When COVID-19 happened, there were a lot of steep lessons to learn for those who had never made the digital venture before. In this eCommerce webinar recap, we talk about what we’ve observed over the past few months from retailers with physical stores who’ve made a successful move online.
You’ll hear from the experts including MessageMedia marketer Rachael Hooper, ecommerce specialist Damien Brennan and special guest The Cut’s Director Ben De Jonge. Read our round-up of takeaways from this webinar or listen to it in full detail below.
- COVID’s effect on retail
- How traditional retailers are pivoting
- Guidance on communications
- Guidance on an emerging demographic
- Guidance on playing a long game
- Emerging retail trends
- How to maintain personalisation
COVID-19’s effect on retail: positive and negative
Having spoken to businesses owners all over the world, The Cut’s Ben De Jonge has seen a wide range of responses. While hospitality, luxury goods and bricks and mortar retail have been badly hit, others have seen a negligible change.
Industries such as professional services, resources sector and trade products have been able to maintain good trading conditions. In some cases, businesses are booming such as a climbing frame business and a wine retailer. A vegetable seeds store he encountered has seen over 900% growth.
“They did their previous year’s revenue in less than two weeks when the lockdown started and some of that growth is still with them.”
Ben De Jonge, The Cut
What are traditional retailers doing
You’d be surprised at how fast some traditional retailers have moved in responding to COVID-19. MessageMedia ecommerce specialist Damien Brennan brought up an example of his local brewery that pivoted within two days to do online deliveries through their Shopify platform.
Ben agreed, pointing to his own experiences with retailers who’ve scrambled to activate digital products while changing their communications strategy. Consumers are ‘feeling pain…and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.’ Make sure to let consumers know that you’re still there for them, and have your services or products available online.
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There have been many other success stories including Ben’s example of The Other Side in Perth who pivoted and saw enormously positive changes. They created a beer range centred around easy-drinking at home, with an adjusted price point to match consumer’s more tentative spending habits. It helped to drive more home deliveries and sales. Despite the challenges, smart retailers will move to meet consumers online and will see the long-term advantages in this once business returns to normal.
Guidance: Focus on current customers communications
Ben advises not to go quiet. Communicate as much and as effectively as possible with existing customers. In particular, here are some things you could be communicating:
- What is and is not available to buy
- Transparency about your situation
- Challenges such as website outages, shipping delays
This will help them understand that you’re human, and you’re doing the best you can as a small business. Once you’ve tackled these issues through your communications, find the time to focus on broader business strategies such as website messaging, design changes and interface improvements. Make sure to check traffic, and lead conversion so that you aren’t losing sales too.
Guidance: New demos open to online retail
While current customers are pertinent in your initial actions, there is a whole new market at play here who have suddenly become open to eCommerce platforms and online shopping. For a long time, everyone’s parents resisted buying online. Throughout this period, however, they’ve been forced to adjust. A lot of them are now suddenly seeing the ‘light’ when it comes to online shopping.
“They’re the ones that are now finding how convenient, and easy it is to purchase online.”
Damien Brennan, MessageMedia
Guidance: Play the long game
Whatever you put into play now, make sure you can offer it long-term. Now that you’ve pivoted, it’s unlikely that you’ll go back to old business models.
As new demos get drawn into the ecommerce fold, they are likely to stay online shoppers. Those who were already shopping online are now purchasing in new categories. How are you going to continue to serve both segments after COVID too?
Retail trends coming out of COVID-19
A highlight of this webinar was Ben’s hilarious story about a US lawyer who called into a Zoom meeting with a judge in just his pyjamas. This anecdote highlighted a major turning point in consumer habits today. We are starting to do more for ourselves now that we cannot rely on the physical expertise of service businesses such as salons, hairdressers, gym trainers etc.
There has been a micro-boom in the DIY haircuts sector, for example. The Atlantic reports there has been a 10x fold increase in online searches for ‘how to cut your own hair’ since mid-March. You can now buy haircut consultations from professional hairdressers via virtual conference.
More humanity together
As technology has enabled greater service delivery, customer expectations have also risen. Because of the shared effect of COVID globally, businesses have become more transparent in their struggles. Customers have responded by becoming more understanding of these challenges too. Damien points to support by communities towards local businesses, including many restaurants and cafes in the hospitality sector.
Buy locally online
This shift has brought on a new attitude change from those who once resisted ecommerce because it means ‘you’re buying internationally, not shopping locally.’ Now more people are aware that you can buy online from your local store.
How to maintain a personal touch in an online world
You should use tools that have been given to you, more specifically your current online presence and channels. Using his own recent experience, Damien reflected on the many touchpoints one online retailer used to positively nurture their relationship.
Recently, he found out about an upcoming sale via Instagram from one of his favourite brands Muscle Republic. He was late getting to the sale and missed out on a jumper he really wanted. He still went and added other items to his shopping cart where all of his information was captured including his email.
Later that day, he received an email from the brand, acknowledging that the sale was ‘overwhelming’ for many customers who had missed out. To fix this, they opened pre-orders for these sale items, while matching the discounted sale rates.
By using multiple touchpoints to engage (Instagram, website, email), while also acknowledging and remedying issues that challenge conversion (overwhelming sale, discounted price, pre-orders), this brand has easily established a positive and personal relationship with Damien. More importantly, they’ve re-captured Damien’s missed purchase. When it comes to out of stock items, most ecommerce businesses fail to understand that customers are still looking, and wanting those items.
“How do you capture their details? Or how do you capture their sale once you do have that stock come back in?”
Damien Brennan, MessageMedia
TOP TIP: When an item goes out of stock on your, make sure you have added functionality that helps you recapture customers who missed out. Use automated SMS to alert customers when an item is restocked, with a link to buy.
In addition, you should make messages:
- Relevant – Lead with data. Understand who your target market is, what messages they enjoy (dynamic, text-only), and what is going to cut through with them.
- Timely – Don’t wait. In the case of the jumper, the follow-up email happened the same day that Damien signed up and bought other items. Make sure you follow up as soon as possible without being intrusive.
- Technology – If you’re aiming between 18 – 35, they’re on their mobiles. Talk to them through SMS or notifications, or make sure that your UX is mobile friendly and easy to use.
Working with Shopify since 2010, The Cut helps businesses of all sizes design effective ecommerce websites that attract and engage customers to optimise conversion.
Ben De Jonge is a Director and ecommerce specialist with The Cut.
For over 20 years, we have been helping +65,000 customers across the globe better engage through the power of SMS.
Rachael Hooper is a product marketing manager, and Damien Brennan is an ecommerce specialist with MessageMedia.