies are the same obviously, but most people who are in a consumption-type business (i.e. grocery stores, super markets, etc) have seen their numbers skyrocket. 

I think the long-term impact on the industry centers around people changing their buying behaviors. That’s what could potentially create a shift. For example, a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise buy their groceries online are now starting to get them delivered.

People who wouldn’t otherwise get basic items and cleaning supplies delivered to them are now starting to consider that option. According to Rakuten Intelligence, order volume for online grocery retailers surged 210% from March 12th – 15th of 2020, compared to the same dates a year ago.

There are some e-commerce companies that unfortunately won’t survive this time for a variety of reasons (i.e. the kinds of products they’re selling, the category they’re in, or a number of other factors) so it’s not one-size-fits-all.

But in 2019, e-commerce share of total retail sales was around 14% – I think we’re going to see that grow given how we’re seeing online purchase behavior speed up. People who might not have been as comfortable ordering things online are now getting into the market. 

Companies like Amazon and Walmart are of course going to win big from this – data shows that Walmart is winning over half of all new online grocery shoppers. But when you have giant winners like Amazon and Walmart, there are inevitably going to be other winners too. For example, people said there couldn’t be another “eBay” till StockX emerged as an auction site.

We may see more brands selling all their products on their own site vs Amazon because the current landscape allows them to do so.  

The other shift that I think could happen is the realization that diversifying supply is super important. Depending on where a company’s product supply is coming from and where it’s sourced, there could be more issues at play when it comes to fulfilling orders in this time. One of the other long term insights I hope businesses will take away from this is to not be one dimensional when it comes to that source. 

Leverage content to build an e-commerce business 

[bctt tweet=”No matter what you do — no matter what industry you’re in, no matter what product you sell, you are in the media business.”]

That quote is how I think companies need to start thinking in order to grow a business online in 2020. 

It’s the mindset behind a wine business starting a wine reviews show, a lawyer starting a content machine around golf, or the Michelin tire company starting the Michelin guide. It’s about putting out content not necessarily about your specific niche, but content that would interest the people that you’re trying to court. 

It could be a content series reviewing the best products in your space that gets distributed across social in audio, video, pictures, and written form. It could be a content series storytelling around how you make your products or how you got started. 

The best way to compete with other businesses that are massive and can throw money against things like Google ads is by becoming a content authority in your space in some capacity. It’s why I started Wine Library TV – I “became” a media company in the wine space. 

The ideas and strategies around this might depend on what industry you’re in, what your brand is, and what you’re comfortable with, but starting the process of building content pillars in your world is a key strategy for any business building out an ecommerce presence.