E-commerce, a solution for local trade?

The health crisis that we have experienced has shaken our consumption habits and accelerated certain trends that were already developing before the pandemic. Thus, we have seen e-commerce reach new records. According to the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, its growth in Europe has tripled by 2020. In Europe, e-commerce will represent 13.4% of retail trade in 2021, according to a study by FEVAD.

But in contrast to this major trend, we are also seeing the return of localism. Indeed, the trend to “consume local” and “made in Europe” products has picked up with the pandemic. Consumers are looking for local brands with production in the country. But can these two seemingly opposite trends merge?

The made in Europe trend

According to Deloitte’s “State of the consumer tracker” report, in April 2021, 51% of European consumers want to consume more local products, even if it means paying a little more. This desire is part of a more responsible consumption movement, already well established, which consists of consuming less but better. The confinement and the limitation of travel have led a part of the population to favor neighborhood shops (bakeries, butcher shops, …) and to rethink their way of consuming, more ecological while helping, in turn, small businesses to revive their activity.

According to a study conducted by Fly Research for Mastercard, 45% of respondents feel more supportive of their local community after containment.

Towards a more local and responsible e-commerce

While the e-commerce boom is potentially a threat to retailers whose primary focus is proximity, digital has also been an essential resource for many local businesses to adapt to the economic consequences of the health crisis (restricted hours, limited capacity…).

Similarly, the implementation of initiatives such as online ordering with in-store collection (Click and Collect) has allowed small businesses to combine e-commerce and proximity to maintain their business, without losing the social link with their customers. Moreover, digitalization does not have a negative impact on the values of local commerce (authenticity, quality, proximity, etc.). E-commerce can improve the shopping experience and build customer loyalty.

The use of digital, when it comes to reinforcing local dynamics, can also participate in the implementation of local and sustainable actions. For example, in recent months, initiatives have been developed to promote local commerce. Among these, we can mention for example the Tiendeo.fr offers and promotions platform, which provides local businesses with a complete digitalization solution to improve their visibility by allowing consumers to find stores and offers near them.

In conclusion, there is a strategic approach between e-commerce and local commerce, both of which have long been considered as totally opposed and competitive. These two trends could well be complementary if their interactivity is mastered. Thus, many local businesses are eager to enter a new era of connected commerce offering more efficient services to attract and retain their customers.

Local businesses in the age of e-commerce: between proximity and resilience

The various periods of confinement and curfew that we have collectively experienced, as well as the closure of so-called “non-essential” businesses, have forced them to adapt and to think about new models to perpetuate their activity. One of the most used solutions was the use of click and collect, which consists in making a reservation online and then collecting the goods in-store. For many, this was both a form of financial and social resilience.

In this way, bookstores, clothing stores, toy stores, but also bars and restaurants have tried to remedy the competition from large digital brands or the sale of similar products in hypermarkets. Click and collect allows to reconnect consumption to a territorial reality and to propose new services. As reported by Challenge’s media, among others, retailers are now testifying to the significant role that this digital solution has played in their sales in 2020.

Click and collect has also enabled retailers to reconnect with their customers. The human dimension, which is sometimes less well known than the financial dimension, structures the vitality of our local businesses. Advising and accompanying the customer in his purchase, and simply reconnecting and interacting with the outside world again after these periods of confinement, is also the added value of click and collect.

On a broader level, the use of digital technology, when it reinforces local dynamics, can also help to set up sustainable and local actions. For example, solidarity networks have developed in recent months to support small businesses in our regions. Various initiatives, through digital platforms such as “les vitrines de Colmar” or “e-montargis”, have emerged to bring together independent businesses in their respective towns on the same interface. These initiatives demonstrate the role that local authorities can play in promoting and highlighting their local commercial fabric, which is generally one of the main drivers of their dynamism and urban animation.

And it is in this dynamic that it is essential today to conceive commercial urbanism: that of common awareness and responsibility. Shopkeepers, citizens, public services, and private companies are all concerned by the evolution of local shops and the consequences of e-commerce, positive and negative, on their development. As Philippe DUGOT pointed out in the interview mentioned above, “the ecological and social footprint of e-commerce is enormous” and the future of our cities depends, among other things, on the way we will decide to consume tomorrow…

Read our e-commerce development articles here…

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