Well, who would have thought that we’d still be in the thick of that word and situation that is covid, hitting our news feeds 12 months ago?!
As we can all remember quite clearly, the interruptions back in March last year brought us all uncertainty and panic, resulting in the ecommerce space unsure how to move forwards with Ad campaigns, budgets and events that were all booked in and ready to go; to some businesses that played a huge contributor in their revenue stream.
This has not just changed our behaviour on how we make decisions from a buyer perspective, but how retailers sell online and have had to adjust their day-to-day operations.
From speaking with agencies, retailers and clients at Salesfire, this firstly impacted supplier chain issues. Every business at some point in their journey has witnessed this due to the weather delaying deliveries to customers for example, but for the whole of the UK (and across the world) to experience this at the same time, put the operations and logistics to a halt. This is where businesses dusted off their crisis strategy, and communication was at the forefront of every marketing channel.
What to include in a crisis strategy for your business
For those who are still unsure of what a crisis strategy should entail, this should outline:
- Clear and factual statements through a communications plan
- How you intend to scale customer support teams for demand
- Continuity in operations, being flexible with alternative payment methods and delivery options, especially to support social distancing
- Utilising channels such as email and social to reach out to potential, new and existing customers.
Changes in the ecommerce landscape
We also witnessed an increase in demand for certain products and particular categories that would have never been planned out in our ecommerce campaigns, with the new norm scrolling on multiple fashion websites selling face masks. This has taught us that as much as we like to stay comfortable with a seasonal calendar and key days throughout the year, we must listen to our customers’ needs based on the situation around us and what will fulfil their needs, shopping on your website.
Most retailers took this onboard quite quickly, moving the holiday essentials to loungewear, as well as some retailers expecting a spike during certain months that would have never expected to outperform some of their peak seasons. For example – between March and May, the Gardening & Accessories industry grew by over 5 times (533%) its size between the same months of 2020.
Unfortunately over the last year retailers have had to shut their doors to the public, whether in a temporary measure just like we are today in England or some that have shut their doors for good. This has and will continue to change how we shop in our high street for good, with a huge increase in traffic moving to online, we can expect to see stores utilising their space for more multi-sensory experiences with categories people like to feel and try before their buy such as as beauty and cosmetics, to high-priced ticket items now taking the stage for shoppers to be influenced and inspired before converting in store or, online.
Safety is one reason that we need to keep in mind from this for staff and customers. But self-serve and remote interactions using store space has made it so much easier for buyers to get key information, with around 75% of buyers and sellers now preferring digital options over face-to-face due to both safety, speed and convenience.
Future ecommerce trends
From these ways that businesses have adapted to selling, I’ve identified three trends, the first being empathy.
For me, no matter what outside influence there is, empathy should always be at the forefront of a business, from their employees to their customers. Those who may have tuned in to The Kindness economy podcast by Mary Portas, it’s found that we are being more deliberate and mindful about what actually matters and what to invite into our lives. And if we’re going to be living that way, we’re going to be buying that way as well. And this is where empathy comes into play, linking commercialism and social progress.
There are many ways that you can apply empathy into your ecommerce strategy however a great exercise to use is the empathy map. This is where you can use your customer personas and identify what they may be thinking, feeling, saying or doing through the customer journey. You can then use this to inform your channel messaging, personalisation and conversion rate optimisation strategy. You can find out about empathy and a template of an empathy map here.
Changes in technology and behaviour
We’ve all realised that we looked and relied upon technology and tools like never before, some that have made you possible more efficient as a business as well as for the customer, the second trend that was highlighted in 2020. As well as automation and video marketing being up there in the B2B landscape, concepts such as machine learning and chatbots have become more mainstream where brands can leverage on artificial intelligence to have a positive impact on inspiring and fulfilling a customer’s needs.
For example, AI can already be used to make recommendations for what customers should purchase next based on certain criteria. Brands can also leverage concepts such as voice and visually similar search to position their products in front of customers, using keyword data to assist on the backend and help in making inventory predictions. Overall AI tools will continue to key a trend that can help you streamline your marketing, improve the customer experience and be a catalyst to optimise conversions.
Last but not least, a huge trend that has impacted retailers as a whole is the shift of online behaviour online, creating new segments to ecommerce. This is where audiences may have only used your website for a certain part of their journey in the past (or not at all) and are now relying on your platform throughout the whole process. It’s key to ensure that you segment these new customers and delve into feedback and well as the analysis of their behavioural data to identify ways of how you can improve the experience.
From these new segments, it’s also important to know how you replicate the in-store assistance online. Customer support has never been so vital so replacing the face-to-face interaction they expect in a store ensures your customer service team is available via certain mediums such as chat or video messenger.
From these trends and how we’re adapting to interruptions in selling, there are certain ways on how you can reach your ideal customers. Using behavioural overlays can be used to trigger key messaging to customers based on their on-site behacour and accelerate them through the buying process, such as delivering them key information about delivery timescales as they look through your product pages.
A key takeout for those who are still adapting to the online demand and wondering how to optimise their platform and toolkit is that from the start of 2020 to now, the communication balance is still up in their air and yes, overwhelming. But what we need to take out of this is that we can’t keep using covid as an excuse for poor customer service and communications, we need to realise that we need to flip the script, no matter what outside influences and realise, we’re in their world also.
Charlie Gibson | Head of Operations at Salesfire
Salesfire provides intelligent conversion rate optimisation products to include the on-site customer journey and convert visitors into customers.