A MarketWatch report says that as per the data available in August 2020, consumers have spent an additional $107 billion online since March 2020. The report points out that there were 130 days in which online sales exceeded $2 billion, while this number was only two days last year, outside of the holiday shopping season. This clearly indicates that consumer focus has shifted greatly to online shopping, much of which can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A report by the Nielsen Norman Group reports that with the growth of interest in online shopping, retailers are rethinking their store strategy to reach customers shopping from home and on mobile devices.
The outlook for E–commerce businesses
E-commerce customer analytics reveal how the pandemic has changed the ways in which individuals shop. According to a report by McKinsey, there is a 17 percentage-point increase in grocery sales and a surge in e-pharmacy, while travel retail and on-the-go consumption exhibit a decline. With lockdown and travel restrictions in place, this is probably easier to comprehend. The report also describes nesting behavior, or how the home is now recast as the new coffee shop, restaurant, and entertainment center. This has led to a subtle shift in online buyer behavior. Retailers and operators of both, E-commerce businesses and brick-and-mortar businesses need to consider customer analytics. The following three criteria should be considered by retailers as they work on business resurgence.
Think digital shopping; and what comes to the mind is a visually attractive user interface which invites visitors to look around, explore, navigate, check out products and services, and eventually make a purchase, thus converting them from browsers to customers.
Some sales and marketing challenges retailers face include aligning efforts with consumer expectations. A McKinsey report talks about leapfrogging digital capabilities towards first-class E-commerce experiences. Fostering trust is important as stores go digital and consumers no longer spend real time with the merchandise they are buying. For E-commerce businesses, this means fostering consumer trust through communication via chatbots, emails, and notifications. User interfaces can also be optimized for shopping incentives, trustworthy consumer services, and speedy resolution of grievances for both first time online shoppers and returning customers.
A Washington Post report outlines how shoppers are more likely to have a list of critical tried-and-true items instead of simply browsing and exploring new items. Online shopping preferences changed even before the pandemic. Research shows an increase in customers turning to E-commerce across diverse categories, including apparel, home décor, consumer electronics, and even luxury goods.
For E-commerce businesses, this presents an opportunity to ramp up digital capabilities. This is a good time for traditional businesses to build up digital capabilities, regardless of the industry they operate in. It is vital to remember that customers are dealing with changes which may be irreversible: unemployment, attitude shifts, and adaption to new income levels. For retailers, this poses challenges in the form of providing visitors (existing and potential customers) with the right mix of products, packaging, and brands. As brand loyalties change and customer trust remains fluid, companies also need to rapidly adapt to these changes.
As much as digital shopping is entering the shopping landscape, concerns for health and safety remain important. Websites can convey immediate trust by ensuring they communicate health and safety measures taken such as ‘no-contact’ delivery. As COVID-19 contagion concerns prevail, consumer behavior continues to shift and change, allowing companies to help shape the New Normal.
Apart from the physical fear of infection, there are real concerns of fraud plaguing users, especially new online customers. A report on the CPA Practice Advisor outlines how consumers are behaving in new ways as they cope with the crisis. Merchants need to assess orders with unknown email contacts if they want to avoid losing revenue and returning customers. Responsibility towards consumer concerns for health, hygiene, and safety need more focus if retailers want to grow and thrive.
Adopting and embracing change
For a digital enterprise or an E-commerce business looking to grow, accessing the right professional help without worrying about escalating costs is a priority. Outsourcing key requirements can help businesses find the critical footing they need for sustainability. From such a position, they can begin to address consumer needs comprehensively. Customer analytics services can also be advantageous to businesses looking for guidance in specific areas of E-commerce marketing. Partnering with professional E-commerce support services can help business owners access expertise without the associated overhead. Such expertise can help an emerging business grow resilience and develop capabilities to keep pace with dynamic landscapes effectively.