Retailers embraced digital when lockdowns began. Now that the convenience of e-commerce is clear, what does brick and mortar after COVID-19 look like?
On the rare occasions that I go shopping in these days of lockdown and social distancing, I’ve been starting to think about what’s next when it comes to buying behavior after COVID-19.
How will our shopping habits change in the near – and distant future? Specifically, when we think about e-commerce, how will these new behaviors impact global retail? And what will our main shopping streets look like in a few months from now?
Preparing for buying behavior after COVID-19: What e-commerce leaders are doing right, right now
Running any business, but particularly a retail business, became much more difficult. Amid the pandemic, some companies were even forced to stop trading by government decree.
My local bookshop is now offering home delivery (sometimes faster than Amazon), and heavy gardening equipment can be purchased online and delivered directly to your doorstep from our favorite nearby home improvement stores.
Entrepreneurs must be creative to:
- Secure the future of their business
- Serve their customers
- Keep supply chains intact.
Buyers have completely changed priorities in what they buy, what they stock, and what purchases they de-prioritize.
A study from Stackline analyzed and compared U.S. e-commerce sales in March 2020 vs. 2019. The result: luggage and briefcases as well as cameras have been the fastest declining product categories in the current crisis so far. All kinds of clothing and outdoor products dropped significantly as well.
On the other hand, disposable gloves, bread machines, and cough medicine were the top sellers. And besides all kinds of foods and hygiene products, power generators also made it into the top 20.
What hasn’t changed in the crisis is that leading companies differentiate themselves from their competitors based on the experience that they deliver to their customers.
Experiences are perceived uniquely from customer to customer, and they expand from back-office domains like production and supply chain, to front-office experiences enabled by marketing, sales, e-commerce, and customer service.
Everyone used to wonder what the heck “digital transformation” actually meant. This crisis has defined it better than anyone ever could have.
Prior digitalization investments are paying off in moments that we’re experiencing today – especially if companies already underwent digital transformation, making their relevant offers and services consistent with a focus on customer experience, with e-commerce being a fundamental element to keeping the business alive and thriving.
Focusing on e-commerce, analysts were already expecting a continued strong growth over the coming years, which will be mainly driven by the further adoption of mobile shopping and connecting more and more new commerce touchpoints like:
- Voice assistants
- Smart devices
- Social media
…but that was all before the world went into lockdown.
People are turning towards buying via digital channels, +10-35% based on a U.S. consumer survey. We expect that companies with a strong digital experience will be better prepared to weather the storm and overcome the economic downturn.
Consistency plays an important role in digital customer experiences. Consistency in how companies convey their message across touchpoints, consistency in how they interact, guide, recommend, and finally transact with customers. But also, consistency in how companies personalize to the individual.
The question is: How can you reach customers with so many evolving interaction channels and variables?
Although IT investment and architectural decisions need to be carefully thought through, in current times, there’s a need for implementing tactical solutions to help you get through the immediate crisis, but they have to be in context of a broader digital strategy.
Traditionally siloed architectures are breaking up.
Digital experiences need to be carefully and seamlessly managed across all customer touchpoints. Headless architectures are evolving, exposing rich business functionality via API’s and allowing for easy and flexible integration to other applications and touchpoints.
Headless e-commerce solutions help you build upon strong commerce capabilities for B2C, B2B, or B2B2C business models. Headless content management solutions (CMS) help in making granular components of digital content re-usable in multiple applications and touchpoints.
Combined with real-time contextual personalization and merchandizing, they’re perfectly setup to deliver the right content or product in the right moment to the individual shopper independent of the touchpoint they chose to interact with your brand.
The combination of both – headless commerce and CMS – provides you with a strong transactional backend to master the future with agility, innovation, and seamless content-rich commerce experiences for your customers.
Web, mobile, social channels, stores: e-commerce will remain the center of the retail experience
We can’t be sure of how our physical shopping aisles will look in the future, but what we do know is that e-commerce will inevitably play an even stronger role in the virtual checkout lanes that drive bottom lines for retailers much faster than expected.
The future of shopping is entertainment. It's not enough to have an online storefront – brands must do more. Consumers today are looking for novel, immersive, and entertaining shopping experiences.
Not much is certain today, but we do know that buying behavior after COVID-19 will rely heavily on e-commerce. Digital efforts will help businesses balance risk by getting them closer to customers, serving their needs, and still keeping the required social distance.
A well-designed e-commerce architecture allows you to connect the physical shopping experience and high street points-of-sale with crisis-proof online sales channels – on the web, mobile, or any other digital channel that’s relevant for your business and industry.