With brick-and-mortar shopping on pause (at least for most retailers), a new breed of stay-at-home shoppers is emerging and boosting the e-commerce market. In fact, for some verticals, consumer demand has never been higher.
There are the obvious winners here, such as grocery brands bridging the gap from supermarket shortages, toy retailers, or sports brands facilitating home gyms. However, verticals that might be more surprising include beauty and electronics, with consumer interest peaking over time as shown below.
But how can brands that aren’t benefiting from the boom replicate this success and ensure they weather the storm?
It starts with understanding consumer behaviors during a crisis, and how it evolves over time. For example, panic buying is a knee-jerk reaction to a perception of scarcity, but that doesn’t last for long. As humans, we very quickly adapt to the new normal. And that’s exactly what we want — normality.
The thing that successful e-commerce companies will always do is to continually build trust, and that starts with the language you use and the experience you create. For example, if deliveries are delayed, display a notification that communicates this to the consumer as soon they embark on the customer journey. Simply having the information to aid decision making reduces the anxiety of not knowing, leading to higher conversions.
The second thing that successful brands are doing is being conscious of the balance between acquisition and conversion. While they’ll be working hard to diversify their acquisition strategies to adapt to the "new normal," they’ve come to the acceptance that there’s simply not a lot of demand to be had, and will be shifting their attention to the conversion process.
Many of them will turn to personalization, giving consumers the information and reassurance they need, but in a way that speaks directly to them as an individual. It goes without saying that the right message at exactly the right time in the customer journey will carry the most impact and in turn the most sales.
The next secret of e-commerce success during COVID is already commonplace with many digitally native brands, and that’s to leverage your existing customer base. This isn’t just about emailing your existing subscriber base with new offers and content, but actually using their reach to garner new conversions. A great tactic is to prominently showcase your customer reviews and utilize social proof that informs prospective customers how many people are also viewing the same product. If the recent spate of panic-buying has taught us anything, it’s that we all hate getting FOMO.
The final strategy that successful e-commerce companies will deploy is to acknowledge the crisis with the right balance of creativity and sensitivity. A great example of this balance being struck comes from the beauty brand Milk Makeup, which recently released its Wu-Tang Clan lipstick collaboration. The brand donated 100 percent of sales made on April 10 to the NYC COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, gaining huge respect from consumers and the media, making a $106,261.31 donation.
Ultimately, the takeaways are two-fold. Firstly, seek new and diversified channels with which to acquire traffic, being topical but mindful at the same time. Secondly, focus on making that traffic stick. Optimize your on-site customer experience to give the shopper exactly what they need. Have your brand's website be that safe space where consumers can get away from everything going on and make purchase decisions at ease.
Stuart Dale is vice president of sales and services, North America at Yieldify, a customer journey optimization platform that brings personalization to the full customer journey.