Ecommerce – what’s the latest?
You can’t go far without seeing or hearing about the impact Covid-19 has had on the retail industry. More specifically, it’s pushed ecommerce forward significantly and sped up its adoption as consumers were forced to shift their shopping habits online due to stay-at-home orders.
Products usually bought in store are being purchased online. And experts say, that’s here to stay.
According to Rob Clapp writing for WARC, percentages of consumers shifting to online shopping have ranged with 57% in Vietnam, India 55%, China 50% and Italy 31%. In the US, retailers' online year-on-year revenue growth is up 68% as of mid-April. Looking at US & Canadian ecommerce orders there’s been 129% YoY growth as of April and a staggering 146% growth in all online retail orders (Forbes). Closer to home, in the UK online retail sales jumped 32.7% YoY in May (eConsultancy).
The ecommerce progression has said to have progressed 5 years in the last 3 months. With almost all physical stores shut, if a consumer wanted to buy from a brand, buying online was the only option. Whilst there were initial teething problems with the overnight surge in online purchasing (capacity constraints, supply chain challenges, delivery output etc.), retailers have shown resilience and a great ability to adapt, under immense pressure. In most cases, businesses have stepped up and delivered big time. Confidence in online shopping is high. According to PYMNTS.com, 40% consumers have bought their routine online and the majority of those that have gone online, plan to stay there.
In the UK, shops are slowly opening again, and across the world it’s much the same picture. We might be missing popping to the shops, but as shops re-open there’s going to be some hesitancy about in store shopping – the queues, the hygiene, the proximity. I believe in-store shoppers will return but with the convenience and increased confidence in purchasing online, the tide has turned.
So what does the future look like and where should retailers be focusing?
1. Get online, sharpish
First and foremost, retailers with no online store, might want to consider changing that, pretty quickly. Traditional retailers built on physical sales (here’s looking at you Primark), face serious threat if they don’t at least consider getting an online presence. Those with stores need to make sure they’re ready to do what’s necessary to instil confidence and keep shoppers safe in store. From what I’ve seen so far, retailers are doing a fantastic job, not only communicating the measures they’re taking, but also delivering on store safety. Email has been an incredibly useful channel to communicate these updates with customers.
2. Invest more
For retailers that do offer ecommerce it’s imperative they offer the best experience. With millions more people shopping online every day and high (and ever increasing) customer expectations, it's not enough to just be online. Customer experience is so, so important so give customers a great experience and they’ll buy more, be more loyal, share their experience and they’ll continue to repeat the process. A good experience online is built on speed, convenience, consistency and trust. . If there’s any hiccups in that experience, they’ll most likely go elsewhere. This extends to email too – emails need to be the best they can be. They’re the store front to your business right now and they need to pack a punch. Relevant, useful and personalized content is a must.
3. Look at the whole journey
Overall I recommend objectively reviewing all aspects of the customer experience – from email to checkout and everything in between. Every single customer touch point needs to be flawless – and frictionless. Don’t be afraid to make improvements and test things. Ask customers. Lead the way with CX. It’s more than fancy bells and whistles. It’s putting customer needs first at all times.
As marketers we’ve been going on about personalization for years and years, yet substantially few retailers deliver a really personalized experience. I’m expecting that to change rapidly over the next 6-12 months, as knowing your customer and ensuring their experience becomes the number 1 goal. A happy customer = more revenue and easier revenue.
Throughout this period there’s been brands that have exceeded my expectations multiple times, and there’s been brands that have let me down big time. I know that I’ll do what I can to avoid spending money with the brands that have let me down. I’ll also actively engage with and support those that have looked after me. That decision is based purely on customer experience.
Over my next few blogs I’ll be delving into times I’ve faced friction in my experience with brands and how this could have been negated with a customer-first approach. I’ll also be looking at how tech can be leveraged for internal efficiency and customer experience, with personalization in the forefront of my mind.
Keep an eye on this space.