Web Stores the Winners in the Pandemic

Wednesday March 23, 2022 | Posted at 10:39 am | By Paul Dicken
March 23, 2022 @ 10:39 am

We’re two full years into the Covid-19 pandemic. January and February 2020 seemed like a typical January and February in the 21st century, as ecommerce steadily grew its share of total retail spend. Then in March 2020 everything changed, and continues to change, as Covid cases mount in a restriction-free world and economics and war strain supply and transportation.

We thought it would be a useful exercise to see what’s been happening across online channels during this crazy time. Which major marketplaces have done well, which haven’t, and how have web stores fared during this time? All channels saw a boost in 2020 and 2021, but how do they stand now? That’s the subject of this post. As always, we’ve analysed marketplace and web store GMV (Gross Merchandise Volume) transacted across the Volo Origin platform, using the Volo Vision reporting module as our guide.

We compared two 3-month periods: December 2019 to February 2020, and December 2021 to February 2022. We wanted to measure organic growth of the ecommerce industry using a ‘same set’ group of sellers across all categories, so we exclude any new customers between these two windows, taking a 3-figure set of established customers who were with us in both period 1 and period 2, and compare their performance.

Here’s what happened to the two largest marketplaces in the western world, and the web store channel, with established Volo sellers:

  • Amazon sales decreased 4% from pre-pandemic to post-restrictions
  • eBay sales decreased 23% in the same period
  • Web store sales increased 71% in the same period

There are a few conclusions we can draw from these three data points, and remember that these are established Volo sellers selling on at least two online channels. First, Amazon and eBay appear to have lost the huge Covid-bump, especially eBay. Second, we added a few additional marketplaces during the last 2 years and sellers have adopted them, with eBay feeling the squeeze. Third, and most tellingly, sellers have doubled down on their website channel, at the expense of all marketplaces.

During this period we also saw Amazon finally overtake eBay in terms of market share amongst this sample set of the Volo customer base, which is interesting to us since eBay is pretty much the main heritage of our customers and the first marketplace we connected to over 15 years ago. And, for the first time, web stores became the largest channel.

Of course, this is not a major surprise. With your own web store, your margins are greater and you have greater control over the buyer experience and buyer relationships. Your chef challenge is to attract visitors to your site, get them to purchase and keep them coming back. Sellers appear to have succeeded very well at this.

Furthermore, the signs were there a while back. When we surveyed the market a year ago, 52% of respondents said the the main lesson they’d learned from 2020 and early 2021 was the need to diversify across more channels. Channels and products were also jointly pinpointed as the most important areas for growth. In additiona, our ebook ‘Scaling Up Your Ecommerce Business – How To Build, Grow and Industrialise Ecommerce’ talks up the benefits of easing your buyer base – where possible and where allowed – from marketplaces to web store.

At Volo we provide technology and services to unify your ecommerce business so that you can be in more than one place at one time and not have to duplicate the same processes in each channel where you sell. You’d expect us, therefore, to be championing the benefits of selling and fulfilling across multiple channels, since it helps you build resilience, flexibility and most of all agility during tumultuous times. It’s about channel coverage, and it’s a key lever for growth. Comparing Volo sellers before the pandemic to the same period two years later, it seems they’ve taken this mantra to heart.

To discuss your ecommerce plans and channel strategy for 2022 and beyond, please get in touch with us here.

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