What will be the impact on e-commerce when we eventually go back to normal?

A question we have been asked over and over again at ZOMA.


E-commerce has changed rapidly over the past year due to the global pandemic and worldwide lock-downs. Although overall sales have risen dramatically, the cost to acquire customers has also grown due to increased competition. Larger, offline-focused brands have been forced to digitally revolutionise their offering and are quickly realising the incredible data and financial gains to e-commerce. Look at Tesco - The group now forecasts its revenue from e-commerce will rise from £3.3 billion to £5.5 billion (€6 billion euros). They have also created 16,000 new jobs in their e-commerce alone.


We have seen brands rise at the same pace of Bitcoin this past year, but we have also seen some brands fall during the lockdown. Most notably, former high street giant Topshop have found themselves absorbed by ecommerce powerhouse ASOS. Moreover, this isn’t a unique situation as we have also seen another online-only brand, Boohoo, buy the rights to reputable high street name Debenhams.

It’s easy for us to attribute the success or failure of these companies to the pandemic, but the truth is that all the pandemic did was accelerate the inevitable.


Brands such as Topshop and Debenhams were struggling pre-pandemic and although Covid-19 may be written on their death cert, it was merely the final nail in the coffin.

The pandemic has shown that taking advantage of technological innovation to provide a seamless customer experience is now a necessity. With the increase in competition and solid proof that even a brand such as Debenhams (with over 200 years of brand loyalty) can’t keep up with e-commerce trailblazers, it is now imperative that brands start taking ‘omnichannel’ seriously, make serious improvements to their customer experience and begin to place a focus on rewarding and monetising existing shoppers.


What is an omnichannel strategy?

You may or may not have heard of the term ‘omnichannel’. Your marketing manager may have thrown it out during a Zoom meeting to show off in front of their audience. The actual definition of 'omnichannel' can be easily lost due to its varying use. In simple English, an omnichannel strategy is a focus on user experience to create a cohesive journey for your customers no matter what channel they are on.


73% of all customers will use multiple channels during their purchase journey. With most online shoppers, multitasking and distractions are aplenty in both the online and offline world. Channel-hopping is now the new normal. Using an omnichannel strategy, we can deliver a personalised experience on each channel and empower the consumer to buy from anywhere.


What does an omnichannel strategy look like?


The above image is an example of an omnichannel strategy in action. It's fascinating to compare it to the old traditional model. Each of the channels working together with fluidity to offer a great experience for the user. As we like to put it at ZOMA, cogs in a wheel.


Let's examine a success omnichannel strategy - ASOS

A key factor for ASOS’ recent success is its focus on an omnichannel strategy. ASOS knows that their target audience are mad for social media. They constantly interact with their audience through multiple social channels with different content on each, but with the same consistent messaging. They know their customers are hopping between each platform (channel-hopping) and their aim is to keep them engaged, no matter what platform they are on.


ASOS have gained up over 11.4 million followers on Instagram and over 585,000 on TikTok as of April 2021. With both platforms pushing e-commerce and offering brands more and more options to sell their products, ASOS’ hard work on these channels is going to pay dividends. TikTok’s recent announcement to aggressively expand into e-commerce in the US, with the UK likely to follow suit, shows that commerce stores that aren’t currently taking advantage of TikTok need to be.


ASOS’ social media presence is not the only highlight of their omnichannel strategy. Their complete fluidity between desktop, mobile and their app allows users to pick up where they left off with their basket being held across each platform. On top of this, they also offer multiple delivery options for their customers and, despite being an online-only brand, they also offer ‘Click & Collect’ delivery options for consumers who would prefer to pick up in-store.



How you can apply omnichannel?

An omnichannel strategy can seem daunting but it does not require a complete overhaul of your online marketing. There are a few key areas you can look to improve to move your brand forward into the omnichannel world.


Make customer experience your priority!

The heart of an omnichannel strategy is in your customer’s experience. Shift your focus from sales to your consumers and you will begin to see parts of your marketing strategy that can be greatly improved.


Segment and personalise your audience: segmenting your audience is very powerful, especially to the modern consumer – with 80% of shoppers more likely to buy from a company that offers personalised experiences. Email and SMS tools such as Klaviyo (ZOMA's email marketing partner) provide the ability to do this with your audiences and allows you to target specific customers with personalised offers. This can then be combined then with Facebook.


