Ecommerce sales jumped 55% worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic to reach $1.7 trillion USD. With stores shuttered, isolated customers looked online to meet their needs. Nimble companies responded and launched or upgraded their ecommerce platforms. The battle for customer dollars had expanded to a new playing field.
In this three-part blog series, we discuss how companies can thrive in today’s new ecommerce-driven economy. Hint, the key is in information: How to collect, understand and use it successfully to grow your business and how to help your customers find what they need on your site. In Part One, we examine the effects of the pandemic on ecommerce and the rise of the new post-pandemic customer.
Instore shopping shifts online
A McKinsey study dissected pandemic-era ecommerce trends and customer behavior patterns. Results showed a significant shift towards the ecommerce space by both companies and customers:
- 20-30% of spending moved online during the pandemic’s peak
- 92% of first-time online shoppers continued to make online purchases
Ecommerce proved a lifesaver for people stuck in their homes. Online ordering was convenient and safe. Soon other limited-contact services such as curbside pickup, home delivery and touch-free payments filled the void created by forced distancing. All indications are that these changed behaviors are here to stay, and the services with them. If anything, today’s post-pandemic consumer demands more options, more convenience and more personal attention.
Customers rethink their priorities
A Big Commerce study indicated that 67% of consumers say they shop differently since the pandemic. Another study of 25,000 customers in 22 countries found that 50% of the respondents re-evaluated their personal values in the wake of the pandemic.
Traditionally, customers most often mentioned quality and price as primary drivers of purchasing decisions. The pandemic added more variables to this equation. Personal and family safety became a foremost concern. So did convenience throughout the buying experience and, of course, the ability of a company to quickly deliver the goods. Customers began to evaluate companies through the lens of community responsibility and sustainability. They gravitated toward brands that they perceived as sharing their personal values. They wanted proof that a company “walked the talk” of being a good corporate citizen. Companies such as Patagonia made it a point to reinforce their societal principles publicly. Old-fashioned brand loyalty didn’t disappear, but the truism of customers sticking to certain brands was tested to the limits during the pandemic.
Home-bound customers naturally spent (and spend) a lot of time on social media, sharing stories of their buying experiences. Social media became a significant influencer in the minds of many customers. Savvy companies recognized this and deployed social media channels as a sales tool. Social commerce comprised 3.4% of ecommerce sales in 2020 (Statista). This percentage should rise dramatically, as studies indicate that Millennials and Gen-Z consumers — the most-covered demographic for sellers — prefer to research products and services through social media.
Where do we go from here?
For merchants, the ecommerce boom presents both opportunity and risk. Online selling affords you a wider base of potential customers. Conversely, the competition is greater and fiercer, as you may find yourself battling for customers with new rivals halfway round the globe.
If your company entered the ecommerce game recently, or if you’ve been online for years but feel you need to raise your game, how do you do it? How can you thrive in this ecommerce-centric age?
The answer is analytics: Harnessing the information at your disposal to adapt to customers’ shifting behaviors, drive customer experiences and gain a competitive edge.
Customer attitudes are changing with the times. You need to anticipate these changes and react quickly. Two popular ecommerce tools — Elasticsearch and Google Analytics allow you to up your eCommerce game. Namely, Elasticsearch is a tool you use to help customers quickly find what they are looking for both on and driving to your site. And Elasticsearch is a tool you can use in conjunction with Agility prior to publishing to your website to ensure that products are findable — that they are not missing key data that could cause them to fall out of site search.
Google Analytics then works post publishing allowing you to understand customers interactions or, more importantly, lack of interaction with your site, so that you can act on your product data to improve customer experience and conversion.
When your PIM is able to integrate both Elasticsearch and Google Analytics, you can close the findability loop! Ready for PIM?…
Check out our PIM Readiness Assessment and find on in real-time.
We’ll be publishing more information in this series that will help you learn how to use these tools to optimize your product content for ecommerce.
- Part 2: How to use Elastic Search and Analytics View to improve content readiness for ecommerce
- Part 3: Using Google Analytics for continuous content improvement