Setting Up A Post-Pandemic E-Commerce Boom Strategy
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a massive accelerant with regards to e-commerce, catapulting the industry to record-breaking growth and ushering in a new era of consumer online shopping. But as we saw with the dot-com boom in the early 2000s, the bubble will eventually burst.
While some brands may continue to see rapid growth, a more likely scenario is that growth will continue for many brands, but at a slower pace. This makes it critical for businesses to focus on future-proofing their e-commerce strategy today so they can continue to find success regardless of what side of the coin they find themselves on.
Re-evaluate Your Customers
This past year has shown us how much consumer behavior can shift over the course of a year — expectations have changed for the entire shopping experience from browsing and purchasing to shipping and fulfillment. As more brands have started their own direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels during the pandemic, the online marketplace is more crowded, giving consumers more options to choose from. As a result, they are more likely to jump ship if they face a poor shopping experience.
The key to maintaining customer satisfaction is to consistently provide a superior customer journey from pre-purchase to purchase and beyond. Each element goes into how consumers evaluate their overall experience – many consumers believe the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.
One way to level up the customer journey is by establishing a line of communication with your customers to hear what they think of the current buying experience and where they want to see changes. Whether this is through social media channels or surveys customers can opt-in to take, having a direct source to your customers’ feedback will let you know if expectations are being met or where to focus efforts on improvement.
This communication can also be indirect. One of the benefits of having a D2C channel is the wealth of data you get from that digital relationship. You can see what items shoppers are looking at, what they put in their cart, at what point the conversion happens, or when they make the decision not to buy. This data is vital for understanding which promotions work and how to best allocate your marketing resources to improve your ROI. One example brands can experiment with is where to introduce Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options on the customer journey. The financing option might drive more conversions if it’s introduced on the product page versus at check-out — data that is easily gleaned from an ecommerce site.
Optimize the Shopping Experience
Because today’s consumers have more choices on more devices than ever before, it’s critical for businesses to adopt a customer-centric approach to cultivate brand loyalty and improve customer retention. Implementing a customer-centric approach means giving customers what they want, where they want. Even B2B customers have begun to demand B2C-like experiences, including personalization and financing options.
For a growing number of shoppers, mobile is the platform of choice for consuming content and making purchases. This year, close to 75% of retail ecommerce sales are expected to be made through mobile devices. Having mobile commerce capabilities as part of your ecommerce strategy will be essential for making sure you’re meeting your customers where they’re shopping.
Beyond just meeting customers on the right platforms, businesses need to ensure they’re delivering the optimal shopping experience on each platform. This means making sure the customer journey translates properly to mobile devices by having a mobile-responsive website and the payment options customers prefer. Optimizing the shopping experience across devices is a proven strategy to lower cart abandonment rates, which can lead to an overall increase in revenue when implemented correctly.
Assess Your Channel Strategy
In this era of choice for consumers, the gap continues to widen between businesses with ecommerce capabilities and those who have yet to jump on board. Traditional retail was hit hard by the pandemic, but brands that focused on perfecting their multi-channel ecommerce strategy were able to mitigate some of the challenges. For example, businesses that have brick-and-mortar stores worked across channels to allow people to shop online and pick up their product curbside at the store, a strategy that kept customers from defecting to a competitor.
What was once known as channel conflict – choosing between a D2C strategy versus distributing through third-party/resellers or purely through a brick-and-mortar store – has been completely redefined. The past 12 months have shown the benefits of having a sales strategy that goes beyond a singular channel and expanding to meet the customers wherever and however they want to buy.
True multi-channel systems empower retailers with the flexibility to quickly adapt and scale their systems in response to environmental and consumer factors. This has major implications for how brands allocate inventory – instead of earmarking the bulk of their inventory for retail, or resellers, some brands are re-allocating more inventory to digital based on consumer preference. This strategy allows brands to have a more complete view of the different elements of the business and be more efficient distributing resources to where they are needed.
The previous year shattered expectations based on forecasts going into 2020. For e-commerce brands, it brought both challenges and opportunities with more shoppers than ever adopting new online buying habits. Still, it would be wise for businesses to think about what happens once consumers feel more comfortable venturing back into brick-and-mortar businesses. By having a strong D2C strategy that is agile and customer-centric and with the right infrastructure to grow globally, businesses can feel more confident for whatever the future holds.
\Ted Rogers is Chief Marketing Officer at Digital River.