As we enter the second half of 2020, the global COVID pandemic seems to be slowing down in some places and taking wing in others. Through all the waves, however, one thing is becoming certain: we still have quite a while to go until things go back to “normal.”
For businesses, this brings a host of challenges. Although there’s a necessity to flatten the curve, economies cannot halt for the next year or so until scientists (or nature) come up with a solution. Ultimately, this means that some form of adaptation is necessary.
E-commerce growth in 2020
One of the most significant changes that we saw in consumer shopping habits in 2020 was the rapid growth in popularity of e-commerce. Just a few months back, online shopping was considered unreliable by most individuals over 65. Almost overnight, however, it has become an essential practice. And some numbers testify to the growth of e-commerce.
For example, for Q1 2020, Amazon reported a 29% increase in North American and an 18% increase in worldwide sales. What is even more interesting is that grocery sales have grown a full 8%, compared to the slower growth of 1% during previous years.
On the whole, this is a clear indicator that e-commerce is gaining importance in today’s society. And not just in categories such as tech, apparel, or entertainment. It’s also becoming more relevant when it comes to purchasing health or other essential products.
With this increased exposure, it’s also likely to expand further during the coming months and years. After all, it’s widely available, convenient, and no longer a foreign concept to most.
For business owners, this prospect of accelerated growth sends a clear message. If they haven’t already, now is the time to make e-commerce an integral part of their business operations.
Changing work models
Adapting to changes can be difficult. And many have already made leaps to keep their operations going during the pandemic. From working remotely to introducing online shopping, these changes have made it possible for small businesses to carry on during these trying times.
But the truth is, small businesses need to put much more effort into their e-commerce webshops to allow them to work with the same efficiency as physical businesses.
For Americans, spending habits have changed drastically since the beginning of the year. The retail industry has taken a big hit, as have companies working in travel, hospitality, entertainment, and even health.
Moreover, there is a tendency towards turning to local shops for a variety of products. Of course, this is a lifeline to small companies who have taken the biggest hit since March. But, it can also be bad news for those whose business models were developed to serve a more global market.
This is why businesses need to start acting now.
Over the next period, e-commerce businesses will need to be much more vigilant about how they approach the future.
First and foremost, they will need to employ risk-mitigating strategies, which will allow them to continue reaching customers. These include diversifying supply chains, implementing DTC models, relying on automation, as well as re-thinking the entire business process.
Furthermore, they’ll need to pay special attention to meeting customers’ needs. Basic conversion-boosting practices such as search engine optimization, decreasing page load times, improving copy and visuals, will all influence user experience, and thus sales and rankings.
One way to future-proof e-commerce businesses is to take a hands-on approach to mobile optimization. Right now, mobile shopping is witnessing growth, and this trend is only likely to continue. If they want to keep up, businesses should adjust early on by adopting mobile optimization tools that are popular among their users.
Moreover, with fewer opportunities to make sales face to face, web design should receive a higher amount of attention. Do you deal with products for which tactile or sensory information is crucial when it comes to sales? Consider whether the visual content on your pages could bridge the gap between online and in-person shopping experiences.
You can look for inspiration from companies that are managing to do this with success. For example, Zoma is an online mattress retailer. Their product collection pages were designed to clearly illustrate the differences between various types of mattresses. This allows users to find the product that will meet their needs with much less hassle.
Putting customers first
Providing more in-depth information about your products and keeping your website visitors’ needs in mind is a big step in the right direction. However, it’s not going to be enough.
In e-commerce, sales rely on impeccable user experience, so you need to come up with ways to provide it to your customers. Things like free shipping, 24/7 customer service, or high-quality instructional content all play a part in driving conversions.
For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to call attention to the changes you’re making to your service. Are your locations open? Are you taking orders? Are you taking any extra precautions to protect your buyers? It may be wise to use a popup or banner on your website’s homepage to communicate to customers about how COVID might be affecting your business. A good example of this is the banner shown at the top of supplement machine manufacturer LFA Capsule Fillers website.
As the current situation unfolds, you may even want to create a separate section on your website, addressing your response to COVID. That’s what retailer Massimo Dutti did. On their dedicated COVID-19 page, they call attention to an extended returns period to 30 days, as well as free standard home delivery.
For business owners, these changes are quite small. Though they require an investment in terms of time, they do provide a high level of value to customers. Ultimately what they’re doing is establishing a greater sense of trust, which is critical for any business, but especially for those just now expanding into e-commerce. In the end, trust translates into customer loyalty (and higher conversion rates).
Navigating uncertain terrain
With the global situation being unpredictable at the moment, consumer behavior is more volatile than ever. What this means for businesses is that they need to be ready to make quick adjustments. And the only way to do this is to pay closer attention to everything that is or isn’t working.
One thing’s certain: e-commerce will continue to grow at a rapid rate, especially in the coming months. For this reason, do your best to follow current trends. Future-proof your business, mitigate risks, and find ways to improve your service. This way, you’ll be decreasing the chance of being run over by the times, and allowing your business to reach new heights.