Commerce & Technology

Who were the winners and losers in the end-of-year ecommerce race?


Brands have had to learn to adapt, quickly, to consumer expectations and government lockdown regulations, meaning ecommerce and retail technology have grown exponentially in the last 12 months.

Entrepreneurial startups have been quicker to adapt than giant ecom retailers, tech giants have joined forces to offer seamless solutions and online sales have surpassed expectations. But with gains and wins, there are also losers and the fallout impact of shifting consumer spending habits is something brands and retailers will be dealing with for some time yet.

In the year that we sat on our sofas and shopped online, we explore who were the winners in ecommerce: the brands or the consumers?

Key takeaways:

  • Canadian website ‘Not Amazon’ takes on online giant Amazon, offering ecom operations for local retailers during lockdown.
  • Shopify invests a $350m stake in payment provider Stripe to help ecommerce merchants take control of their finances.
  • National lockdowns across the UK have only cemented retail’s ecommerce rise, with online sales projected to reach 14.5% of all retail sales in 2020.
  • Brick-and-mortar stores boost contactless register experiences to avoid consumers standing in checkout lines.
  • Cyber Monday, although hitting record numbers, failed to deliver to pandemic ecom shopping expectations.

Canadian website ‘Not Amazon’ takes on ecommerce giant Amazon

Empty retail units globally have become all-too-familiar fallouts of the Covid pandemic, with ecommerce giants such as Amazon instead raking in billions in profits. 

However, this polarisation of retail has created new opportunities for entrepreneurs to fight back. Canadian Ali Haberstroh has created Not Amazon, a new ecom directory for independent Canadian businesses, which lists nearly 4,000 retailers in Toronto, Halifax, Calgary, and Vancouver. 

Since the end of November, Covid restrictions in Canada have limited shoppers into smaller retailers, during the busiest time of the year, and with ‘non-essential’ stores closed to the public, many fear that ecommerce giants like Amazon will prove the end for small businesses. However, with the new ecom platform Not Amazon, small businesses and local stores will be able to continue trading and arguably, access a much wider customer base than ever before.

Ecom giant Shopify invests in payment provider Stripe

One of the winners during the Covid pandemic has been ecommerce provider Shopify, with over 1.49m live Shopify websites globally.

This month, ecommerce giant Shopify reportedly invested over $350m in payment platform Stripe, a payment processing provider, to develop a partnership with Evolve Bank & Trust to build Shopify Balance, designed to help ecom merchants take control of their finances.

Over the recent years, Shopify has emerged as one of Stripe’s biggest clients, with the partnership deepening after the ecommerce platform launched bank accounts and debit cards for merchants.

Ecom sales projected to reach 27.5% of all retail sales in 2020

With Covid cases surging to record numbers and more cities entering lockdown during the run-up to Christmas, ecommerce is at an all-time high, with sales projected to reach 27.5% of all retail sales in 2020.

The pandemic and resulting lockdowns have accelerated the growth in ecom penetration by 10 years in just three months, with more brands looking to shutter their brick-and-mortar stores and instead focus on growing their ecommerce businesses. 

The future undoubtedly looks difficult for retail as consumers are now incentivised to shop online more than ever before, with a preference for ecom retailers such as Amazon who offer convenient purchasing and delivery options.

Covid pandemic accelerates digital retail

The new world of Covid brick-and-mortar retailing is all about offering seamless checkout experiences that are as quick and contactless as possible.

As social distancing continues, many consumers dislike standing in checkout lines and retailers have to adapt to new technology borrowed from their ecommerce counterparts, where consumers interest in mobile payments has doubled from pre-Covid times and for mobile app orders, interest has grown from 16% to 28%.  

Amazon was already on the path to providing this experience with its cashier-less Amazon Go stores, providing new ways to streamline checkout processes to have less friction.

Cyber Monday fails to deliver to expectations

Cyber Monday 2020 was projected to bring more ecom revenue than ever due to the Covid pandemic, with a projected year-on-year increase of 35%, making it the largest digital sales day ever.

However, even though consumers still spent a record $10.8bn on Cyber Monday 2020, making it shatter previous online shopping records, ecommerce sales failed to meet expectations and increased at less than half the projected rate, growing at 15.1%.

One theory is down to the huge discounting and promotional activity across all ecom retailers in the run-up to the big shopping day, drawing on consumer fatigue and diluting the impact. However, there was one winner in the Cyber Monday race; ecommerce giant Amazon said this year’s holiday shopping season has been the biggest in its history.


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