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Recapturing the Post-COVID E-Commerce Shopper – Lessons Learned from a Global Pandemic

Like so many other aspects of our lives, e-commerce businesses will likely never be the same after weathering COVID-19. The great news is, despite the challenges so many businesses have experienced, e-commerce stands to gain. 

The only caveat? A business must work even harder to capture the shopper. A shopper’s loyalty must be earned and never assumed. 

It’s also safe to say these are completely unchartered territories we are in. Not too many businesses can say they understand the full effects of a global pandemic. But while there are many unknowns, there are best practices for all e-commerce businesses that can continue to be built upon.

Today we are going to look at ways to capture – or recapture – the shoppers now that some parts of the world are in a Post-COVID economy. E-commerce brands have to pivot (in some cases) or build upon what was successful. Let’s look at the lessons learned from COVID-19 and how you can use them to grow your e-commerce business.

Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on E-Commerce

E-commerce is a big business. Global e-commerce sales are expected to reach $5 trillion by 2021 and all indications are this number will be achieved. Before we talk about the individual shoppers, it’s interesting to see the global impact the corona virus has had on e-commerce. 

Global online orders appeared to have reached a peak in April with a 96% increase versus April 2019 according to a recent report from BazaarVoice Network Data. The same study shows in June, the year-over-year (YOY) global online sales went down to 57% increase. While this may seem like shopping took a nosedive from April to June, it’s important to point out online sales are still up tremendously versus the prior year. 

Several product categories have seen tremendous growth due to COVID-19, as shoppers are looking for ways to order essentials without leaving their home. Here are the Top 10 growth categories according to Wix.com, starting with the highest growth category:

  • Food and Grocery
  • Home and Garden
  • Pet Supplies
  • Games and Leisure
  • Clothing and Apparel 
  • Flowers and Plants
  • Health and Beauty
  • Books
  • Art and Crafting
  • Music

These are only the Top 10, which means there was growth seen in several other categories. As you look through these categories, it might help explain why you saw such explosive growth in your own store, or maybe there was an area you could have increased your product offerings in.

But there are other categories that were impacted as well.

Almost 70% of the workforce began to work from home during the pandemic, which quickly opened the door for e-commerce retailers to carry products tailored to support families staying at home non-stop.

Retail giants such as Amazon and Wal-Mart reported astounding growth in e-commerce sales during the pandemic, as consumers used online shopping as their new way of getting their products. 

These are only a handful of the impacts of COVID-19 on e-commerce businesses and supply chains. It’s possible the effects will never be fully understood and sales may never be recovered by some businesses. Now it’s time to learn from this and devise a plan to move forward.

Capturing E-Commerce Shoppers

So what can you do as a business owner to learn from all the online activity that took place during the pandemic? Turns out, there’s quite a bit to fully understand.

Analyze Your Current E-Commerce Sales

If your business was operating during COVID-19, then it’s time to run analytics so you can spot trends. As an e-commerce business, there are several metrics for you to review and what they mean for your business.

  • Revenue versus same month last year and month prior. Did your sales in total increase or decrease from May through June? How does your revenue compare to the same months last year?
  • Profit versus same month last year and month prior. Did you make more or less profit from May through June? How does your profit compare to the same months last year?
  • Which items drove the most revenue and profit? Which items had the least?
  • Which product categories performed the best for your store? Which product categories suffered?
  • Average Order Value (AOV) looks at how much your shoppers are spending on each order. Your ultimate goal is to increase the AOV over time.
  • Average Transaction Value, or ATV, is the average dollar amount a shopper spends with your business in a single online  transaction. Like AOV, you want this number to increase over time. Understanding this number helps you determine your best pricing strategy, as well as which product is offering the best return for the money.
  • Cart Abandonment Rate. Look at how many shoppers initiated an order versus how many shoppers completed the transaction and you will have your cart abandonment rate. You want this rate to decrease over a period of time.
  • Cart Conversion Rate. Similar to the cart abandonment rate, you want to know how many carts your shoppers convert to purchases. You want your cart conversion rate to increase over time.

You can also view metrics in your Shopify dashboard if you run off the platform. 

You are likely reviewing many of these metrics as a business owner, but as an e-commerce business, these are extremely important. 

