Post-COVID-19 Forcing Brands to Rethink Go-to-Market Strategies for Their E-Commerce Stores
A 2018 post on evolving go-to-market strategies, by Sally Ann Lopez, noted that digital channels comprise a growing 10 percent share of $5 trillion in total annual sales, and recommending several e-commerce strategies to harness this emerging market. The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak rapidly shuffled the digital card deck, turning many recommendations into dire necessities for business survival.
Adjusted May 2020 forecasts, which took into account the sharp rise in COVID-related layoffs and business closures, estimate a bleak 16 percent plunge in retail sales this year. However, e-commerce is expected to reach 14.5 percent of the retail market, a sharp 45 percent increase from the 2018 forecast, and a dramatic shift towards direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) brand marketing. This new reality promises adversity, but also a significant opportunity for those brands that are quick and flexible in their decision making.
Beyond a continuing emphasis on the “new 4 Ps” (precision, personalization, persuasion, and perfection), there's a greater than ever need to design an efficient “full-funnel” engagement experience for shoppers. While shoppers have less money to spend, other characteristics of online behavior increase the impact of purchase patterns that fall under the “brand value and trust” factor, such as:
- Buyer comparison and decision time has lengthened considerably.
- There's an increased emphasis on versatile, sustainable, reusable products — as a matter of perseverance.
- Buyers are more sensitive to feedback response times, product talkbacks, reviews, and rankings.
Examples include the promotion of obvious categories, firstly, “stay at home” accessories such as advanced long play children’s toys, baby and dog interior access gates, home repair tools, and personal gym equipment. Emerging categories include survival gear, such as a folding, automatic fishing net, or decorative LED strip lights, enabling the personalization of workspaces.
Additionally, focus on more versatile, all-in-one gadgets such as webcams with built-in microphones, and recommend them to desktop PC customers, who will be disappointed when they find out that they also need a separate microphone. Once a customer has purchased a desktop PC type gadget, the full-funnel shopping experience should suggest others, such as desktop LCD anti-glare protectors.
At this point in time, consumers tend to prefer one-off, all-upfront offers, rather than subscription-based products, so the promotion of software products should focus on perpetual Microsoft Office 2019 licenses rather than the later generation Microsoft 365 cloud service subscription.
Reusability and sustainability pertain to mass use products such as protective masks and less obvious categories such as smartphones — customers are liable to prefer phones with more storage and expandable SD card slots.
E-commerce business adaptability includes a dynamic response to various criticisms, sentiment patterns, and incidents. These could include stock shortages and quotas of essential products, addressed by offering alternatives and rebates on back-orders (since it's preferable to lose some profit rather than the entire purchase to another retailer). Brand loyalty, which took a severe hit during the COVID outbreak, is tied more than ever to trustworthiness, which is important to 81 percent of consumers. Brand trust can be influenced by functionality (i.e., making sure the customer has the right product, with clear images/copy and easily navigable product trees), “bang for the buck,” and ecological messaging such as “eco-footprint rankings” that measure the environmental impact of various disposable products.
Lastly, this is the time to maximize engagement session data from cookies and historical purchases, heat maps showing where user clicks gravitate on your homepage, an emphasis on visual images and succinct product descriptions, and user-generated content (UGC).
UGC promises a personal online experience, particularly important to millennials, 86 percent of whom consider it an indicator of brand quality. It includes featured user testimonials and reviews by verified customers, (which have shown to increase conversion rates by 270 percent), tailored microsites, social media posts, responsive promotional videos featuring young presenters for young users, and older ones for baby boomers — millennials are particularly receptive to their own age groups.
In conclusion, the success of a purchase journey doesn't end in payment anymore, but in a conscientious follow up of the customer experience, feedback, and future engagements.
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