How Businesses are Shifting Online in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) UK Lockdown Landscape to Survive

Reading Time: 11 mins

The COVID-19 coronavirus has had a huge impact for virtually every business in the UK, but many businesses have responded and adapted quickly, moving online to survive and continue to provide to their customers.

This pandemic and subsequent lockdown may well kickstart a new online avenue for some businesses, but it will also inevitably cause those who don’t adapt to shut down.

So what are businesses doing to adapt to an online-only shopping or service experience? How are businesses looking to survive or sustain revenue during such an uncertain period? Ecommerce stores have adapted to the COVID-19 crisis with some businesses going online for the first time. Digital marketing is proving critical during the coronavirus lockdown – a time when many businesses expect loss revenue, and online is their only hope of maintaining some semblance of normality.

We have taken a look at some of the big brands and smaller businesses who have adapted to the lockdown landscape.

What’s changed?

Of course, I’m sure you all know what’s changed as part of our daily lives. For some people, they are in their home 24/7 without the possibility of popping out to the shop. Some are working from home, with only daily exercise and a pop down the shops for essential supplies. And other key workers are still out there keeping the country functioning.

In terms of lifestyle, with more people spending time at home, at-home activities have risen. People are exercising at home, or going for a single run a day, with gyms and leisure centres closed. Cooking at home has never been more essential, or indeed popular. People will be watching more TV, and streaming more content online. People will also be turning to online shopping where possible, in place of the high street and local shops. People will be spending more time on social media, and socialising via online means. This means video chat app usage has skyrocketed, including the now-popular Houseparty app, along with work-based video services gaining in popularity. People have also turned to online video games to socialise.

Even the biggest brands are having issues. Apple can’t make as many iPhones now. Nintendo are unable to produce enough Nintendo Switches. Tesla has even put business in China on hold. Next have closed its website as the coronavirus has threatened to wipe £11 billion from fashion sales this year. This is a 20% decrease – the combined annual clothing sales of Primark, Marks & Spencer and Next.

What have businesses been doing?

Big businesses and small businesses alike have had to adapt. Some have had to change how they appeal to customers completely – others have to make particular changes to survive.


Right now, what is on everyone’s mind is when their next shop for essential goods is coming. Supermarkets and other stores are in high demand, but also with restrictions regarding personal space and limited supplies. Co-op is taking on 5,000 extra store workers to cope with demand.

Home deliveries from supermarkets are more popular than ever. People who would not normally utilise these services are now more inclined to, or even forced to where self-isolation is necessary. Delivery slots are increasingly scare, and click-and-collect is also proving in demand. Panic buying has truly set in. Toilet rolls, pasta, hand sanitiser, hand soap and tomato ketchup now seem to be rare items.

Lloyds Pharmacy also hiring 1,500 staff to deliver prescriptions and healthcare in this time.


As expected, ecommerce is more important than ever. Amazon has been re-introducing 7-day Prime trials for 99p – this is a great time for them to introduce people to next-day delivery and everything else that comes with their premium subscription delivery model.

Many retailers are offering free delivery now that stores are closed. Currys is offering free delivery online. Burtons is also offering free delivery, when it wasn’t beforehand. H&M is also offering free delivery, along with extended returns and an offer code.

Of course, some products and services are proving more popular than normal online:

  • Home fitness
  • Groceries
  • Dry foods
  • Essentials
  • At home entertainment
  • Medicine
  • Pet supplies

In light of this pandemic, many businesses are offering discounts and free products or services to NHS staff and other front-line workers to show their appreciation. Of course, this is all good PR too.

For instance, Dominos is delivering 100,000 pizzas for free for frontline healthcare staff.

Gillette has been offering free razors to NHS frontline staff.

If you sell online, and your offering is not directly affected by the lockdown, focusing on gaining customers and keeping existing ones is paramount.

If you don’t sell online but you could – shifting to ecommerce is a very sensible choice. You can acquire customers who would not normally go online, and with more people discovering new brands online, you could be their next choice. Plus once all this is over, you will have a new channel to promote and boost revenue.

With less competition online right now, it means there’s an opportunity to gain market share.


Aside from ecommerce, setting up a click-and-collect or small radius delivery service has become popular. Smaller, local shops offer this, along with local restaurants, pubs, takeaways and otherwise.

Pubs have adapted to delivering beer and wine locally. In Cambridge, the Cambridge Wine Merchants have quickly switched to deliver to local customers.

The Shell garage can now also be found on UberEats, just in case you need your fix of crisps or chocolate without going to Tesco. Many other shops which would not normally utilise such platforms can be found on UberEats, Deliveroo and JustEat.


Many events and training companies have switched to focus on an online format. Even businesses that had events coming up have switched to host it online.

For instance, Microsoft had the Build developer conference online, whereas Facebook’s F8 developer is cancelled. Football clubs are showing old matches live on YouTube. They are even hosting the Ultimate Quaranteam on YouTube, whereby players and fans of clubs which signed up are playing FIFA 20 online for a good cause. This may see a rise in E-sports as opposed to normal sports – as any sports fanatic cannot currently get their fix. While e-sports may be seen as a “joke” to traditional sports fans, maybe now is the time where they will be convinced otherwise.

A lot of bands and musicians are hosting live streams, as they cannot tour to make money.

You can watch the Berliner Philharmoniker for free online, due to the fact the Philharmonie is closed. Alternatively, you can catch a free concert live stream from Metallica every Monday.

Online content

Online content is going to be increasingly important. People are inside and very, very bored.

comScore has reported that minutes spent by readers on news sites increased 46% compared to last year.

Disney+ has launched as a strangely optimal time. With a 7 day trial, Disney will go from strength to strength in light of this lockdown.

Netflix has unsurprisingly also seen growth. So much so, it has cut the quality of its streaming in order to deliver.

A virtual pub quiz went viral, without any real fanfare or promotion. Jay Flynn amassed 300,000 participants for his virtual pub quiz in real-time, hosted on Facebook and YouTube, which is a Guinness World Record.

Similarly, small businesses are creating content to keep customers entertained during the crisis. Gyms are creating online work-outs, and a local Cambridge dance academy is getting involved too.

Brands with fans are having to keep their audience entertained and involved, without a way to actually engage them. Content is one way to engage, such as the below example while football is all but shut down.


How people are working has changed dramatically. Productivity apps and other software that helps people to work from home have understandably seen a huge surge in popularity.

Microsoft Teams and Zoom Video are the winners of this lockdown situation. Zoom stock has soared in light of this pandemic.

In the chart below, you can also see how the concurrent users on Steam, the PC gaming platform, has surged in light of the lockdowns around the world.

With more people at home, software for work and for leisure has risen in usage.

The future

Will society return to normal anytime soon? Possibly not until 2021. And even then, it’s likely the changes that we have made to our daily lives will not go away completely. More jobs will be possible to work at home thanks to investment caused by the lockdowns. And it’s been reported that more people will be working from home after. More people will have been introduced to shopping online for more types of items. More people will have adapted to home exercise, home entertainment, and cooking at home.

But on the other side, people will be absolutely desperate to leave their homes and potentially the country after all this is over. Travel companies will have a huge opportunity once everything in safe.

Will the high street suffer, or will it also see a surge? This is still difficult to predict, as right now people will not be receiving as much money, but then again they can’t go anywhere to spend it. It is early days, but perhaps down the line restaurants, pubs and high street shops will see a surge in popularity for the pure novelty factor and newfound appreciation.