COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the greatest health crises of the generation. It has resulted in the deaths of more than 250,000 people and more than 3.8mn people are suffering from it all over the world. This deadly virus, for which there is still no vaccine or cure, has forced entire nations to institute social quarantine of their entire populations. Consequently, this has forced companies to close their stores and establish remote working arrangements for their employees. Experts agree that these steps, though necessary, have had substantial negative implications for households and companies. In fact, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) has stated that in light of the current crisis the 2020 global economy may shrink by 1%.
Having provided billions of dollars in tax relief, donations, and stimulus payments and lowering interest rates and debt repayment terms to historic lows, governments and companies are taking unprecedented steps to restart the economies in order to save the livelihoods of people. However, this is easier said than done.
Changing Customer Behaviour
COVID-19 has done something that marketing communications have never been able to; they have changed the preferences of millions of people in a matter of days. Concerned with hygiene and contamination, customers have changed their lifestyle at a scale that has never been seen before. In this “new normal”, they have picked up certain habits, that they may not want to let go of. For instance, according to Amish Jani, a venture capitalist, people who used to shop in malls and high streets have become comfortable with online shopping for even the most basic needs. Moreover, health and basic needs are not the only factors preoccupying people’s minds, as purchases related to the “new essentials” and leisure and hobby activities have risen to 40% of all consumer spending.
Therefore, companies need to rethink their strategies in order to remain operational and competitive. They need to find ways to reach their customers who are preferring to stay indoors and provide them with positive and optimistic shopping experiences.
Is eCommerce the Solution?
The advantages of eCommerce are immense. eCommerce and Marketing leaders who can lead their teams to optimize this new channel can come out of this crisis stronger and more agile. Let’s explore the advantages that eCommerce provides them in more detail.
An easily accessible eCommerce can provide a unified customer experience across multiple channels – online Stores, online marketplace, and social media, enabling the marketers to reach and sell products to customers irrespective of their geographical location.
Personalization makes the customer feel special, improving their shopping experience. With Accenture reporting that 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies who remember them, it means loyal customers and high conversion rates. eCommerce enables the marketers to treat every customer exclusively by providing relevant recommendations and creating customized product bundles.
According to Accenture, 83% of the customers are willing to share their data in exchange for an enhanced buying experience. eCommerce enables this data collection from thousands of customers, enabling marketers make appropriate adjustments as per the needs, prior activities, and preferences of the customers. This also enhances the customer’s trust and confidence in the company.
Online stores enable marketers to display their entire product catalog to customers using a single entity. In comparison, a brick and mortar can only display available products. Moreover, it is easier for customers to find the best selling products online relying on reviews and ratings, enhancing the chances of them making the purchase.
How eCommerce has helped Companies
From personalized recommendations and omnichannel commerce to influencer marketing and social media engagement, eCommerce enables businesses to enhance their customer experience. It enables businesses to showcase new products and discounts directly to the customer’s social media feeds and provides a platform for direct interactions. These different strategies make customers feel closer to the company.
Frank Body, a relative newcomer in the health and beauty space, achieved $20mn in revenues in <4 years by adopting eCommerce. It utilized eCommerce channels to spread its core marketing message to the whole world – “use our products to look how you want to look, and not how you are supposed to look”, which enabled them to create a community of 600,000+ individuals who identified with that core message. These individuals became a very loyal customer-base and de-facto brand ambassadors.
eCommerce enables businesses to sell more products to newer customers whilst being open 24×7. Moreover, with high cataloging capabilities, safe and fast checkouts, and personalized shopping experiences across multiple locations and time zones, it can further add to a company’s sales. The increased sales and customers, enable businesses to test and expand their sales channels and product offerings quickly.
Trail Gear, an off-road products manufacturer, leveraged their eCommerce platform to scale rapidly by optimizing their store design, which enhanced its promotional capabilities. It consolidated its entire arsenal of front-end and back-end systems which improved its data quality and accessibility, enabling its marketing team to provide updated and relevant information to the prospects, enabling quick scale.
For a more comprehensive understanding of Trail Gear’s drastic scaling enhancement click here.
Businesses leveraging eCommerce can integrate the various digital platforms with the ERP to ensure the real-time flow of information across all teams and departments. This drastically improves the company’s inventory management as the finance team has updated sales and warehouse information, resulting in no wasteful purchases. Moreover, it enhances the sales capabilities, access to the updated warehouse data prevents the brick-and-mortar sales staff from underselling or overselling certain products.
QHouseKids, a toy and baby product retailer, integrated their eCommerce store with their ERP system, which enabled the seamless flow of customer, product, inventory, and sales data.The company automated its entire data entry process that not only saved 1000+ hours of manual efforts but also reduced staffing costs and enhanced productivity by eliminating any chance of human error.
You can read QHouseKids’s entire digital optimization journey here.
eCommerce can be optimized to automate unproductive, repetitive, and manual tasks, such as data entry, calculations, and sending mass updates and emails etc.. These tasks drive operational inefficiency, so automating them eliminates human errors.
Envi Shoes, an online retailer that specializes in women’s shoes, handbags, and accessories, customized their eStore to provide high-quality buying experience to their customers. They not only optimized their website by making it user friendly but also adopted to send real-time updates to the customers automatically. This directly increased the company’s sales whilst also cutting its staffing costs as AI-enhanced the productivity of the company as a whole.
You can read more about it here.
In light of the current situation, the next few months will be hard on companies as economies will take some time to recover. Therefore, it is advisable to play a long-term game. Since most customers will continue to shop online, companies should be visionary and smart enough to adapt to this transformation as early as possible. They should invest in an omnichannel approach to help customers navigate between online and offline seamlessly and provide interactive and positive experiences across all channels.