As we push further into 2021, one thing is undoubtedly true: we can’t be certain what the rest of the year will bring.
Along with nearly every other sector, the retail industry faced massive disruption in 2020. Iconic brands, such as Lord & Taylor, closed brick-and-mortar locations as COVID-19 accelerated the shift from physical stores to digital shopping. Supply chains were stretched thin. New consumer segments began shopping online. Holiday shopping started earlier than ever before. The list goes on and on.
It’s clear that this disruption is, at least in some capacity, here to stay. Shopping from home is just too convenient, especially for consumers that may have been reluctant but were pushed to shop online during the pandemic due to lockdowns and store closures. And, even with a vaccine available, many consumers will elect to continue doing their shopping online rather than risk the possibility of infection as the program ramps up. However, because shopping in person is still a hugely popular social activity and will pick up again in some capacity, retailers must ensure that digital and in-person channels are seamlessly aligned and recognize that shoppers will expect to be known wherever they connect with a brand.
Taking Lessons Learned Into 2020
As we begin 2021, there's much to be gleaned. Lessons learned in 2020 can put retailers on a path to success in a year that's expected to be equally unpredictable.
Lesson No. 1: Offer a Range of Price Points to Meet Consumer Needs
Retailers must create an experience that's mindful of the financial situations facing online shoppers today. For example, we may see more people shopping online this year, but many of those consumers have less spending power than in previous years. Retailers with a broad range of merchandise and sufficient stock to support purchases were able to keep consumers attached to their brands by offering items in a lower price range for those with less to spend. As we’re only beginning to feel the financial impacts of COVID-19, this lesson will no doubt resurface in 2021.
Lesson No. 2: Deliver a Simple Digital Experience for Customers of Any Age
Most e-commerce businesses have seen their customer base broaden as more boomers and Gen Xers tried their hands at a contactless, digital-first lifestyle. PayPal reports a 65 percent increase in online shopping by consumers over 50 years of age, which is a stark difference compared to just more than two years ago, when only 30 percent of baby boomers admitted to purchasing from an online store. A well-designed user experience created with digital newbies in mind, seamless online purchasing journey, and easy-to-navigate checkout are surefire ways to usher these consumers across the digital finish line.
Lesson No. 3: Make the Mobile Purchase Journey as Easy as Possible
While the pandemic accelerated mobile commerce, not every business can boast that they’ve optimized that experience. Retailers looking to cash in on this trend must first solve a historic issue: low conversion rates caused by consumers struggling to check out on small smartphone screens. Lessening the number of steps in each process by cutting out unnecessary form fields will have a considerable impact on conversion rates. Reducing the amount of typing involved with address verification will give consumers the quickest route to a valid address selection by suggesting addresses as they begin typing. By helping consumers input an accurate address during checkout, the process is faster, more accurate and as frictionless as possible. The benefits of accurate address data extend beyond checkout to help ensure on-time, successful delivery.
While 2020 was challenging for nearly every business, it accelerated digital adoption and opened up opportunities to build loyalty with a wide range of new customers in untapped markets. With the right strategy, retailers can embrace the changes brought on by COVID-19, capture brand loyalty, and grow.
Matthew Furneaux is director, location intelligence at Loqate, a trusted data specialist in location intelligence for businesses of all sizes and sectors.
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