The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has disrupted almost every type of business out there. Stay-at-home orders and lockdowns have halted retail foot traffic down to zero. Customers have shifted their behavior in favor of digital technologies which allow them to navigate through this difficult time.
The landscape for business owners has been forever changed by this event. We’ll explore some reasons why your business needs to make the jump to eCommerce. We’ll also look at what changes you should consider if you have an existing eCommerce platform.
Online Shopping Has Increased
With people stuck at home and some switching to online ordering/delivery for essentials, online retail sales grew 74 percent in March compared to in 2019. Products that found particular success were those related to being indoors like home furnishing, garden essentials, and electronics.
Businesses that didn’t have an existing online presence have found themselves in a tough spot. Some have had to let go or furlough their employees because of a decline in revenue. Others have shifted their business model from a heavy emphasis on brick and mortar to an online platform.
One industry that has adapted well is food service. Restaurants have a particularly heavy focus on dine-in orders to generate profit. Big chains and local dining alike are shifting to offer online ordering on their websites. Customers select their meal options and pay for their food using an online platform rather than in-person. Then their order is picked up or delivered using a contactless means–usually through a third-party app.
The retail giant, Amazon specifically was one of the eCommerce retailers that found quick success. Their business model exists in the eCommerce space and they were equipped to serve customers through this channel. Their sales in the first quarter of 2020 were up 26 percent over the following period. This contactless means of receiving goods fit in with the consumer habits of those worrying about the spread of germs.
While it’s very likely that these growth rates will drop as businesses are allowed to re-open, the online buying behavior will be stronger than ever before. Customers have grown to be more comfortable with purchasing products online during this time. The pandemic has brought to the forefront the necessity for a business to have an eCommerce platform. Your business must be able to meet your customers where they are.
If there’s another wave of this pandemic or any other unprecedented circumstances, your business will need to be able to survive without relying on retail revenue alone. Don’t hold off setting up your eCommerce platform any longer. Put yourself in the position to handle the future of your business. You may even find that it becomes a way to attract new customers or expand your brand’s presence.
Bigger eCommerce Sites Experienced Challenges
Even though Amazon experienced a high level of growth during this time, they–along with countless other retailers–weren’t prepared to manage that demand. Fast delivery times and iconic two-day shipping for Prime members couldn’t be met. Shipping delays and shortages in inventory led customers to look for alternatives to meet their needs.
Smaller eCommerce shops filled in this void left by Amazon and other big eCommerce businesses to meet that demand. For example, let’s say that you own a sporting and fitness retail shop with two locations in the city. You’ve had to shut down both stores in March and April and don’t have an online website. Equipment such as dumbbells that can be used for working out at home experienced high demand and were nearly impossible to purchase online. If you had an online shopping site, your business could have continued to operate during this time and taken advantage of the increase in demand for workout equipment.
A recent marketing survey showed that about two-thirds of small to medium business owners believe they will have to rely more heavily on eCommerce after the pandemic. To stay visible with your existing customers and expand your customer base, an eCommerce site will build the tracks your business will need for the future.
Building a Website That Won’t Frustrate Your Customers
If you’ve already built an eCommerce website or decided that it’s time to, make sure the experience won’t cause frustration to your customers. A website that is difficult for customers to navigate will most likely result in shopping cart abandonment. Not only is this a missed source of revenue, but it might also cause that individual to look elsewhere in the future.
The average cart abandonment rate last year in the U.S. was estimated at 71.86 percent. Imagine having almost a quarter of your retail customers walk into your store and leave without a purchase. You would look for changes within your store to improve your sales such as highlighting your products with more visible displays or highlighting your discounts and sales that are currently being offered.
A strong eCommerce website has several elements that can improve your sales numbers. Here are some aspects to improve upon in your strategy.
Make It Effortless for Your Shoppers
Your customer shouldn’t have any trouble with completing a transaction. It shouldn’t matter if they’ve been to your website multiple times or it’s their first time. Your website should be easy to navigate and clear cut. Many shoppers are browsing your website on their mobile device. Make sure that your website is responsive and offers a mobile-optimized version whether they’re on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
Useful Product Descriptions
If applicable, your product images should be clear and forthcoming. The details of your product need to be concise and highlight all the selling points. Important details like the materials and dimensions should be listed in the product information.
Easy to Spot Contact information and other Details
Customers should be able to easily find your business’s phone number, email, and location details. That way they can know how to get in touch with you if they should run into any problems. You should also have clear and visible information about your shipping/delivery policy and return period. Customers need to know what to expect from you when purchasing your products. This will also benefit you when it comes to chargebacks and having clear policies.
Minimize your Checkout Process
A checkout that requires several pages or endless fields to complete your purchase is going to cause customer friction. You should also consider integrating a virtual terminal to process your transactions more securely. Think of how easy the process is on Amazon or other big eCommerce platforms. Customers have been spoiled by these experiences so you must be as efficient as possible during the checkout process.