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Who’s Winning in the Pandemic? E-Commerce and Online Retail

Jan 18, 2021
3 min.
The winner of the pandemic: online retail! How are companies adapting their business models to prepare for a greater shift to e-commerce?
Alina Fill

Towards the turn of the 19th century, there was a notable new development that transformed the way people shopped forever: the department store. With the emergence of this one-stop shopping center, consumers could suddenly get everything they needed in just one location. Shoppers primarily flocked to department stores for their convenience and broad selection of goods. The turn of the 20th century ushered in the next shopping revolution, one still catering to the consumer demand for ease and comfort: online retail or e-commerce.

Unlike the 19th century shift in shopping habits, this new phenomenon is not just benefitting big players like Amazon. It has proven highly profitable for smaller and regional businesses. Primarily because easy access to an endless array of products is already built into the online purchasing business model. The one-stop shop has become our mobile devices and desktop computers. And at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, the evolution of this mobile commerce shopping approach has witnessed an unprecedented boom, with some companies experiencing a 1500 percent surge in sales.

And shoppers aren’t merely turning to online shops for bargains, novelty products, or hard-to-find items. They are increasingly buying everyday articles they would normally buy in brick-and-mortar stores. This is partly because shops are closed due to restrictions on person-to-person contact and the global appeal to #stayathome. However, it also stems from the simple realization: shopping from home is safe, affordable, easy, and… doable.

Shifting business models

According to a study by Forrester, 50 percent of those surveyed have purchased products online during the pandemic, which they would have previously bought in stores. And trends suggest that consumers plan to continue doing so. In fact, a study conducted by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences indicated that 82 percent of online shop operators anticipate a continued boom even after the pandemic. This news has been an impetus for many retailers to invest in the digitalization of their business models, with investments ranging from budgeting for online shops and online services to overhauling manual processes like logistics and inventory with automated alternatives. This has been facilitated by the availability of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions for setting up online shops in the cloud and thereby outsourcing the bulk of the expense and effort of creating and operating an in-house developed solution.

With a momentous shift to online purchasing, online shops and retailers have expressed two major concerns: security and usability. Striking the right balance between user-friendliness and robust security protocols is the key to success. Solutions that guarantee the highest level of data security while also providing a great customer experience will mean the difference between completed orders and lost orders. Platforms that are optimized for mobile phone usage will retain their hold on a customer base that is shifting away from desktop and towards mobile Internet access. Added self-service solutions and customer-tailored offers and customization features powered by SaaS Customer Identity & Access Management (CIAM) systems will lock in customers looking for more autonomy over their experience and their data.

Removing the weakest link

One of the biggest threats to cybersecurity and the user experience has been one of the least suspect culprits: the password. In fact, having no password at all has been a far more effective security measure. But how can online retailers offer passwordless authentication? Once again, SaaS and CIAM solutions offer the tools needed to offer passwordless login and hassle-free user verification. With biometric identification features like facial recognition and fingerprint or iris scans, passwords can easily be replaced by unique identifiers that are nearly irreplicable.

Eliminating cumbersome passwords and relying instead on biometric verification tools enhances the customer experience by making user accounts – and by default orders, requests, returns, inquiries, etc. – more easily accessible (no more endlessly long and easily forgettable passwords) and constantly available (it’s impossible to forget or misplace our fingers and faces!). But just as important, it reduces the risk of cyber attacks by eliminating the threat posed by weak or reused passwords.

Leave it to the experts

The e-commerce transformation shows no sign of slowing down. As the trend towards online shopping for basic needs continues to pick up speed, having seamless and convenient online shops will be pivotal for sustainable business growth. Businesses should concentrate their expertise on their products and services and leave the rest to the experts. Relying on SaaS for shops in the cloud and passwordless access will save valuable time and money, which business can allocate to creating the best possible customer experience.