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E-commerce: The Next and New Normal

  May 15, 2020

The rapid spread of the novel Coronavirus has caused businesses around the globe to shut their doors with others moving their operations online. One thing was for sure when retailing businesses started shutting their doors, even basic shopping was going to become a hustle. Consumers were left with one choice only, to shift their shopping behaviors online.

E-commerce is not a new term for businesses and shoppers alike. For the past 10 years, E-commerce has shown steady growth, the unprecedented outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic just fast-tracked this growth.

“It is estimated that there were at least 21 million online shoppers in Africa in 2017 or less than two percent of the world total. Three countries (Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya) together, accounted for almost half of them.” UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index 2018. “The number of shoppers has surged annually by 18% since 2014, higher than the world average growth rate of 12%” the report reads in part.

E-commerce is turning out to be one of the biggest winners during this period as more people seek alternative ways of shopping in a bid to maintain social distancing.

Businesses and retailers alike have stepped up their digital transformation, e-commerce included in a bid to survive the pandemic. Today, there is nothing you cannot find online in Kenya; from groceries, alcohol, house shopping, electronic, furniture, newspapers, medication, and even cooked food, all of which are delivered to your doorstep. For e-commerce players in the country, this crisis provides an opportunity to cement their place in the retail sector.

Businesses can use this pandemic-caused situation to invest in digital beyond bolting on new channels and platforms. This time is an opportunity to deliver value customers through intuitive and native experiences. On top of that, this is a time of need, use digital to show them that they’re more than a shopping cart or transaction, a customer ID, an email address, or a conversion percentage.

When businesses reopen post-COVID, strict social distancing behaviors, and PPE guidelines will be the new norm. They will ease with time, but it will take time. Who knows how long? Imagine shopping in-person post-COVID: only a few customers allowed at any one time, everyone wearing masks and gloves, people standing six feet apart, sanitizer and wipes everywhere. It’s hard to imagine that any reasonable customer would not practice risk-averse behaviors in the foreseeable future. Keeping in mind that there is no readily available treatment or vaccine for coronavirus, waves of contagion are inevitable. This may be one of the factors that keep propelling the growth of e-commerce and the digital customer journey.

This “new normal” is a chance for businesses to get their digital transformation right, to create a next economy that puts customers and experiences at the center of big decisions. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a sense of urgency for businesses to fully embrace digital transformation. Keep in mind that the longer the pandemic lasts, the more resilient new thinking and behaviors will become.


  1. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) B2C E-commerce Index 2018 – Focus on Africa


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