Recapturing the shopper by looking at your analytics doesn’t mean you’re only focused on what happened in the past. Instead, by spending time understanding how your shoppers reacted during COVID-19, then you can influence your future sales.

For instance, if you’re an e-commerce business owner who owns a site selling bicycles. Perhaps your numbers show your revenue was up since many shoppers made purchases for bicycles during COVID-19. However, after you look at your product categories, you realize you didn’t sell hardly any city bikes since not as many people were commuting. 

You could use this information from the example above to determine how much inventory you keep in the future and whether or not you need to continue to market this type of bicycle – or if you’re better off focusing on a better-performing product category.

Continue Creating the Ultimate Online Shopping Experience

Of course the heart of e-commerce shopping involves using a website. But a simple website no longer captures a shopper’s attention the way it once did. 

Whether you’re trying to recapture shoppers Post COVID-19 or are starting with a brand new website, there are tried and true best practices for your site. Optimizing your website not only lessens customer frustration, but it increases the chances of your shoppers completing their purchase with you. 

Optimize Your Website

Optimizing your website involves several factors. First, it’s important to understand when you may need to call in the help of a professional. Although many enhancements can be made to your site to improve the user experience (UX), if you are spending too much time then it can cost you money overall, both in your time and lost sales.

Optimizing your site means you’re utilizing the best plugins so your site can run as smoothly as possible. It also means your site is operating at an optimal speed. Shoppers expect pages to load within 3 seconds or else it’s possible you can lose them.

If you’re unsure where to start when it comes to optimizing your site, then start with your home page. There are several best practices you can use to keep your shoppers engaged and get them clicking throughout your online store.

  • Create great content to be featured on your home page, such as headlines and/or bullet points. Bonus points if your content contains keywords your shoppers are using for their search.
  • Create a menu with several headers (5 or 6 is ideal).
  • Create strong call-to-action (CTA) to get your shoppers to move throughout your site.
  • Include whitespace on your home page – this gives your reader’s eyes a place to rest.
  • Don’t forget your logo!
  • Make your contact information highly visible and easy to find
  • Include your share icons for social media, email, texts, etc. 

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it helps to have a place to start. If you are unsure about implementing these changes on your website by yourself, then budget for a professional to help you with the changes. Shoppers want information as easy to access as possible and want the shopping experience to be as equally smooth. It all starts with an easy-to-use website.

Be Ready for Mobile

E-commerce business means you have to be ready for mobile transactions. Statistics show more shoppers are turning to their smartphones and using their computers less when it comes to online shopping. Statista reports average consumer spending on smartphones continues to climb each quarter, with Q2 2020 reaching its peak.

With so much emphasis on our smartphones, you have to make sure your site is optimized for mobile. Not only does this mean your site has to convert, but it still needs to maintain the right page speed so you don’t lose your shopper. 

According to Daniel An, with Google Insights, “The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to a new analysis. Yet 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. That’s a big problem.” 

In other words, not only do you have to be optimized for mobile transactions, you still have to maintain the proper speed so you don’t chase your shoppers away.

Lastly, consider creating an app for your shopper if you don’t have one already. An app can also lead to a positive customer experience. You can make it as easy as a few clicks of a button and your shopper can complete their purchase. If you’re not sure if an app is worth your time, Google Insights also reports ½ of shopping apps installed on users’ smartphones are used at least weekly.

Don’t Forget the Tablet

Although the tablet isn’t used as much for e-commerce purchases as a computer or smartphone, it’s still worth your time to ensure your customer can easily shop on a tablet with your site . With 14% of online shoppers are using the tablet to visit a retail website, you want to make sure your business is tablet-ready so your shopper can browse and purchase no matter what device they choose.

Being optimized means you’re ready for your shopper whether they’re using their desktop, mobile, or tablet. While it may take more work to focus on several different devices, it makes your e-commerce business stronger and makes it easier for your shopper to complete their purchase.

Understanding the Impact to Your Supply Chain

With the increase in sales to several product categories across the globe, it was bound to put a strain on the supply chain for certain products. But how much did this impact e-commerce sales? 

E-commerce companies had to react quickly when manufacturers and suppliers were overwhelmed by a huge increase – and decrease – in orders. As a result, suppliers had to readjust their own inventory and product levels, buy ahead to procure raw materials, even secure air-based transportation instead of freight based. 

