The retail sector has undoubtedly been shaken up in light of the pandemic. In many cases, shopping centres have never been so quiet and many businesses are suffering as the traditional brick and mortar storefront continues to struggle. Many store owners have been forced to adapt and move their operations online in order to survive. 

Recent research by the Australia Post has revealed that the online shopping industry has strengthened drastically in light of the pandemic. Their most recent report reveals that September online purchases are up 82% YOY.

Looking a little further ahead, Christmas 2020 is set to break all online shopping records, with predictions surpassing anything we’ve seen.

The 2020 pivot to online:
Metcash (IGA) is an example of a business that adjusted to the pandemic and moved their operations online quickly. 

In March, Metcash quickly launched an online grocery and delivery service for their thousands of independent retailers in response to a government-led initiative aimed at helping elderly and immunocompromised Australians access food and other essential goods and supplies.

Metcash worked with WP Engine to build a site that allows customers to buy food and essential products and schedule contactless deliveries.

Metcash launched their new site in record time, deploying a reliable user experience that its independent retailers could easily adopt and begin using. Most importantly, the site has provided tens of thousands of Australians with safe and secure access to food and other essential goods when they needed it most.

A new kind of customer
The combination of the steady move to ecommerce and the pandemic quickly forcing people online has formed a new way for consumers to shop and engage with brands. This digital shift will definitely have long term implications and change the way retailers and brands operate in the years to come. 

At WP Engine, we run an annual report on the digital behaviours of each generation. The report demonstrates that Gen Z’s reliance on technology is far stronger than any other generation. As the first generation to have never lived in a non-digital world, they prefer to be online, shop online, and connect online. 

I believe that these behaviours will transcend generational divides in the year to come. This Christmas will be a key turning point for this, as we expect to see consumers across all generations turn to online shopping instead. As we prepare for the holidays, many Australians will be opting to avoid the shopping center crowds and purchase gifts online instead. For organisations to truly thrive this Christmas, they need to begin engaging audiences and driving sales now.

Mark Randall is country manager for Australia & New Zealand at WP Engine