COVID has changed eCommerce forever

How a worldwide pandemic changed the way we shop online

31 Aug 2021

As New Zealanders reluctantly entered another COVID lockdown a couple of weeks ago, it’s hard to believe that the virus has only been around for a year and a half. For retailers, it has been a mixed blessing. Physical stores have closed for extended periods, sometimes permanently, but online sales are booming.

While online sales have dropped slightly since the peak of the pandemic, they’re still well ahead of 2019 levels – and holding steady. For some, like the immunocompromised, shopping online has become a necessity. For others, it’s simply more convenient. Many consumers now prefer the online experience – with 54% of respondents in one study saying they enjoyed browsing online more than in-store. 

So, what does this mean for eCommerce retailers? While you may not be scrambling to set up an online store or contactless delivery this time around, that doesn’t mean your eCommerce store is doing as much as it could. Online shopping is here to stay and with shoppers savvier than ever, refining your online presence will help you make the most of your newly increased audience.

Here’s where to put your focus: 

1: Boost online service standards

Your online store shouldn’t offer a lesser experience than in-person shopping. Add and refine features and services to give your customers the best possible experience, wherever they shop.

This could include:

·       More customer support options, including phone, email and chat options

  • Better communication around delivery dates, delays and any issues with orders
  • Making returns as straightforward as possible
  • Offering online customers the same rewards and benefits as in-store shoppers – e.g. gifts with purchase, rewards points and sales

2: Communication counts (especially during COVID)

When you don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interactions, you need to be consistently clear and thoughtful about your communication with customers. This is particularly true during lockdowns and other crises, where customers may be feeling anxious and vulnerable – and may react poorly to perceived offences or miscommunications.

Here’s how to make sure your communication works:

  • Consideration – think about each piece of communication carefully and don’t spam with emails or social posts.
  • Share the positives – tell people what you’re doing to help, whether it’s donations to charities, special offers for essential workers or other types of support.
  • Get into the details – let customers know what’s happening as restrictions change. Be clear about what you’re doing to keep people safe, what that means for your customers and when you’ll be closing or reopening.

3: Spruce up your SEO

SEO is like the online version of foot traffic – it’s about making your site stand out in the scroll, so people want to (virtually) step inside. Boosting your search rankings isn’t a one-and-done job, it involves continually improving lots of little elements and hoping those small gains add up.

Try these:

  • Create and post new content as often as possible – this helps you appeal to the Google algorithm and pulls potential customers in.
  • Improve your site’s loading speed and eliminate dead links.
  • Update your Google Business listing and optimise it for local searchers.
  • Use relevant keywords throughout your site – particularly in headlines and metadata.

4: Use data to re-evaluate and refine

Whatever your sales niche, it’s smart to keep track of what’s selling, what’s not and what you could change. As needs and tastes change, some products may no longer be relevant – and others may come to the fore. For example, many clothing retailers expanded their range of leisurewear when people were working from home, while others introduced reusable face masks to their product lines.

Look at:

  • Sales stats – what’s selling surprisingly well and what’s fallen recently?
  • Requests – are customers contacting you through email or social media to ask about a particular product?
  • Trends – check out the competition to see whether there’s a popular product or range that you’re not yet selling.

COVID makes online shopping essential

After a year and a half, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that COVID is here to stay for now. And in the new normal of lockdowns, restrictions and ongoing health measures, online shopping will continue to be essential for many consumers. That’s why retailers need to up their online game. 

If you need help boosting your rankings, refining your sit, or communicating with customers, talk to the eCommerce experts at Solutionists – we’re always happy to chat.

author:

Solutionists

date published:

31 Aug 2021