As Covid-19 drives e‑commerce expansion, what can brands do to keep on top in the midst of fundamental change?
Online shopping is no longer a niche activity, and the Covid-19 health crisis has pushed it even further into the mainstream. In the middle of this global pandemic, e-commerce is fast becoming the conventional retail channel, accounting for a growing proportion of business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, as well as influencing more sales in legacy channels.
At the start of 2020 e-commerce was already growing at a steady pace. Then came Covid-19, global lockdown and physical distancing, resulting in an overnight e-commerce explosion. Before the health crisis, global online sales had been growing at a rate of 10 to 20 percent a year. In recent weeks and months, consumer e-commerce sales have doubled reaching levels we didn’t expect to see until 2025.
Digital influence – the measure of how in-store sales are influenced by online content across the path to purchase – is also growing at pace. With consumers spending more time online and less time in physical stores during lockdown, recent statistics point to online channels influencing 70% of brick and mortar sales, up from 50% before Covid-19.
The e-commerce surge has posed challenges for brands and retailers, not least because of the volatile nature of the growth. To date, suppliers across categories that previously had low e‑commerce penetration have been fighting fires. Many have adopted ad-hoc tactics to cope with the online demand surge. The brands we see succeeding are those that have placed data at the center of their evolving e-commerce channel strategies.
Learn from What’s Gone Before
Online adoption has affected different categories in different ways, and at different times. First, it was toilet paper, then flour and home baking products that sold out, followed quickly by heightened demand for office equipment for the home.
As the weather improves, we’re seeing online demand surge for DIY & garden products, toys, games and outdoor play equipment. Each wave reflects a new phase in the crisis as consumers adjust to working from home or keeping occupied while on – what is hoped will be – temporary layoff, and trying to homeschool and entertain children at the same time.
Our advice to brands in categories that are only now coming into the eye of the e-commerce storm is to first analyze the data to understand what has already happened in other categories as they ballooned in recent weeks. In some cases there is still time to prepare for an oncoming surge by learning from the solutions that are already working.
New Consumer Behaviors
The current e-commerce expansion, unlike the steady e-commerce growth of previous years, represents a fundamental change in consumer behavior. As such, the data is already revealing new insights and presenting new opportunities for forward thinking brands.
For example, based on eStoreJourney analysis and eStorecCheck search results we are seeing completely new search terms and keyword phrases emerging to dominate in many categories. Studying these trends can help brands to adapt portfolios, product messaging and digital advertising to address changing shopper behavior. In some cases anecdotal evidence, backed up by search data analysis has identified new consumer needs and prompted solutions to fulfill the demand.
Data is also fundamental to the day-to-day business of e-commerce channel execution. As discussed in our recent blog ‘Coping with the Coronavirus Online Shopping Surge: Five e-Commerce Basics for Brands’ daily monitoring of key e-commerce fundamentals is needed to ensure you identify gaps and close them as soon as possible to maximize online store representation, presence and performance.
Ongoing e-commerce success demands a multifaceted approach, which means your products’ Availability, Price, Content, Ratings & Reviews and Search performance still need to be monitored across online channels, and actioned every day. e-Commerce is a dynamic environment, as soon as you do get it right, things change. Brands need to regularly reinvent how they manage listings, price, e-content, sales and item promotion.
Digital Shelf Automation
If you are using eStoreCheck as your e-commerce analytics tools, you may want to consider increasing monitoring intensity, adding new categories to your analysis or switching on notifications and alerts to ensure key team members are aware of gaps and issues as soon as they are identified. As e-commerce grows in breadth and complexity eStoreCheck data can also underpin digital shelf automation to manage many of the day-to-day gap closing processes needed to drive online sales growth.
Contact your Client Advisor to find out more about maximizing data-centric decision-making with eStoreCheck, or register for a free consultation find out more about Digital Shelf Automation and how it can streamline your e-commerce operations.