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US businesses boost e-commerce investments even as pandemic winds down – 451

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US businesses boost e-commerce investments even as pandemic winds down – 451

Businesses across the U.S. are boosting e-commerce investments even as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, part of a strategy to lock in revenue from consumers who have converted to online shopping over the last year.

Eight in 10 surveyed organizations are prioritizing investments in e-commerce operations equally, or ahead of, in-store experiences, according to the Voice of the Enterprise: Customer Experience & Commerce: Merchant Study conducted by 451 Research, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

More than half of survey respondents, or 54%, said their organizations plan to prioritize e-commerce experiences in areas such as mobile payments and online services, including buy-online, pick up in-store and curbside pickup. That is up from 31% in the second quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, 26% of survey respondents said they are prioritizing investments equally between in-store and e-commerce experiences, while 20% are prioritizing in-store experiences. The survey, fielded from March 16-31, is based on responses from about 250 organizations in the U.S. in industries including retail, hospitality, home improvement and consumer packaged goods.

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U.S. companies are prioritizing e-commerce operations to "future proof" themselves in preparation for the next pandemic that may occur or another surge in online sales volumes, said Jordan McKee, principal analyst with 451 Research.

Although analysts predict a slowdown in e-commerce sales and retailers such as Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. saw digital sales decline in the first quarter, companies are planning to invest more, dollar for dollar, to fortify their e-commerce operations and provide a seamless customer experience online.

"There were so many lessons learned throughout 2020 lots of gaps in terms of an e-commerce strategy, whether that was not having robust enough fraud prevention or not offering the right payment method mix, like digital wallets," McKee said. "People are taking those key learnings and just preparing for the future."

The investments are part of a larger play to lock in e-commerce sales from consumers who became accustomed to online shopping during the pandemic, said Sheryl Kingstone, head of Customer Experience & Commerce at 451.

"Prior to the pandemic, we were already on this trend to be much more digitally driven. All that COVID did was accelerate it," Kingstone said.