Five e-commerce planning tips for brands, as schools and economies reopen after a devastating few months.
The back-to-school shopping spree is usually the start of a lucrative four to five month period for consumer goods suppliers and retailers. Halloween, Singles Day, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and Christmas/New Year are all hot on its heels, providing a series of boosts for consumer goods sales to close out the year.
Despite the expected addition of Amazon Prime Day next month, to augment the usual business-intensive final quarter, this year’s back-to-school season has a completely different feel about it. Students are returning to socially distanced classrooms, curtailed timetables and blended online/offline learning, after months of homeschooling.
And, it’s not just kids and teachers experiencing that 'back-to-school' feeling. School reopening also coincides with attempts to reopen society in many countries, as more businesses take down the shutters, and employees tentatively return to the workplace.
The massive disruption caused by COVID-19 means there’s considerable uncertainty about the rest of the year. In fact, the only inevitability is that whatever happens e-commerce will continue to play a bigger role in the retail channel. It’s critical therefore that brands revisit their e‑commerce plans, and refocus efforts to succeed in the online channel.
5 e-Commerce Planning Tips
Here’s five factors every brand e-commerce leader needs to think about as they prepare for the remainder of the year.
Plan for flexibility: If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change overnight. The sudden shutdown of schools, offices, highstreets and shopping malls in early spring resulted in an unprecedented upturn in e-commerce demand. Many brands and retailers were not ready for the online shopping surge, which put significant strain on supply chains, and delivery systems. Data is proving to be a key enabler, helping brands to plan for and adapt to emerging changes, as COTY’s Marco Suurland and Whirlpool’s Katarzyna Arciszewska explained in the eStoreAcademy free webinar. It's worth reviewing – you can view the full recording at ‘Finding Needles in Haystacks: identifying the problems every e-commerce leader needs to fix as a priority during COVID-19’.
Plan local: As the impact of coronavirus ebbs and flows in the coming months, countries, markets and regions will open and close at different times. We’ve already seen local ‘lockdowns’ in the UK and elsewhere. eStoreMedia has always advocated a tiered, global to regional to local market, approach for e-commerce channel management, providing tools for planning and managing e-commerce strategies and tactics that can be adapted for regional, and market priorities.
Explore new categories: The effect of COVID-19 is not uniform across categories, devastating some while driving massive sales surges and shortages in others. With more consumers shopping online, and consumer needs evolving in waves, product manufacturers need to look for opportunities in new categories rather than just depending on the ‘old reliables’.
Be wary of brand disruption: With millions of consumers experiencing e-commerce for the first time, and periodic panic buying leading to products going out of stock, the COVID-19 pandemic provides ripe ground for brand disruption. To defend against long-term displacement product manufacturers need to monitor and protect product availability, watch the competitive landscape, and invest in their brands – a subject that was covered in September 10th’s eStoreAcademy webinar 'Investing in our Brands Through Tough Economic Times', now available on-demand.
Renew focus on e-commerce performance fundamentals: Ongoing e-commerce success requires attention to detail, to maximize online store representation, presence and performance. In these extraordinary times, brands need to renew their focus on the key e-commerce fundamentals – Distribution & Availability, Content, Search & Product Visibility, Price & Promotions, Ratings & Reviews, and iMedia – a framework for which is outlined in the e‑Commerce Perfect Store eBook – 'How to Design your e-Commerce Strategy'.
Good luck with the return to school - hopefully it’ll go well for everyone involved.