COVID-19 is a Wake-Up Call for E-Commerce Strategies
Over the last few years as e-commerce’s prominence grew, brands and retailers focused on bringing their catalog into a digital setting, maximizing advertising and promotions across distribution and social media channels, and adopting a few “nice to have” customer experience solutions. As lockdowns, travel restrictions, social distancing, and other measures stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak kick in, it’s revealing the cracks in e-commerce.
At a time when consumers need reliable e-commerce experiences, COVID-19 is exposing underprepared e-commerce strategies, poorly designed websites, and the lack of guidance and assistance offered to online shoppers. It’s become evident retailers and brands need to adopt new strategies to effectively support the surge of new customers and reliance on e-commerce.
3 Actions Retailers and Brands Must Take During COVID-19
- Improve the search experience to reduce consumer stress. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 67 percent of consumers said brands and retailers need to do more to guide their purchase decisions online, and preferred visiting a physical store to decide on a purchase. Why do they prefer the in-store experience? They're accustomed to receiving support and guidance from sales associates and product experts to find the right products for their needs. Brands and retailers must deliver a stress-free shopping experience that's always available to help customers navigate through purchase decisions.
- Focus on products and services consumers and customer need now. Brands and retailers need to take stock of what products they currently sell that are the most relevant to consumers today. While essentials and grocery items are seeing unprecedented digital growth, there are a plethora of industries experiencing increased demand online due to COVID-19 — e.g., cannabis-related products, toys and games, home fitness equipment. For example, if you are a retailer or brand that sells consumer electronics, focus on supporting consumers in finding the right products for them: work-from-home accessories to maintain productivity, video games to entertain, or technology to stay connected. It's not the best time to promote the latest and greatest home entertainment center that needs an expert to come in and set it up at their house. Businesses need to consider how to best guide consumers based on the products that best fit for them and their individual needs.
- Recognize this shift in consumer behavior will outlast the pandemic. In the month of February alone, there were 8.8 percent more digital shoppers resulting in an astounding 55 percent increase in online sales. That was before nearly a third of the global population was ordered to stay at home. Consumers who previously shopped online occasionally will be more comfortable with purchasing products online after we weather this outbreak, and they'll remember which brands and retailers supported their purchase decisions most effectively. Businesses must use this time to improve how they support the customer’s buying journey, and be a reliable, trustworthy source to purchase from. Consumers need to feel confident they were led to the right product, and that your business is making it as simple to purchase as possible.
In a time of uncertainty, it’s important to remember: the last thing consumers need to deal with is struggling to make a purchase decision online. Consumers need guidance and assistance online to mitigate this extremely stressful time. As a retailer, it's your responsibility to support each individual customer’s needs and wants to remove shopping anxiety. E-commerce’s success is critical for our ability to protect ourselves and our communities by keeping our distance from public spaces and helping our global economy in an unsteady time.
Sarah Assous is the chief marketing officer of Zoovu, an artificial intelligence conversational search platform that helps thousands of brands and retailers narrow down search to guide consumers to the perfect product.