You don’t need us to tell you that 2020 and 2021 have been extraordinary years. Despite all the challenges, you may have also experienced some of your most profitable months on record, as those forced into lockdown suddenly shopped online for the first time.
This was reflected across the world. 2020 was a turning point in the ecommerce industry — its share of global retail trade rose from 14% in 2019 to approximately 17%. Our recent research study on the impacts of COVID-19 on ecommerce in the UK reveals that 65% of consumers say they plan to shop online vs. in-store even after the pandemic ends. However, like everything great in life, good things eventually come to an end and there are early signs that 2020’s dramatic growth boom is easing off.
High streets are opening and people are returning to brick-and-mortar shops, partly because it’s something new to do and partly because many have missed the in-person shopping experience.
What does this mean for your newly won customers and how should you navigate this new phase?
Welcome the Change in Ecommerce
Firstly, accept change is coming once again. Accept that, as the country reopens, COVID-gained customers will drift away — you might have been a necessity in a crisis or a pastime to see people through the dark days of winter, but that’s no longer the case.
No matter how you hard you try or how exceptional an experience you offer, some customers will leave you for traditional shops. Also accept that any pandemic-won customers will have a wealth of retail options open to them, so loyalty in the future will not be easily won either. There’s also the burgeoning ‘buy local’ trend enticing people to support independents near them.
The best approach is to see all this change as an opportunity — one to create a more realistic, sustainable, solid customer base that thrives post-pandemic without the dependence on lockdown restrictions to bring in business.
Savvy ecommerce brands will have already used this unprecedented period to build their brand, woo new customers and nurture loyalty to drive repeat sales. The next stage is to capitalise on all this hard work and keep these newfound buyers buying.
Plan and Promote Your Brand
You know your business better than anyone, so lean on that vast knowledge. You’ve accepted that there will be a drop-off in your customer base, so plan for it – what does your retention rate need to be for you to continue to function comfortably? Once you know that number, you can work with it to regroup and plan strategies to reinforce and then rebuild it.
Key to this is brand perception and loyalty.
First focus on those customers who were with you before the world was turned upside down – they were there pre-COVID, and they are the ones most likely to stick with you now. Consider what rewards you can offer them – one-time discounts, promotional offers personalised to their preferences, loyalty schemes.
Do you offer referrals too? If not, encourage your loyal customers to promote your brand to your potential customers.
Next, focus on those who have discovered how great you are in these tough months. Offer them a truly generous reward and be transparent about the reasons why. Tell them that you know they came to you during the pandemic, and you’d love for them to continue buying from you. This openness humanises your brand and shows how much you care. According to our recent research study, 55% of consumers said that they have discovered a new small/local/independent ecommerce retailer via social media within the last year.
Finally, it goes without saying that service is king. Watertight inventory management, clear shipping costs and expectations, fast delivery times with tracking, and slick operations all equal loyalty winning excellence. These factors are particularly important for drop shippers who rely on an efficient supply chain to deliver an excellent service.
Shopping online used to be one of the few activities available to people, but a brighter world outside is now beckoning. Retaining your pandemic-won customers will be challenging, but with the right strategy, you can be sure they will keep on buying.