The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly accelerated the shift to online shopping by as much as five years! That’s according to a report from IBM in August 2020, as reported by TechCrunch.
Whereas the shift to online has indeed been occurring over the last few years, the pandemic has catalysed that shift to the point where it has now become utterly essential for businesses to “sink or swim” on the subject of selling their products online.
This shift was a key factor in Amazon’s explosive growth in 2020.
Those companies which were already prepared for an eCommerce boom fared best during the pandemic. According to the TechCrunch article, Walmart and Target both benefited as a result of a ready-to-go omnichannel marketing structure that was already mostly functioning even before the pandemic hit.
But what does this mean for smaller businesses? How can we leverage these statistics in order to improve our own online businesses in the face of these behemoths?
Well, there are a number of takeaways from the above which every retailer can act upon right now.
Re-evaluate Digital Offerings
Even when it seemed that the days of the pandemic would soon be behind us, consumer trends in online shopping showed no signs of slowing down.
Now, with lockdowns popping up again as we make our way into 2021, the necessity for online availability of products has become ever more crucial to consumers.
Companies need to re-evaluate their digital offerings and take the jump to digital sooner rather than later.
Online Presence Perfection
Gone are the days of having a clunky website where users are put off by the design or by errors during the checkout process.
Some key elements that have to be addressed to ensure a smooth user experience on your eCommerce site include:
- A site which loads fast and smoothly on mobile.
- The website has a mobile version.
- Payment processing is seamless and does not require endless “jumping through hoops” to purchase something.
A retailer’s online store needs to be designed in such a way as to maximise conversions and minimise “bounces”. Achieving this is dependent upon ensuring a smooth UX (User Experience) coupled with a slick, professional web design for your online store.
The head of UX at Thorgate Ago Ahas put together a list of best practices in line with Pareto’s 80/20 rule. The 20% effort that would yield an E-shop owner the 80% result.
1. Clear and eye-catching call-to-actions (CTAs) - there’s nothing worse than missing the option of “Add to Cart” on your website or having it in a colour that it doesn’t stand out.
2. Progress indicators during checkout - let the user know where they’re at while making the purchase. You don’t want them to be all alone and scared in the middle of an unknown amount of steps of your checkout.
3. A good copy that can sell - you want the text on your website that can replace a live salesman in your offline shop. Imagine your best salesman in the form of a text. The best E-commerce websites let their customers experience the shop as they would with real human assistance. However, reading and listening are two different things, which means, keep it small and simple so your customer doesn’t get bored of long, fancy text.
4. High quality product images - Humans are visual beings. You need to amaze the user with beautiful, crisp and clean pictures of your products, with all the necessary angles. You want the user to look at the product pictures and say “I want that!”.
Tip: Consider using the 360 degrees image?
5. A good site-wide search - Your customer should be able to find what they want fast. If they can’t find what they want in a matter of minutes, you’ll lose them. A good way to avoid that is an effective search option on every page.
6. Got sales? Show it to the customers - Your customers can pull in new customers for you. The fact that you’re making sales is a great indicator for new customers considering your product. Make messages like ‘x number of people are looking at this product right now’ and ‘this was sold x times in the last 24 hours’ prominent and visually captivating.
7. Make your website mobile device friendly - In this era of smart-phones it is essential for an online shop to use sticky headers, short pages and make the website mobile device friendly. No one wants to zoom in on your website, because it defaults to the desktop site.
Keeping up with the industry’s acceleration towards online shopping also requires focus on marketing! As an experienced marketer who works with Thorgate clients and portfolio companies in the E-commerce sector regularly, I have been able to shortlist some great ways that can help you leverage the shift to online shopping.
The Target and Walmart examples cited above were successful as a result of their “omnichannel” approach to marketing.
Omnichannel is not the same as “multi-channel” which means, simply, marketing on multiple different channels such as social media, physical-copy marketing (e.g. fliers), traditional print, video, website, etc.
Omnichannel integrates marketing into multiple channels but is structured so that those channels work together in a cooperative manner to nurture the user down the sales funnel. For example, someone might be visiting your website and looking at a few products and then get an SMS or an email about those same products a few hours or days later.
Or they could see a remarketing ad while visiting another website.
By leveraging omnichannel marketing, retailers can increase their ability to make sales.
Buy Online and Pick Up in Store (BOPIS)
A key trend in this new wave of online shoppers is “BOPIS” — making a purchase online and then picking that purchase up in-store.
Ideally, a retailer would offer both a delivery and a pickup service so that users can choose.
BOPIS is also crucial for restaurants that have needed to pivot by offering takeaway food instead of sit-in meals. By setting up a sophisticated BOPIS proposition on its website, one restaurant could have an immediate advantage over its competitors.
Keep Customers Connected
In a digital-first world, it is imperative to keep customers connected long after the buying cycle is over so that they come back and buy more.
An extremely effective way to do this is to offer a newsletter with useful information for the user. The newsletter should bring them value, e.g., regular discount codes for subscribers or actionable advice on how to use some of your products for the improvement of their lives.
Social Media is another crucial way to stay connected, although the content published on social media is quite different from that sent out in a mailing list. And the content for each social media platform differs widely from the other. (For example, the content you would post on TikTok would likely be significantly different to the one you would post on LinkedIn. But you should undoubtedly use each platform to stay connected with different demographics of your customers and keep them informed of anything that might be of value to them.)
Retailers need to put Digital Transformation at the forefront of their day-to-day activities. The current trend of shifting to online shopping is not going to go away.
Ideally, a retailer would offer both solutions — online and offline — to cater to different demographics.
If you’re looking for numbers to support our argument in favour of digital transformation, do read how eCoop managed to bring 14000 grocery items to its online shop making grocery as easy as doing taxes in Estonia OR how Lithuanian electronics retailer Novastar increased online sales with an intuitive UX.