Younger buyers fuelling e-commerce explosion, Shopify says in new study

Tobi Lutke
Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke says the pandemic has brought adoption of e-commerce ahead by a decade. File photo

When Shopify’s revenues were skyrocketing this summer, CEO Tobi Lutke said “2030 has gotten pulled forward to 2020” as retailers that had yet to embrace e-commerce before the COVID-19 pandemic began scrambling to establish an online presence.

On Tuesday, the Ottawa software firm – which helps merchants around the world build and maintain their online storefronts – appeared to confirm that analysis in its first-ever report into the future of commerce.

Peering into their crystal ball, Shopify’s researchers say they’ve detected several key e-commerce trends based on the company’s sales data and online surveys of consumers.

According to Shopify, more than half of the shoppers in the 11 countries it surveyed have shifted more of their spending online since the pandemic began ​– hardly a shocking discovery for anyone who’s followed the meteoric rise of the firm’s stock over the past 10 months or so.

Not surprisingly, consumers in the 18-34 age group are fuelling this growing wave of e-commerce, with two-thirds of buyers in that demographic saying they’re doing more of their spending online since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Sticking with e-commerce

All told, more than eight in 10 consumers surveyed said they’ve bought something online during the pandemic, while 65 per said say they’ve shopped in a brick-and-mortar store. Of those who are still visiting a physical store to buy their goods, 38 per cent say they’re doing so less often than earlier in the year. 

Just as importantly, the study suggests this is more than just a fleeting infatuation with e-commerce: nearly 80 per cent of consumers say they plan to keep frequenting virtual storefronts once the current health crisis abates.

From Shopify’s perspective, this is all good news.

“Looking ahead, we see independent retailers and the next generation of consumers driving shifts that will pave the way for an even brighter future of commerce,” president Harley Finkelstein said in a news release.

Even as buyers flocked to online stores, merchants also adjusted their brick-and-mortar operations to fit the new reality, Shopify said.

The number of shops offering contactless in-store payments via the company’s technology platforms has jumped 122 per cent from a year ago, Shopify reported. Meanwhile, more consumers than ever before are opting for curbside pickup or local delivery. 

Better online banking

To that end, shoppers are looking for faster and cheaper shipping options: 59 per cent say free delivery “would improve their shopping experience,” while 40 per cent say free returns would make online shopping better and more than a third say the same of faster shipping times.  

The survey suggests banks and other financial institutions also need to up their games to meet the needs of today’s tech-savvy entrepreneurs.

For example, nearly half of merchants who responded said a “good online banking or mobile app experience” is one of their top three most important features when considering a bank for their business.

The report was based on an online survey of more than 10,000 consumers in 11 countries conducted in September 2020, as well as global Shopify sales data from January 2018 to September 2020.