How e-commerce will help businesses adapt to new trends

May 29, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Businesses across the province continue to be impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Thousands of companies deemed non-essential have had to shut down and lay off staff. Essential businesses remaining open have had to implement measures to ensure shoppers are physically distant resulting in lengthy line ups to enter and to check out. These changes have significantly affected consumer behaviour and shoppers who did not already favour e-commerce, are quickly adapting and using the internet to meet their needs, even for everyday items like groceries and pharmaceuticals.

Businesses with an existing e-commerce strategy have had an advantage over brick and mortar shops. According to Forbes magazine, online retailers selling non-essential products such as home goods, athletic goods and loungewear, have seen a significant sales increase. A survey of over 32,000 brands conducted by digital marketing firm Klaviyo reported overall revenues climbed by an average of 65% between March 14th and April 17th of 2020.( Canadian based e-commerce company Shopify has also seen impressive growth and they are currently the most valuable company in Canada worth over $121 billion. 

Covid-19 has changed the way Canadians shop. More than half of Canadians surveyed in a study by accounting firm Deloitte say they are more likely to buy online, and this percentage is expected to grow. It may be months or more before the pandemic is under control, but it may be even longer before consumer behaviour returns to pre-pandemic norms, if it ever does. According to Deloitte, “customers may retain the habits and behaviours they adopted during the pandemic. They may continue to buy online or avail themselves of click-and-collect. They may stay loyal to new brands they discovered while searching for hard-to-find items. Older Canadians may grow more comfortable with digital channels, opening up new opportunities for retailers to reach a notoriously challenging demographic.” (Deloitte, COVID-19: Voice of Canadians and impact to retailers)

Understanding how Canadians’ shopping habits are shifting can help conventional retailers, restaurants, and other businesses to adapt their sales practices and capture more of the online consumer market. Among the most successful strategies is the enhancement of the business’s capacity to sell online. With a selection of affordable and easy-to-use e-commerce platforms, a business owner can expand his or her operation with minimal upfront investment. An online shop can be established relatively quickly and the owner can begin to market the company right away. E-commerce software has the added advantage of improving the business’s online visibility, increasing consumer loyalty, and lowering customer service costs.  

There are many e-commerce platforms to choose from including excellent Canadian options. Ottawa-based Shopify is a popular platform designed for small and medium sized businesses. Shopify has a variety of designs for online stores that owners can set up and manage. The company offers tutorials to help people get started and provides strong customer support to their clients. Dexero eCommerce is from Quebec and provides completely bilingual service to entrepreneurs setting up shop on its platform. WooCommerce is an option for companies with websites developed using WordPress and is a popular option for many web developers. These and many other e-commerce platforms should be researched by the business owner for their suitability and ease of use. Many local web design companies are also available to help owners develop their online strategies.

For businesses with a physical location and existing inventory, click-and-collect is a program that combines the convenience of online shopping with an in-store or curbside pick-up option. Until physical distancing requirements are lifted, curbside pickup may continue to be the preferred option for many shoppers. 

Consumer expectation for safe shopping options means online commerce and click-and-collect systems will be the most effective sales strategy for many small businesses for some time to come.

Ellen Sinclair is the Co-ordinator of the Orangeville & Area Small Business Enterprise Centre. She can be reached at or 519-941-0440 Ext. 2270. To sign up for notifications of SBEC programs and events visit

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