Retail sales declined 21.6% year over year in April 2020. Retailers that were struggling before the crisis were having to let go of staff or even close for good. Rising unemployment only exacerbates the current economic problems and will decrease retail demand. Added to the uncertainty concerning the trajectory of the pandemic with long waiting lists for vaccines, retailers have to make dramatic changes to survive.
Adapting with ecommerce
Fortunately, many retailers are adapting to the current situation by implementing effective ecommerce strategies. Much of this has become necessary since online shopping increased substantially as people were required to stay home and traditional shops were closed. For instance, the retail grocery Albertsons reported a 243% increase in ecommerce business in the spring.
Ecommerce has adapted to meet the needs of customers accustomed to shopping in physical stores. AI and machine learning technology in the form of chatbots provide timely customer service in the way an assistant would in an actual shop.
Automated SMS and AI social media messaging are essential tools for interacting with customers, but ecommerce consumer insights have an edge over social media marketing. Although Facebook and Instagram may raise brand awareness and increase the number of brand followers, ecommerce tools that interact with the customer on product pages and checkout areas are more effective at understanding customer behavior and by that increase actual sales and reduce churn rates.
With ecommerce strategy, promotions and discounts are offered right at the point of sale. Leveraging the power of customer insights influences potential customers as they make their final decision about purchases. Alerting visitors to abandoned shopping carts, providing advice and answering questions can increase conversions. As effective as many social media marketing tactics can be, they’re always one step away from interacting with shoppers where they make their actual purchases - on ecommerce platforms.
The model of ecommerce resilience
While much of the retail segment has suffered significantly during the pandemic, L'Oréal has been an ecommerce success story. The company’s innovative use of online sales channel partnerships, its implementation of digital measurement strategies to predict trends and its dynamic product page content have boosted sales for the company significantly.
Antoine Borde, L'Oréal’s eCommerce Acceleration Director, points out that although ecommerce comprises only 8% of the company’s sales, it’s responsible for 30% of its growth. This growth trajectory should continue as its winning strategies keep bearing fruit.
Creating effective partnerships
One of the key ingredients to resilience is sales channel partnerships. Combined innovation and mutually beneficial relationships enable each partner to focus on their particular strength. As Borde explains:
Excelling at data management
Data management is another key to rising sales. Monitoring traffic and conversions is an essential part of any ecommerce strategy, and an effective company will consistently improve and upgrade its approach. Some teams will test anywhere between 5 and 50 product page versions in a day to measure impact in real-time.
Starbucks is an example of a company that excels at data management. This Seattle coffee company’s success may seem surprising since they often place stores in close proximity. The company can pull this off by doing detailed data analysis ahead of time. Using location, store traffic, demographic and customer data, Starbucks predicts where a new location will be profitable and they generally meet their targets for new stores.
Amazon is another great example of using data for customer retention. The ecommerce giant uses UCG data alongside consumer preference analysis to reach a record 91% customer retention rate on their Prime users, while other B2C companies consider 35% retention rate a success.
Refining the customer experience
Presenting attractive and engaging content is important. That’s why successful companies invest so much energy into not only creating product pages but testing them to see which ones generate the greatest response from customers. Continual updates allow customers to have a unique experience every time they interact with the brand online. In addition, creating a holistic integration between online and offline strategies will reach the customer wherever they happen to be.
French cycling company Ekoi has adjusted its business to suit customers who are home more often because of COVID-19. They’ve tilted their strategy towards indoor cycling and offer enhanced customer service through personal training videos. This strategy enhances the connection with the customer, demonstrates new ways to use their products and adds a new dimension to the customer experience.
Learning from success
Retailers can craft an ecommerce go to market strategy that can deal with the realities of the COVID-19 environment. Creating productive partnerships can be mutually beneficial and allow retailers to focus on developing their strengths. Providing attentive customer service online through chatbots and messaging and impressive product pages can make shopping online attractive to customers. Tracking data consistently, including traffic and conversions, can help retailers understand what’s working for their brand and how to adapt and improve.