Tools like Klaviyo allow you to integrate seamlessly with Facebook, where you can create custom audiences based on segments and lists. This allows you to automatically run ads to segments simultaneously whilst also sending them down an email automation flow. The true power of omnichannel then allows you to use different messaging on both platforms to connect the two together.


Keep it simple: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius.


The key to a successful customer experience is to keep it simple for consumers.


Everything your customer must do when interacting with your brand should be as easy as it can be. From searching for an item and switching between devices to making a purchase; the process must be smooth and efficient. As consumers are surrounded by distractions, the easier and faster your processes are, then the more likely they are to be satisfied and make a purchase.


Amazon is a prime example of simplicity. From landing on their homepage, you can make a purchase within three clicks. It shows your recent history, offered a ‘buy now’ button and it has your details saved so there is no need to waste time with card details. Better yet, this experience is echoed on mobile. Not only will it carry your basket over to mobile if you don’t make the purchase, but the purchase process is exactly the same. It’s simple.


Customer Retention Strategy

Due to the increase in competition caused by the pandemic, we have seen many e-commerce brands shift focus to customer retention. Data from the Global Web Index shows the top motivators globally for brand advocacy and the top actions consumers want brands to do. This data is great and can give you an idea for what consumers are looking for. However, it’s about understanding exactly what your customers want and giving it to them.


Brands should ask for feedback. Whether its a cultural thing or just something in the air - Irish retailers find difficulty in asking for feedback compared to other global brands. Ask your customers: what do you think about the overall experience with your brand? What are their favorite social media channels? What other brands are they loyal customers of? The answers to these questions can greatly improve your overall marketing strategy by allowing you to truly understand your customer. And the great thing is, all you have to do is ask them.


The data from Global Web Index shows that 44% of online users want brands to listen to customer feedback. Don’t just ask for their feedback, show them that you’ve listened and implemented said feedback. If you’re a little hesitant, begin with your most loyal customers – it’s a great place to start!


Provide channel-fluid customer service: increasing the fluidity of your customer support between channels can go a long way to increasing customer retention. Firstly, make sure consumers can contact you on their desired platform and that they get a swift, personalised response. Then look to see how you can incorporate these together. If a customer chose to call for support and they need to be called back but you can’t get in touch – send them a text or an email to let them know. Although this is a good idea and can help improve customer experience, make sure you ask the user for permission to contact them on these platforms before you dive right into it.


WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage during the pandemic and has been gaining popularity every year. This, along with the announcement that they will begin offering in-app purchases, makes it an exceptional customer service tool for e-commerce businesses and we will definitely see this slowly become the norm.


The data from Global Web Index showed that 35% of internet users worldwide said great customer service would motivate them to promote their favorite brand online. Whether that’s via Facebook, Instagram, email, Whatsapp or phone; providing a fluid customer service offering across multiple channels is key to building brand advocacy.


Subscribe and save: we have seen a massive increase in subscription-based e-commerce and it's easy to understand why. Subscriptions allow for a steady stream of income and have shown a higher increase in lifetime value from customers. Further data from Global Web Index shows the categories that consumers are interested in paying subscriptions for: GWI Q3 2020 Commerce Flagship Report


Heinz adapted magnificently to the pandemic by straying away from its usual retail-only strategy with a DTC solution in Heinz To Home. Heinz have stated that the service will continue to run alongside its retail offerings and has already provided customer insights to help drive future fluidity across channels.


Conclusion

As we return to normality and e-commerce begins to move back from a necessity to a convenience, it is more imperative than ever that e-commerce brands begin to stand out amongst the increased levels of competition caused by the pandemic.


An overall focus on customer experience and retention must be emphasised by e-commerce brands because simple brand loyalty is no longer enough to retain a valued customer. Just ask Debenhams. Brands must look at ways to implement an omnichannel strategy if they are to succeed post Covid-19.


There’s no doubt that an omnichannel strategy is a monster to deal with. However, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and start again. There are multiple tactics you can begin to implement which can help grow and sustain your brand as normality returns.


ZOMA can help you along the way.

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