If you had items that were out of stock or too expensive to carry during the early stages of COVID-19, now may be a time to reevaluate if you can improve your customer’s expectations. If you are now back in stock on your popular items, then it’s time to reach out to your shoppers and let them know you can handle their order if they still need the product. 

Not only does it show great customer service on your part, but it also opens up the potential for other product orders, or at least better customer loyalty.

Practice Re-Targeting Your Shoppers

Whether it was the effects of COVID-19 or all the distractions shoppers are faced with each day, sometimes you can’t capture all of the potential sales. If you’ve never worked on re-targeting your shoppers, then now is a great time to make this a permanent part of your digital marketing efforts.

Re-targeting is where you reach out to your potential customer after they have left your website. You can do this in a variety of ways, depending on your budget.

Use Your Shopper’s Email Address

If you used an overlay or plugin to capture email addresses from your site visitors, then you can start with your distribution list. If you have updates to your inventory or product descriptions, then let your visitors know the latest updates and how it benefits them.

You can send a quick cart abandonment email and recapture some of the lost sales you may have experienced during the turbulent months of the pandemic. 

Step Up Your Customer Service Game

While terrible customer service almost always chases a shopper away, a great customer experience will keep them coming back for more.

What have we learned from COVID-19 and the increase in e-commerce sales? Customer service is still key. No matter how much of an increase you saw in your online sales, you can’t take your shoppers for granted and assume they will always come back.

There are several ways you can improve your customer service and create amazing experiences for shoppers. Here are several ideas:

  • Install a chatbot service  on your home page.
  • Make sure your contact information is always visible
  • Include trustworthy information with your products, including reviews and product descriptions
  • Be upfront about product and shipping costs. Unexpected shipping costs are the number one cause of cart abandonment.
  • Promote your customer service guarantee
  • Offer full details on the warranty and returns process

The bottom line is communication is critical. Shoppers want information up front and don’t want to be surprised when it comes to their purchase.

Flexible Payment Options Continue to be Important

It’s no surprise that many of the countries on lockdown during the pandemic suffered tough economic impacts. These impacts were not only felt on a national level, but definitely on a personal level. In the United States alone, unemployment levels reached a record high of 14.7%.

And while a post-COVID economy can improve the outlook for individuals, the fact remains that flexible payment options continue to be important for shoppers – if not one of the most important deciding factors before purchasing online.

Having flexible payment options for shoppers, such as a buy now, pay later option like Splitit offers several benefits. These benefits are not only felt by the shopper, but also the business owner. 

Benefits of Flexible Payment Options for the Shopper

Offering a buy now pay later option offers several advantages to your shoppers. When they’re able to break up their purchase costs into smaller, more manageable payments then it can be a game-changer for them. Surveys have found 35% of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase if they are offered the ability to pay in interest-free installment payments.

With Splitit, your shopper will be able to:

  • Pay 0% interest
  • Avoid potential late fees
  • Avoid applications and credit checks
  • Pay over time, on terms that work best for their budget
  • Manage their monthly spending budget
  • Allows the shopper to purchase a higher-priced item if the monthly payment is right

Benefits of Flexible Payment Options for the E-Commerce Businesses

The benefits for a business are as numerous as those for a shopper. Offering flexible payment options to your shoppers can give your business:

  • Increased cart conversions. Businesses offering Splitit experience with cart conversions. Once the shopper has added an item to their cart, they are 78% more likely to complete the purchase when they see the buy now pay later option offered.
  • Decreased cart abandonment. Businesses offering Splitit experience an 11% decrease in cart abandonment.
  • Increased AOV. When a shopper knows they can split their monthly payments into more manageable bite-sized increments, then they are more likely to spend more on their overall purchase. Businesses offering Splitit see an increase of 20% in their AOV when offered.
  • Greater shopper loyalty.

Recapturing Your Shoppers in a Post-COVID-19 Economy

To say COVID-19 has been hard on many individuals and families across the globe is an understatement. Businesses have certainly felt the impact as well, but in many cases, e-commerce has felt a positive impact from the uncertainty of the pandemic. 

With some countries now trying to rebuild their economies and livelihoods, there are great lessons to be learned from how e-commerce grew during COVID-19. But there’s also a need to understand what e-commerce businesses must continue to do to build up on this success and maintain their customer loyalty.

Sara Coleman (Content Contributor), August 21, 2020 Share this article

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