How Coronavirus Will Shape The Future of E-Commerce
Coronavirus will permanently change shopping behaviour on and offline.
The shopping landscape both on and offline is going to shift. It already has, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing forth unprecedented change (do you now dislike that word as much as I do?).
I'm no economist but having worked both on the shopfloor and with businesses pursuing e-commerce success, I think I have a fair insight into shopping behaviour. A decade in web design and digital marketing has certainly shown me what works online and what doesn't.
I predict the following main shopping behaviours emerging throughout 2020 and beyond, alongside them you'll find my recommendations on how you can capitalise on the changing landscape with e-commerce.
Apart from the essentials, many people still aren't physically going to shops at the moment. Over the past few months, online shopping has been a lifeline for many, with sales rocketing in some sectors.
Supermarket delivery slots may have been like gold dust but they did exist, and the over 70s demographic, that may previously have typically eschewed Internet shopping, have benefited from priority booking. As lockdown eases, getting a weekly delivery or click-and-collect slot could become a habit, particularly for anyone who struggles to get out and about or is time-poor.
The supermarket is just the starting point; a plethora of shoppers who weren't on your radar (or rather the other way around) are now looking for what they want via search engines. Whatever the reason they didn't 'do' online shopping before, they do now, and hopefully they've also discovered that the Internet is not a scary place. With good web design and UX considerations, online shopping can be fun and easy.
Regardless of whether the person visiting your website as a seasoned online shopper or e-commerce newbie, you will still need to make sure the sales funnel is smooth and that any potential barriers to the sale have been eliminated.
What you can do
Ultimately, finding e-commerce success still largely comes down to how good your website is.
Online shoppers are fickle beasts. To capture their attention, hold it and make a sale your website has to be SPOT ON. Yes, having the best price is a huge factor but you also need to distinguish yourself in other ways. We call them trust factors:
- Is your website polished and professional?
- Do you have good reviews?
- Is your shipping pricing and returns policy transparent?
- Are your contact details easy to find?
If the answer to any of these questions is no then you know what you need to do…
Subscription Boxes & Discounts
Subscription services have solidly been gaining popularity for over a decade. The likes of Graze launched in 2007 (the first subscription box that I ever tried), paving the way for more niche regular deliveries. There's a subscription box for every taste and budget and many sites are making good profit compiling everything in one place and taking a cut when people sign up. From cheese toasties to salon-quality hair dye (my latest subscription due to the lockdown!), you can indulge on a monthly basis for a relatively low cost.
Other retailers in on the action include Amazon, who offer subscription plans that offer 5% off when you subscribe to regular deliveries of a single product, rising to 15% off across the board once you reach over 5 subscriptions - a substantial saving. There are pros and cons to this type of retailing as a consumer, which I won't go into now, but as a retailer this is fast becoming a type of e-commerce you can't ignore.
What you can do
- If you benefit from any kind of repeat custom you are already in a good position to introduce a subscription service.
- Decide whether you want to offer a discount-based subscription or offer a box-style subscription.
- Note that boxes are generally only useful for small items and a varied catalogue, the main benefit of the box subscription business model being that they fit through letter boxes meaning the customer doesn't need to be at home and the appeal continues with something new, or a variation on the theme, every month.
- Offer reduced-cost trials to get customers hooked.
Click and Collect
Many retailers turned to the click and collect retail model during lockdown which involved customers being able to order online and collect items safely direct from stores.
Click and collect is nothing new but it has increased in prevalence due to the advantages of being able to collect items same-day - a kind of middle ground between online shopping and nipping out to get what you need. Prior to lockdown, we were seeing chains like Costa introduce mobile ordering for our morning coffee fix and we could see the introduction of this model accelerated across other sectors whilst social distancing restrictions remain in place. Even if you aren't a national retailer, there's no reason why click and collect can't give you the edge over competitors, albeit on a local scale. I've even seen home-baking businesses set up tables at the end of their driveways to allow for safe cake collection.
What you can do
- Assess whether click and collect is something you can safely manage from your premises, allowing for social distancing for both collection and queueing. Is sufficient car-parking available? Do you have enough PPE for yourself and staff?
- Publicise this option early on in the customer journey on your website; even if you aren't the cheapest this could give you the edge.
- Ensure that this is actually a delivery option you are able to offer though your website, speak to your web developer if changes are needed.
So-called 'preppers' have it sussed, they've long been stockpiling non-perishable foods and essential goods just in case of… well, anything. The rest of us are navigating new waters where we can't just nip to the shops when we run out of milk (actually we can, we just have to stand in a queue two metres away from the nearest human and risk catching a virulent disease whenever we touch anything).
The increase in bulk-buying and rise in popularity of long-life foods was one of the first new shopping behaviours that emerged during lockdown. We were forced to think ahead; meal planning, batch-cooking and using up leftovers. We were even getting creative with back-of-the-cupboard tins and jars that passed their best-before in 2018 (or older, yikes).
The national sense of fear that we might run out of toilet roll, which turned so many of us into stockpilers in the first few weeks of lockdown, may stay with us long after the coronavirus threat is gone. How long this crisis lasts for and how big an impression it makes on us as individuals will dictate the extent of our newfound prepping tendencies. At the very least, many have discovered that money and time can be saved by looking to the future and buying what we know we'll need in advance.
What you can do
- Consider selling items in variable quantities, making it simple for consumers, and yourself, by letting them choose from presets (5, 10, 15 etc.)
- Show stock levels for each product.
- Introduce bulk discounts.
For any help with the concepts and suggestions in this post, please feel free to contact our team to see if we are a good match to help you sell online. Call us on 0121 222 5780 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.