Embracing Ecommerce post COVID

Since last year, digital transformation has not been an option, but rather a necessity. Lockdown forced businesses of all sizes, across all industries to adapt to the new landscape, or risk disappearing altogether.

Ecommerce was no exception to this. Retailers had to drive sales in entirely different ways. 2020 was a big year for ecommerce. According to the ONS, ecommerce grew at its fastest rate in the UK for more than a decade at 46%. Nielsen data revealed that over 30% of all UK households were shopping for groceries online by the end of the year. With the nation spending over £40 billion online during lockdown alone, it's a no-brainer for businesses to get online.

While many businesses have used the last year to build a broader multichannel strategy, there are still some who are yet to establish their online experience. If that's you, what are the headline points to focus on? 

Mirroring the offline experience

It's been a difficult shift for many traditional bricks and mortar retailers, when pivoting to ecommerce it can be hard to envisage the online journey. Businesses that previously concentrated on offline marketing techniques found this out very quickly. There are no staff to guide visitors towards a purchase, customers can leave your website in an instant, online attention span is much lower than if someone was to step into a shop – you have to grab them immediately.

You want to think about those powerful conversion tactics that are used in store and look at how they can be implemented online, can a sales representative be switched for live chat? Can you look at powerful AI tools and store simulators to bring the shop front into your home -  take note from the likes of IKEA Place, the augmented reality app that lets you put pieces of furniture in your home through your smartphone. Even Adidas, a company which you might assume is already doing as much as they can in the online space, has committed to spend €1 billion on its digital transformation by 2025. Ecommerce is such a fast-paced industry that being just one step ahead of your competitors will pay dividends.

Focus on customer experience

Customer experience is one area where traditional and online commerce intersect. You must consider the journey that you want a potential customer to go on and how to guide them to a sale. 66% of online shoppers state convenience as the number one reason that they choose to purchase from a retailer, according to research by Catalyst and Kantar. No one is asking you to be the next Amazon, but you have to make sure that your online storefront is easy to navigate and doesn’t put people off your brand.

Remember that a bad online experience will last a long time in your visitors’ memories. Make the sale too difficult and you can lose a customer in a flash. By focusing on customer experience, even visitors who don’t convert are more likely to leave with a good impression and return in the future.

One of the most overlooked areas on ecommerce sites are product detail pages (PDPs). Catalyst and Kantar’s research showed that 41% of online spenders said PDPs most influenced their purchase, but only 37% of ecommerce professionals were optimising these pages. A PDP offers you the perfect opportunity to sell, as someone who lands there is likely already interested in the product. If you aren’t utilising these pages properly by giving customers useful information and further motives to buy, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Track customer behaviour

Aside from getting to grips with ecommerce itself, what is more important than ever is understanding what your customers want. If you can anticipate their needs, the chance of a sale is much higher. Customer behaviour online is always changing, so it can be tough to keep up. Data is the solution, and we're seeing increasing demand in data jobs coming out of lockdown.

Data analysis can offer a wide variety of insights about how your customers shop. Are they leaving the website because they can’t find what they are looking for? Are people dropping out somewhere between finding an item and buying it? Perhaps a poorly optimised home page is leading people to leave your site instantly. By analysing this data, you can learn what you are getting right and where you need to improve.

Testing is very important in ecommerce. You have the ability to trial a feature and see how it affects customer behaviour before rolling it out completely, so use it. This can be useful as not all ecommerce sites will thrive on the same strategy. Figure out what works for your brand and you will reap the benefits.

Getting the right people

Ecommerce has a steep learning curve which has the potential to overwhelm if the skillset isn’t already within your organisation. The right hire could prove vital to accelerating your digital transformation.

GameStop is an example of a large retailer that has struggled to adapt to the rapidly advancing digital world. However, having realised that bringing in knowledgeable individuals can be game-changing, GameStop recently hired multiple former senior Amazon employees. One of them will be Chief Technology Officer, a role that was created specifically to drive the company’s ecommerce platform. Prioritising your digital transformation is essential in 2021.

As you can see, ecommerce can be a great tool to grow your business and brand, but you have to do it right. There are ways in which ecommerce offers you more chances for success, but it won’t come without you focusing on it. Put the legwork into devising a clear strategy and avoid making too many mistakes if you want to make the most of these powerful online platforms.

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Tamara Broderick

13th April

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