We’ve all known that eCommerce is the future of business industries with the dawn of the Internet, Big Data, and all things digital. But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing major changes in eCommerce over a very short period of time, with everyone all over the world adopting more online practices in getting goods and services.
According to a study, the average daily online sales for groceries alone doubled by the middle of March compared with the start of the month, seeing a 100% boost. eCommerce and overall online sales went up 25% over the same period overall, with grocery spending now representing 8% of overall eCommerce, up from the numbers three years ago of 6%.
Among the most popular items in people’s internet shopping carts are food, canned goods, health products, gym equipment, and toilet paper.
Despite the positives of sales gains, it has been reported that 55% of online retailers are expecting or have already experienced losses in their day-to-day businesses due to the effect coronavirus had on their respective states, from lock-downs all the way to disruption on shipments of supplies.
Faced with uncertainty and the possible long-term effect coronavirus might have in the global economy, businesses need to face the facts: We’re in it for the long haul.
While we bunker down and wait out the storm, it’s important that business owners do not lose sight of what is truly important: their customers. Customers are now, more than ever, turning to eCommerce for their needs, and brands that go the extra mile to help their customers in this crucial time will provide a positive experience and impression that would encourage long-term relationships, especially when the pandemic resolves at one point in time.
In this time of Corona, the stores and businesses in eCommerce need to work together and do what they can now, and prepare for the aftermath.
What eCommerce Brands Can Do Now
We’re already in the eye of the storm with quarantines in place and the stay-at-home mandates extended for a few more weeks. At this time, you can: Focus on the customer experience, keeping your customer base and becoming more engaged and visible.
Focusing on the Customer Experience
Everyone will have growing frustrations especially with closing businesses, uncertain prospects with work, and the general impact in their daily lives. Being able to address problems quickly when they arise and being transparent with your customers on the possible delays is something that brands should work on at this time.
In a survey, 44% of online retailers are expecting production delays, while 40% mention a possible inventory shortage. Choosing to proactively address issues, like carriers being unable to to deliver shipments, avoiding additional shipping charges instead of keeping your customer in the dark are just some of the ways to help the customer through these trying times.
Brands should also prepare to account for increased volumes in their technical support channels (live chat, calls, and emails) from customers seeking for answers in their delayed shipments. eCommerce stores should have customer service protocols in place to handle inquiries with the appropriate sensitivity to the frustrating circumstances, so that it can help ensure not just a positive customer experience but also brand representation.
Keeping Your Customers
At a time where customers are looking to cut a few things from their budget, businesses and brands should learn to keep in touch with their customers or risk losing them. Practically speaking, keeping your existing customer base is a lot more favorable than having to build up a new one from scratch.
Should the worry of marketing expenses go through your mind, it’s understandable. Businesses are trying to be cost-effective now more than ever. With this, there are ways to keep in touch with your customers without having to spend much. Here are some:
Personalized messages. Did you know that marketing automation is the easiest, lowest costing way to effectively keep touch with your customers? We’re not talking about automated spam messages or email blasts; we’re talking about sending personalized messages targeted at your existing customers who want to hear from you. You’ll need to be in touch with your customers at every part in their digital journey especially now that there is more online activity than usual. Learn to understand what they want, what they need through their buying behaviors, site explorations and build your messages from there. Doing this systematically and automatically will not only ease the job of having to manually reach out to everyone, this allows you to deliver creative campaigns that will add even more ROI.
Engagement. You cannot buy engagement, you build it. You do this with conversations, connecting to your existing customers through social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Everyone’s online at this time, and these are places where your customers are reviewing your products and sharing their purchasing decisions and views about your brand. Reaching out to your customers with content wouldn’t cost you much; just share things you’ve recently done as a business during the crisis, give out some positives and good news. You can use social media to check on your customers, find out what’s in the market, learn more about their needs. Note that this isn’t just about promoting your business – your contributions to the digital conversation need to be valuable and something your customers can connect with.
Now You See Me: Brand Visibility
Now is a good time as any to build your brand awareness. This means driving visitors to your online store or website. And one of the best ways for potential clients to find you is when they are searching online for what you are selling. This means at every chance, you need to make your brand visible.
How, you may ask? Well, a lot of things can be considered, but one of the major players for visibility is using artificial intelligence. You can use eCommerce marketing tools to help you use the data you have to curate content specific for them. Learning to make your content search engine optimized is one thing; there’s also configuring your Google Analytics to make sure that you are using the data to help formulate your marketing strategies. Did you know? The data you get from Google Analytics is free! Use it to your advantage!
Once you’re visible, aim for conversion. One of the low cost, high impact digital marketing techniques for this uses the understanding of your customer’s user journey. With people gradually moving from offline shopping to online, the habit of purchasing eCommerce goods won’t disappear when the pandemic is over. With this impact on the whole eCommerce industry, you will need to learn how to effectively turn more of your website visitors into customers. This circles back to what was previously discussed as well: conversion works with focusing on customers, their experiences, and engaging with them, connecting by knowing what they need.
What Brands Can Do After
It’s been reinstated a few times over that the Coronavirus has given eCommerce its high boost in sales in such a short amount of time. But will it provide a long-term benefit for online brands? The short answer is yes—if they can stay in business during and after Corona.
Niche non-essential markets might struggle now that income from customers is impacted, who might have second thoughts on getting that nice sweater or item that isn’t exactly a need. Promos and discounts might be a thing of the past, which is understandable as some businesses will need to recover from unstable ROI during the quarantines and lockdowns.
A survey recently asked online retailers on what they are doing to respond to the impact of coronavirus. Out of a 100 percent, 20 percent have said that they’re “taking aggressive action,” 44 percent are “taking some action” with more to come, and the remaining 36 percent were taking a “wait-and-see approach.” The latter is something to be discouraged; brands, especially in the post-corona scene, need to be able to sustain demands of consumers — that includes maintaining the domination of online shopping, and doubling digital marketing efforts, as this might just be the new normal.
Localization and geo-targeting is something that brands might consider, as shipping and travel were big issues brands encountered with moving products from place to place. It might be good to focus on your local community and area to build on your customers, and help as globalization might take a while to get back on its feet again in the wake of Corona.
eCommerce in the time of Corona definitely has its own short-term victories and long-term uncertainties. While the pandemic already impacted the world in unprecedented ways, that impact is still likely to be felt even after the dust has settled.
Only time can tell what else is in store for this year, but brands in eCommerce need to brace themselves for the now, and prepare for a world after Coronavirus that is way more different than the world before the pandemic.