ECOMMERCE SAVES BRICK AND MORTAR DURING PANDEMIC
It’s no secret that Covid-19 has changed shopper behavior. With social distancing and lock-downs, the natural assumption is that the shift to online shopping will be enough to save brick and mortar businesses. But is this true? Let’s take a look at what the experts are reporting and predicting.
Is Ecommerce Growing?
Even with the shift to online purchasing, 36% of ecommerce retailers believe that COVID-19 will have a negative impact on their sales. But they haven’t given up trying. Ecommerce sites doubled ad spend in less than a month, from $4.8 million for the week of Feb. 17 to $9.6 million for the week of March 9.
Still consumers are being cautious, only spending 10-30% more online.
There are sectors that are flying. For instance, China’s largest online retailer, JD.com, has seen sales of common household staples quadruple over the same period last year. There has also been a significant increase in revenue generated by subscription and convenience services.
There are quick and easy ways to improve your ecommerce offering, but more about that later.
Of course the prediction is that long after the pandemic brick and mortar stores will still function as a valuable brand asset. In the short term however, we are seeing retailers adapt quickly to turn their physical location into click and collect points for their customers.
If you aren't sure how to leverage your location during the pandemic the NZ government have put together some great regulations and suggestions we can all learn from and, as consumers, should expect from our local stores to keep us safe:
Is Your Ecommerce Robust Enough?
Now however, as more consumers turn online, demands increase for better pricing and quick-and-free shipping. Not all ecommerce businesses are geared for this. Even Amazon is having trouble keeping up.
Here are 3 ways to support and improve your ecommerce offering:
Enhance customer experience
With so many ecommerce stores just a click away, you’ll lose customers in seconds if your site is slow or glitchy. Spend time optimizing your site and page load speeds, ensure images are compressed correctly and where possible leverage a good CDN to deliver content to your customers wherever they are located.
Make sure you have enough products to keep customers interested. With complete, high quality product listings, more products will be sold and there will be fewer returns. If getting people to your site is the first challenge, keeping them there as long as possible is certainly the next and this is where you need both quantity AND quality. Consumers like being able to combine shipping, or perhaps a better way to look at it is they don't like having to pay multiple retailers for shipping. If you can offer several of the products the customer needs you have a leg up over the competition. Here are a few tips for increasing your product range:
- Spend time reviewing your ecommerce stores search history, analyse frequent key words that aren't yielding result or brand labels being searched that you may have an alternative for
- Ask your suppliers to provide full lists of the products you can source from them, compare those items to your top sellers to find cross sell and up sell opportunities
Keep in mind in this new world you aren't going to be able to offer the same in store experience you did before, not for a while at least. So how do you make the simple act of Click & Collect an "experience"? Here are a few of my thoughts and ideas:
- The Click & Collect experience starts before the customer even leaves their house - have you communicated clearly on when it will be ready? Where/how/what time to pick up?
- What if the customer needs to make a change? Have you allowed for order adjustments? What about if they cant make the collect time?
- Make the customer feel valued. It might sound like a no brainer but I frequently see retailers not actually have the order ready and waiting at the collection time. Don't make me stand around and wait awkwardly while you quickly dash around your store, have it prepackaged and ready to go when i get there.
- Add a personal touch. Simple things like a hand written "thanks for you order" message go a long way. Also don't forget this is your opportunity to get the customer to come back so throw a discount coupon or free sample into the collection package for a bit of a surprise.
Manage inventory better
Avoid the calls and complaints that come with out-of-stock items. Shipping incomplete orders or cancelling orders is another way to lose customers. Be sure to maintain accurate stock levels and visibility on your site.
Keep in mind customers are often willing to wait for their product IF they:
- Feel like they are getting a great deal, or are wanting to support a local business.
- Know before making the purchase decision what to expect. It can be as simple as a message on certain products to warn the customer of "7 day delivery for special items".
Reduce business errors
Redu,zz,ce the ez-rrors that come from the manual entering of new product data. We have all been there, you are in a hurry to get a new range online and the uploader is lagging or rejecting your spreadsheet. Don't waste time with adding one product at a time and expose yourself to copy paste and manual data keying errors. Consider investing into PIM or CMS systems that allow you to manage product data in bulk and sync to all your channels.
With integrated, data driven business systems input is error free. This will improve accuracy and, naturally, business performance.
The Future Is Now
Covid-19 is forcing ecommerce business owners to improve their systems quickly. But not all ecommerce companies will manage to attract, nurture and retain shoppers. Pushed to meet new demand, 71% of online retailers face the survival test. As we know, if your ecommerce store doesn’t make it, neither will your brick and mortar outlets in the long run.
Managing the operations of your online store is one of your biggest challenges. Real-time, accurate product data updates will make it a pleasure to shop at your online store. This is the way to keep brick-and-mortar customers loyal during the pandemic.