E-Commerce Success in 2021 Comes Down to These 3 Areas
The zeitgeist of 2020 retail commerce can be summarized in two words: survival mode. COVID-19 kept shoppers at home, away from brick-and-mortar stores, and encouraged many consumers to order online for the first time, adding their purchases to the already increased activity of users already confident in digital transactions. The pandemic increased e-commerce sales 44 percent in Q2 alone, leaving some businesses scrambling in the face of unprecedented online demand while physical stores were, at times, completely closed.
Given this unexpected fast-forwarding of adoption coupled with increased demand, it’s forgivable — and not surprising — that there were some issues. As we exit the holiday shopping season and approach the anniversary of the pandemic’s arrival, however, “good enough” won’t be enough. Retailers building online for 2021 and beyond should focus on executing on five important components outlined in our recent 2021 predictions guide that I firmly believe are critical to long-term e-commerce success. Here are the top three:
1. Embrace a culture of data.
Data isn’t hard to come by; the challenge is unlocking the insights hidden inside it. That’s why implementing a master data management (MDM) strategy is so important for retailers. For some this means optimizing product data to ensure accurate, consistent information for shoppers. Others may want to tackle customer MDM to gain a deeper understanding of their customer decision journey. Any retailer without a solid and actionable MDM strategy should make this a top priority. Delivering game-changing e-commerce results is impossible without a holistic approach to data.
2. Convenience is everything.
Frictionless commerce experiences have never been more important. Whether it’s lack of personalization, failure to deliver a cohesive omnichannel experience, or poor search functionality, digital-savvy shoppers will abandon a purchase at the first sign of friction. It’s not a secret; consumers have less patience than ever before for not getting what they want, the way they want it.
One of the most popular convenience initiatives is a polished buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) program, especially with a contactless curbside pickup option. Retailers that had already implemented comprehensive BOPIS programs in 2019 or before had a leg up in 2020, especially when it enabled them to quickly build and offer curbside pickup, now considered a must-have customer option.
Over the next 12 months, expect consumer demand and evolving technology to further blur the lines between in-store and online, including things like “buy online, deliver from store,” “reserve online, try in-store” options, or the rise of virtual associate assistance to help shoppers online (like they used to in-store).
3. Don’t overlook your supply chain.
What do hand sanitizer, flour and toilet paper have in common? They’re examples of how disrupted supply chains directly affected consumer experience. Retailers learned the cost of having no visibility or efficiency in their supply chains the hard way in 2020. By including supplier data domains as part of a MDM strategy, companies can accurately track inventory levels, the status of contracts, or even redirect resources in the event of a shortage.
All signs point to 2021 being another banner year for e-commerce growth. Consumers have never been more comfortable living in an online world, and companies with the right processes and technology will reap the rewards of higher traffic and faster adoption. By leveraging data, providing convenient shopping experiences, and creating efficient supply chains, retailers can build on last year's e-commerce success and chart a course for a rewarding future.
James Urbati is the senior vice president and general manager of commerce at Pivotree, a global services provider specializing in frictionless e-commerce.
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