The first lessons of the coronavirus on ecommerce in Belgium

A study conducted jointly by Comeos and the Thomas More Institute analysed the impact of the coronavirus crisis on consumption habits in Belgium. The result is indisputable: the growth of e-commerce has rapidly accelerated thanks to COVID-19. Consumers are buying things they would never have bought before on the Internet.

The e-commerce, the big winner of the pandemic
44% of consumers buy more online in shops that also have a physical presence, the Belgian and local aspect seems to have a more reassuring effect than a pure player
Not surprisingly, e-commerce boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consumers in all age groups made an online purchase for the first time during the coronavirus crisis. Even among those over 60 years of age, e-commerce took a dramatic leap forward. For example, 50% of 61 to 70 year olds bought flowers or plants online for the first time.

Almost all types of products have benefited, especially those sold in physical stores that have been closed: clothing, shoes, care products, toys, flowers, books have seen their online sales grow by more than 20%.

Even online orders for food products increased, again by more than 20%, as many consumers feared, rightly or wrongly, that they would be contaminated while shopping in supermarkets. 44% of consumers say that they buy more online from store sites that also have a physical presence in Belgium, as if the Belgian and local aspect had a more reassuring effect than a pure player. Translated with (free version)
New habits
One out of two respondents says that in the future they will buy more, or even much more, from e-commerce sites.
Although it is still too early to draw conclusions, experts believe that our consumption habits will change. Early data from China suggest that consumers may be moving to a "new normal" because of the habits they acquired during the closed economy. Businesses will have to be ready to adapt to take advantage of these new business models.

According to the Comeos study, more than one in two consumers indicate that the way they shop has definitely changed. In the future, they believe they will buy more, if not much more, from ecommerce sites. Comeos also emphasizes the fear of consumers to come back to the store: more than 40% of people indicate that they will feel uncomfortable trying on clothes in store booths.

Finally, the study ends with good news for "small shopkeepers": 75% of those surveyed say they will visit local shops in the future. They represent a safer alternative to shopping, perceived as too closed and anxiety-provoking places. 23% of people will physically go to shops they discovered online during the confinement.
Our Conclusion

Although its methodology can be discussed, this study is a good summary of the situation of e-commerce in Belgium. The Belgian case is similar to international trends: a boom in e-commerce during the pandemic.

The most interesting point of the study is certainly the fact that consumers prefer online shops in their usual stores to "pure players". This is good news for retailers: with the right tools, they are able to compete with companies like Zalando or Amazon.

At Sayl Retail, we have been doing this since our inception in 2018. We help merchants to adopt an omnichannel strategy: combining a physical store with an online shop.

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