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Shopify and eCommerce’ shifts and trends in 2020 and how to adapt for the future

COVID-19’s presence has been felt in many sectors from politics, world health, and of course, in commerce. The pandemic has led to big shifts in customer behavior which have caused retailers to scramble to meet the evolving customer experience requirements to stay relevant and on top of their game.

The pandemic shook the retail industry and forced most physical stores to shut down causing a lot of retailers to look for other ways to serve their customers. Most stores who were already utilizing digital or implementing an omnichannel structure, were able to adjust more easily. But stores who focused on face-to-face engagement struggled.

These changes also affected consumer behaviors. Less trips to the grocery stores but higher values. A lot of customers have tried purchasing online instead or did store pick-ups.

With all these changes, retailers need to constantly adjust and develop their strategies to cater to the “new normal” and the parts of it that are here to stay.

So how can retailers meet new customer needs and expectations?

Big companies have been investing in omnichannel strategies since pre-COVID and were able to bridge the gap between their physical and online stores. However, because of COVID-19, digital engagement is now higher and it is expected that it will be here to stay.

Ecommerce sales in different niches such as apparel and beauty have increased. Even online grocery stores are now performing better.

  1. Put more effort into digital 

Consumer shopping habits drastically changed over the course of the pandemic and put online sales at an all-time high, even more than in the past years. This change created an urgency for retailers to try and keep up with the demand by improving and expanding their online presence quickly.

To stay on top, retailers should put more effort into acquisition and driving traffic to their digital channels (marketplace, website, social media pages, etc). This way, retailers can make up for their lack of in-store foot traffic by boosting online channels. This means that retailers will need to reallocate funds from their offline advertising efforts into online marketing.

Allocate budget for online marketing

Online marketing efforts such as the online customer journey, studying the consumer intent, paying attention to search ads, and improving social media channels (engaging photos, videos, captions, and ads, or making use of clickable content).

Build and establish online presence and community

If your store has its own app, website, marketplace product page already, this is the time to make sure they are well-designed and are indeed “shoppable” where customers can easily purchase your products with no problems. Get feedback from customers and make the necessary changes (as long as these are viable and actually helpful) to improve your relationship with them. If some customers have commented that your products weren’t packed properly or lack things like bubble wrap, make sure to check on your fulfillment. Your efforts do not end when the customer checks out, you need to keep them by providing good service until the purchase again.

Other big companies such as Nike are driving engagement to their social media channels and apps by posting virtual workout sessions. Efforts like these can help your brand stay on your customers’ mind and also allow your community to grow.

  1. Ensure that the shopping experience has little to no friction 

Because there are more customers online and more competitors for you to keep up with, brands are making sure to improve the customer experience by keeping their digital channels up to speed. This includes fast-loading websites or pages, and accurate delivery times. Putting in features such as a search engine that is able to accurately find the right products could go a long way. Even featuring your highest-selling products on your home page or product page can help your business. 

Easy ways to improve the customer experience can be increasing load speeds, communicating marketing content consistently in different channels (from mobile to desktops), and offering consistent services (shopping carts are updating in real time across several devices, convenient payment options, etc.).

Although many online stores began as temporary fixes to adhere to consumers and to serve as another channel to sell, it may be best to make it a permanent part of your business. A lot of businesses were able to develop and improve their online services during the crisis from how they marketed the products to how it was delivered. Now is a great time to test out different strategies and listen to customer feedback. By the time this blows over, you will have perfected your services.

  1. Use innovative techniques to engage customers 

From online events to digital goods, there are a lot of ways to engage customers so that you stay on their radar. If you can offer your customers digital versions of your products, it can help you expand your customer base and keep loyal customers engaged.

Digital products can include items that cannot be held, tasted or touched but still consumed. It can be items that complement or support your physical products. You can provide them to your customers for free or as a gift with purchase. Examples of digital products that are popular right now are:

  • A Spotify playlist that reflects your brand
  • Music (original songs)
  • Video content
  • Ebooks
  • Online Courses
  • Wallpapers
  • Printable stickers

Check what digital products can help enhance your own physical products or services. They should be able to engage customers, help sell products, or grow your community.

Small businesses with unique offerings or a personalized touch may also gain success at this time. Build on how you communicate your brand’s unique selling points and make sure your consumers understand the story behind them. You can create different marketing campaigns such as demo videos, content on how the products are made, share feedback from past happy customers, and if it fits your brand, share polls on your IG stories.

  1. Implement different delivery methods 

We’re all about convenience and building up consumer experience at this point. Offer various ways to deliver goods from curbside pickup, express delivery or allowing customers to send packages and goods to friends and family in different locations.

Quick ways to improve curbside delivery:

  • Make sure to provide timely and accurate updates to customers (text messages are most preferred)
  • Make orders ready for pickup so less time is consumed
  • Increase the availability of pickup times

What can we expect from the “new normal”?

According to Shopify, 53% of North American buyers said that the pandemic has changed the way the will shop going forward. This means that:

  1. More buyers will shop online 

As retail stores were shut down temporarily and indefinitely due to lockdowns, a lot of brands had to shift to an online strategy. This affected how buyers purchase and have changed their habits. 52% of buyers say they’ve shifted to spending online just this year, and 48.8% of internet users say they will continue to shop online. This is all thanks to the convenience of online shopping and because consumers felt safer purchasing online rather than in-store.

According to Shopify:

  • 83% of buyers said they made at least one online purchase during the first three months of the pandemic
  • Of those, 60% said they shopped online more in that period versus the beginning of the year, and 6% did so for the first time ever
  • 18- to 34-year-olds reported the biggest increase, with 68% of this group saying they spent more online during this period and 9% saying they were new to ecommerce
  1. There is going to be more support for local and independent businesses 

In an effort to support entrepreneurs during such a tough time, more consumers are now looking to purchase from local and independent businesses. If anything, the current situation has brought upon us a sense of togetherness. In a survey by Shopify, 50% of consumers look for independently-owned businesses to support. Their reasons are to support entrepreneurship, buy unique products, and experience good customer service. 

According to Shopify, 61% of buyers said they plan to buy from local and independent retailers 6 months from now which is more than in the first 3 months of the pandemic. Not only is this a trend, but it’s quickly becoming the way to go.

  1. Increased popularity for local delivery 

Curbside pickup is great for customers because they are able to get their items on the same day without having to leave their homes or having to pay for rush shipping. It’s also very helpful for those who aren’t able to move around like single parents, seniors, or those with disabilities. Apart from safety concerns, it’s also a very convenient way to get goods. The ease of use and the quick speed of deliveries has made it popular during the latter part of the pandemic and it will be popular til after.

  1. Improved virtual experiences will be beneficial 

A lot of service-based businesses have been impacted due to shutdowns and social distancing. These include gyms, salons, special classes (cooking, baking, art, etc) and the like. Businesses that relied on face-to-face interactions like derma clinics have instead connected with their consumers through online consultations.

Events for this year have either been postponed or turned into a virtual gathering of sorts. Brands were able to conduct seminars, concerts, online selling and meet-ups to stay relevant and engage their customers. From here on out, as brands maneuver virtual events, more and more will be able to develop better organized and engaging events, so keep a close eye on how they do it.

Moving towards the future

Although this pandemic came out nowhere in 2020, it was able to move different customer buying habits and eCommerce practices forward. Because we all had to adjust at a rapid pace, it feels like we’re all in the race and are keen to help each other out. As long as you keep an open mind and are willing to adapt to the changing times, your business should strive. Just remember to listen to your customers and they will in turn, reward you.

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