We can all agree that the COVID-19 outbreak will leave an unprecedented mark on global society. It has already changed our lives, impacted economies, shifted consumer behaviours. We turned into online world more than ever – digital workouts, digital dining, digital hangouts with friends and of course – digital shopping. According to GWI Coronavirus Research, wave 4 1 in 2 consumers plan to shop online more frequently after the outbreak. Some of them became first-time online buyers during the outbreak and found it convenient, others are just reluctant to go back to offline stores not feeling safe. At the same time across 20 countries that GWI has done their research in, over half of respondents plan to return to offline shops immediately, very quickly or quite quickly. People want to go back to (new) normal while still exercising their newly acquired online habits. This is the moment, when eCommerce can no longer be treated as a silo – it has to be a part of holistic planning of organisations. Consumer omni channel experience is the new KPI brands should have as top of their priorities. Pivoting in this “new normal” economy means you need to be close to your consumer, understand their needs more than ever and make sure you will deliver the best experience in each of the touchpoints of their commerce journey.
What does it mean for eCommerce exactly? Here are some steps you might want to consider while planning your new eCommerce approach and some of them are really simple and universal, so make it your overall eCommerce approach, not just response to crisis.
1. Listen to your consumers and make sure you are relevant to them. Consumers don’t expect brands to stay silent, but the way the brand responds to COVID-19 outbreak will impact their likelihood to interact with that brand in the future. Remember that during COVID-19 outbreak convenience and safety of eCommerce is more important than deals, but consumers still look for promotions as well as flexible payment terms COVID-19 Outbreak. More importantly, you need to maintain the momentum in eCommerce and make sure the convenience and safety are a part of your post-COVID strategy too.
2. Consumer experience is king at all stages of consumer journey
Clear and transparent communication is the key; Is the information about the product current? Is the offering localised? Do you have a team that can answer your consumer questions in a timely manner?
Really important to ensure availability of your products and manage delivery times
Make sure all shipping and delivery information is updated; be clear on any logistic limitations, out of stock products, delivery time; consider pre-order option for high demand products going out of stock
Make sure the checkout process is optimized especially for your own D2C store
Consider longer return timelines
Some of your online consumers are completely new to eCommerce world; make sure you will make it easy for them. Maybe open a special chat or WhatsApp service for them
3. Assess the promotional landscape – even if your competitors run promotions, stop yours if your stock is in danger of depletion; monitor prices to avoid overpricing – you don’t want to appear to be profiteering, especially for goods in high demand
4. Think how consumers’ behaviour has changed – we entered the contactless world which makes everyone more open to innovations such as VR, unmanned vehicles, drones or robot. It is a change that may be a new direction for after COVID-19 future
The above points are quick fixes for your eCommerce business, while still in COVID mode. But as mentioned before, eCommerce, has already been growing fast, has to become a part of overall business strategy for a post-COVID world. Consider that you might need to rethink your current approach and set new KPIs. There is no “one approach fits all” to this and it will depend on many factors such as your category, markets you are selling to, production and logistics set up and many more. Start with assessing the eCommerce maturity of your business and how well it is already integrated in to overall strategy of your organization and make sure all most important stakeholders in your company are on board.
Going back to eCommerce growth due to COVID-19 outbreak, let’s take a look at some trends in eCommerce and solutions available and how brands are utilizing those. The biggest trends in SEA are social commerce and shoppertainment and marketplaces are offering good solutions for marrying those two.
Shoppertainment is a good way to stay connected to your consumer as a brand, enabling fast conversion at the same point. There are a lot of ways to utilize Shoppertainment, one of the most popular is livestreaming. You can use marketplaces’ owned projects – shows they host live on their platform in respective markets; you can find one that fits your brand best and have your product featured in it; it’s a type of product placement with brand exposure on and off platform and click-to-buy solutions; it often involves working with KOLs as well.
Livestreaming can be done with other partners as well:
Heineken owned Tecate beer organised a live stream music festival and is streaming concerts on Facebook (https://www.tecate.com)
P&G partnered up with Twitch and iHeart to raise donations for UN Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund, First Respondents Fund and Feeding America and created iHeart Living Room Concert For America
Samsung launched their Galaxy S20 Series through online unboxing live stream experience, followed by series of reviews from tech KOLs and post live videos and social posts
As social commerce is growing it is easier than ever to sell your products through social media and will be more seamless once the Facebook Shops launch. If you have your D2C consider selling through unified shops on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – the solution still has its limits outside US, where Facebook Pay is not available, but definitely it is something to keep an eye on. It may be a really interesting trend changing the way brands invest in social media.
An important trend connected to social commerce is conversational commerce and the rise of chatbots. A great example here is MAX, virtual assistant at Changi Airport – really well-designed and available through Changi website as well Facebook Messenger. An easy way for your consumer to stay informed at all times.
Crisis accelerates change and we are facing a great change in consumer behaviour becoming more digital then ever. Digital commerce is blooming and it is important to take advantage of this situation and drive your online business into a post-COVID world. And while consumer experience is king it is also important to safeguard your business and make sure it thrives after the crisis. There are tools to do that and there are trends to follow. But most importantly – stop thinking about eCommerce as a silo, plan for it and get ready for the future.