The Coronavirus is Leading to a Permanent Increase in Online Retail

In a recent interview, CEO Sumit Singh discussed how coronavirus is leading to a permanent increase in online retail:

“The increased demand levels that we are experiencing are here to stay. We do not view our first-quarter [2020] results as a one-off event.”

But what’s more interesting? Singh’s sentiments are shared by a number of other CEOs who represent prominent consumer-facing brands, including:

“Before this crisis, we were already seeing robust adoption of online…My feeling is that once this crisis is more under control, people will have seen the benefits of that service and will likely continue to use it. It will become part of the ‘new normal.’”

“We are promoting social distancing…our app will optimize for curbside pickup, entryway handoff, improved drive-thru experiences, and voice ordering through Siri. We…predict that our mobile app will become the dominant form of payment.”

“Ecommerce remains strong…[and] we are going to double down on the things that are working.”

“We [are] dealing with the strong increase in e-commerce sales…[digital commerce] is really quite mainstream right now.”

“[We’re] seeing digital sales soar. In March, they grew over 100%, but in April, growing over 275%…these are the changes consumers are making…[digital] services will only continue to grow.”

Even though many industry experts believed a permanent increase in online retail was inevitable, the arrival of COVID-19 seems to be accelerating that increase by five to ten yearsTherefore, many brands will continue to see an increase in online retail even as their brick-and-mortar stores begin to reopen. 

Zeta agrees with this prediction based on its own internal data trends as well as third-party inputs. These trends show increased consumer interest in the digital storefronts of major retail brands, even though many of those brands’ brick-and-mortar operations are now open for business. 

The permanent increase in online retail as seen by Walmart


The permanent increase in online retail as seen by CoachAbove all else, increasing infection numbers as measured in Zeta’s MarketPulseTM indicate retailers will need to brace for a second large-scale outbreak.

For example, week over week cases are up in key economic hubs including:

  • California (+10.6%)

  • Texas (+47.4%)

  • Arizona (+101.6%)

  • Washington (+44%)

  • Massachusetts (+29.8%)

If such an outbreak happens, it will force brick-and-mortar storefronts to close later this summer.

Adapting to the permanent increase in online retail

In order to adapt to the permanent increase in online retail, brands need to rethink their approach to product and service marketing. In particular, they must invest in technology that targets the most engaged, ready-to-buy online consumers as determined by available data and audience modeling. 

Additionally, brands must make better use loyalty data, transaction data, geographic data, and other available behavioral signals. Inputs like these, when coupled with an AI-powered marketing platform, enable retail brands to better identify, and resonate with, consumers new to discretionary shopping online. 

For example, some of the technologies that will help retailers bolster ecommerce sales include:

A cost-effective tool that shouldn’t be undervalued considering 91% of consumers use email every day, and 37% of purchases are directly influenced by email offers.

A critical utility for retailers who understand the true impact of media on ecommerce sales and go beyond multi-touch attribution.

The most effective tool retail brands can use to find new ecommerce customers across all channels. 


So, would you like to learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting retail and driving a permanent increase in online retail? If yes, be sure to watch this webinar recording from Zeta


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