Coronavirus: why ecommerce is more important than ever
COVID-19 has dramatically altered almost every aspect of our lives, and the ‘new normal’ has also had a big impact on our shopping habits.
With the world on lockdown and all non-essential shops closed, ecommerce has become more important than ever before.
Deepak Goyal, the Global Head of Strategic Partnerships at Currencies Direct, shares insights on the rise of ecommerce in the times of global lockdown.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
- What impact has COVID-19 had on e-commerce?
- What ecommerce opportunities has COVID-19 created?
- How can online sellers make the most of the coronavirus ecommerce boom?
More people are shopping online
The current situation has driven people to shop online more.
In February 2020, before the world went into lockdown, a little under 20% of total retail sales were online.
Now, after three weeks of coronavirus enforced restrictions and shop closures, online sales have ‘risen dramatically’ by over 70% in March year-on-year.
Online traffic rocketed by 10-15% per day compared to February and some companies in the food sector experienced up to ten times more traffic. All this makes it clear that ecommerce will command a greater share of total retail sales when new figures are available.
Normally, well over half of our shopping journeys begin online (according to Google) even if the final transaction takes place in a shop. Now, even more, journeys are starting online and more are resulting in conversions.
What impact has COVID-19 had on e-commerce?
Coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on ecommerce and created macro environments across online sectors. As we can no longer buy many products in shops, ecommerce sites are our only option.
Understandably, as we acclimatized to quarantine and social distancing demand in certain sectors rocketed. Online sales in food and drink have surged, while demand for subscriptions, DIY, gardening, gaming, and fitness equipment boomed.
In some instances, opportunities to maximize sales growth were missed. This is highlighted by online supermarkets’ sales only increasing by 0.8% in March when demand was far higher.
Our urgency to buy online is also reflected in conversion rates. In March, conversion rates were up nearly a fifth last year across all sectors according to figures from IRP.
Additionally, increased time at home has resulted in email open rates steadily rising, supporting a slight increase in conversions and revenue from email content.
What ecommerce opportunities has COVID-19 created?
The clear opportunity coronavirus has created for ecommerce is simply that shops are closed, and people are staying at home. Ecommerce has a ‘captive audience’ at the moment so the majority of ‘shopping occasions’ can be captured online.
Probably the most important opportunity for ecommerce is the drastic rise in first-time online shoppers. Their first shop may have been in one of the recent boom sectors, but chances are if they had a good experience they will do more shopping online in the future.
Smaller companies are seizing opportunities to boost their online sales as larger companies can’t fulfill demand.
Supermarkets hitting delivery capacity, restaurant, and pub closures, and extra web browsing have given online food and drink specialists and subscriptions the chance to thrive.
Additionally, the impact of coronavirus has presented B2B companies with huge short-term problems but could change future sales. B2B companies are developing B2C ecommerce sites to keep the cash flow going, which in the future may be a new profitable side to their business.
How can online sellers make the most of the coronavirus ecommerce boom?
There are things online sellers need to get right to attract and retain consumers in the current climate.
- Make things easy
A very basic point, but it’s essential to make it as easy as possible for users to buy what they want. A major frustration for online shoppers is difficulty completing a transaction. First-time buyers should be able to navigate your site with ease and find what they need without issues.
Ensure the simple things are done well, such as keeping out of stock notifications up to date and making the checkout process clear and streamlined.
- Keep your content up to date and customers informed
There’s uncertainty everywhere because of coronavirus, make it clear to customers that you are open for business, deliveries are on time and you are there to help.
Use time-stamped service updates of any changes or disruption so consumers know what to expect.
Make sure your communications are getting to your customer at the right time. People’s routines have changed so check analytics, Google trends and email opening times to be sure when consumers need you most.
- Social media advertising and interaction
Global social media use is up 45%, presenting a great chance for ecommerce companies to promote their products. If you already engage in social media advertising consider increasing your spending, and if you don’t know is a great time to test the waters.
- Keep product descriptions informative
Obviously this is always vital, but on-point product descriptions are more important now than ever, particularly for first-time buyers or those purchasing something they haven’t before. Your product pages need to provide your customers with all the information they’d be able to get in a shop.
Make sure product images are up to date and add more where possible, making sure all essential details are visible. Be concise with selling points and clear on details such as dimensions and materials so key points are easy to scan on a page.
- Support and guide
Consumers expect support to make informed purchase decisions, simplified choices, and personalized interaction. Where possible, present customers with recommended products based on their interaction with your site and tailored shopping options/notifications.
- Make sure your website is mobile optimized.
Another simple point but one which isn’t always prioritized. About a quarter of us use our smartphone to start our buying journey so a fully responsive website is essential.
- Engaging calls to action
Make sure your calls to action are helpful, specific, and warm in tone. Instead of using general terms that aren’t clear like ‘learn more’ or ‘look here’, use key phrases like ‘which exercise bike is right for you?’ or ‘find your perfect wine’.
Deepak also created Currencies Direct’s ecommerce service, which is now used by thousands of online sellers around the world.