Shoppers return to brick-and-mortar shops, but only partly

Many people who never shopped online tried it the first time during the pandemic.

Shopping online, illustrative stock photo.Shopping online, illustrative stock photo. (Source: Stanislava Smadišová)

For some business sectors, the Covid-19 pandemic was an impetus for growth and development. One of them is e-commerce, with people flocking to online shops to buy some things they would normally just get from the supermarket.

When the anti-Covid measures were lifted, a large portion of shoppers returned to reopened brick-and-mortar stores. Experts assume that while online shopping would be more often frequent than before the pandemic, neither would brick-and-mortar shops disappear.

“The key is to provide a consistent customer experience, regardless of the channel the buyer is using,” Michal Král, founder and CEO of Pricemania told The Slovak Spectator.

Doomed for online

Several times since the pandemic started, online shopping was the only way to buy certain goods due to the anti-coronavirus measures implemented in Slovakia, which included the closure of all shops expect for essentials.

“Consumers who had not yet used this method of procuring goods also started shopping online,” said Jozef Dvorský, executive director of the Slovak Association of Electronic Commerce (SAEC). People older than 80 have also begun shopping online with the help of younger family members. “It is a good opportunity to expand online shopping to consumers who, for some reason, either out of concern about the purchase itself or delivery, have avoided it so far.”

The pandemic accelerated digitalisation in commerce, retail players having to adapt and change their focus to the online environment very quickly. This was reflected in the 29-percent increase in e-commerce’s turnover to €1.75 billion over 2010. Before the pandemic the annual increases oscillated between 15 and 20 percent, based on data of the price-comparison website Pricemania.

“Companies were very creative,” said Král of Pricemania. "They were able to start delivery services very quickly, or they came up with the possibility of the contactless collection of goods to minimize risk for their customers and employees."

Merchants selling goods and some services, who in the past underestimated the use of online sales and relied exclusively on brick-and-mortar stores, have suffered the most in the last year. As for the influx of buyers, the onslaught online stores have experienced in recent years in the pre-Christmas season alone has become a standard day-to-day affair for most online stores, noted Dvorský.

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