It’s no secret that the pandemic disrupted commerce substantially. Lockdowns of public spaces, an increase in online shopping, and supply chain disruptions were only a few factors that contributed to the rapid evolution of commerce.
How did retailers adapt, and which trends in consumer behavior will become long-term changes?
On “Covering Commerce: Trends, Buyer Habits, and Predictions for 2021,” a webcast for retailers hosted by Deck Commerce, four tech and retail experts discussed the past, present and future of ecommerce:
- Natalie Walkley, Director of Marketing at Deck Commerce
- Colin Madden, Senior Director of Sales at Feedonomics
- Craig Dooley, VP of Delivery & Professional Services at Deck Commerce
- Alexandra Wood, Director of Solutions at LiveArea
In addition to sharing trends and common challenges they noticed among clients within their industries, the speakers offered insights on the ecommerce landscape and how retailers can prepare for the future.
The value of transparency amid uncertainty
The first wave of the pandemic in 2020 was a shock to the global supply chain, and many brands quickly found that their manufacturers could not operate at full capacity. The initial lockdowns meant that factories were shuttered, and few employees could access warehouses or move stock.
With the surge in online orders, many organizations faced limited inventory, long delays in restocking, and slow delivery times. Consumers were willing to wait for their goods, as long as brands were communicating clearly.
“Out of that, the key driver was transparency of companies,” Wood said “So in order to retain the people, your loyalty and your followers, you really had to be transparent in the expectations that the customers had around you as a business and making sure that at all points of interaction, it was very apparent what they should expect from you.”
In the current age of online shopping and remote work, it’s hard to ignore the value of overcommunicating both internally and externally.
It was true during the latest recession, and it’s been true during the pandemic: in periods of crisis or economic uncertainty, customers are quick to abandon brand loyalty. For this reason, it’s especially important to focus on strengthening your brand through honest communication, a consistent customer experience, and increased convenience.
Early adopters and facing the limitations of bad data
In 2020, brands and retailers were forced to reexamine and redefine their businesses. For many, it was clear that online sales would become their main source of revenue, and they made adjustments early. Omnichannel retail, the integration of brick-and-mortar shopping with online shopping, became a necessity overnight. Retailers that did not adapt their businesses for a digital-first experience struggled to survive.
“Just look at the trash heap of retailers that were either late to the game or just said, ‘We’re not going to do that,’ and they’re on the trash heap. I mean they’re gone,” Dooley said. “And those retailers that knew that they had to adopt or die, did. When they were the early adopters, they’re the ones that are reaping the benefits now.”
One adjustment retailers made was the adoption of buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS), also known as curbside pickup. Success in ecommerce is heavily dependent on the quality and availability of product data, and many retailers weren’t prepared to hit the ground running.
“The best time to invest in the right technology was yesterday, and the second best time is now,” Madden said. “The reason I say that as a first starting point is you can’t do any of the other stuff that I would tell you as a retailer to do. Telling your story, making sure your customers have a convenient shopping experience, making sure it’s consistent, building trust. You can’t do any of that stuff… without the right technology. So go invest in the right tech stack.”
Accelerating existing consumer trends and defining what’s missing
Ecommerce has been growing for years; the pandemic merely accelerated the pace at which it happened. Lockdowns fostered new innovations in online shopping that made it more appealing to customers, which exposed them to new, unseen levels of convenience in turn.
Due to the increase in consumer options like BOPIS and buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS), as well as better product listings across more shopping channels, we people expect to continue shopping online even after the pandemic is over.
Walker pointed at a figure from Statista to illustrate this point: “86 percent of consumers are saying that they will continue to do curbside [pickup] as much, if not more, than they have already.”
However, as the limitations of the pandemic fade away, people won’t want to remain isolated.
“We still want social engagement, we still want human connection, we still want to get out of our house, but we want the convenience of what we experienced,” Madden said.
Check out the full webcast below for a deeper dive into these topics and more clues about where commerce is headed.