Ecommerce insights from the pandemic to help you manage uncertainty

If there’s one thing that we’ve all had to manage over the past couple of months, it’s been uncertainty. Uncertainty around questions such as; how long would lockdown last; would the impact of the pandemic be as terrible as some of the forecasts; and when would life (and business) return to ‘normal’? The scary thing was that those questions seemed to have had very few answers.

However, now that we’re a few months in and we’re beginning to understand how lucky Australia has been by comparison to many other countries, global data is beginning to emerge from which we can begin to draw some ecommerce insights that might help you better plan for your business’ future.

Whilst most economic forecasts, including Australia, show significant market contractions taking place, something else entirely seems to be going on for many ecommerce businesses. During the first part of lockdown, because a lot of brick and mortar retail was effectively ‘closed’, consumers desperate for ‘retail therapy’, even just for their essentials, took to their computers. Many ecommerce businesses were swamped with orders. And whilst the types of products customers were ordering online may have changed over the period, the uptick in ecommerce continued.

Ecommerce Insights – No1 – online shopping habits have changed

Three months in and research* from Klayvio shows 90% of consumers have now switched to shopping more online – ie: their habits have changed – online shopping is what they do.

Our own experience at Coghlan backs this up. We viewed last week as a bit of a test case. Almost all the retail shops/malls had reopened again, cafes were reopening and people were allowed to engage in regional travel. We wondered if that might herald a bit (or a more significant) drop in online orders for our customers. But no. Incoming orders were easily as busy as it had been for Black Friday sales. Some of our customers are growing exponentially week on week – it’s like Christmas, just ongoing.

Insight No2 – online shoppers are spending more than previously

Even better still, 69% of online shoppers are spending more or significantly more online than in store. Which, of course, is a huge opportunity for existing ecommerce brands.

Insight No3 – the rise of the new essentials

One of the major ecommerce insights that’s shown up are ‘the new essentials’. What are they? When the pandemic first started and shoppers were panicking (aka the toilet paper wars), consumers were found to be spending up to 2x their usual weekly spend to get what they needed – heavily weighted towards long life staples, healthcare items like hand sanitiser and toilet paper – the regular essentials. However as time has shifted, new ‘essentials’ emerged. Items like home gyms, exercise wear, better bakeware, indulgent self-care items and toys/games and creativity (think colouring in or painting) stimulation.

Whilst we saw a bump in online sales of entertainment purchases a month or so ago (often as an impulse purchase), homewares and DIY also rose as Aussies took to making more of their home and garden. We’re expecting that trend will continue in the months to come especially with the government’s Home Builder stimulus which extends to the back end of the year. Think cushions, rugs, paint, artwork, plants, tap-ware, lighting, furniture, etc.

Further, and perhaps more interesting, when the online purchase data was matched against pre-covid online buying patterns, every category was higher than before.

Insight No4 – shifts in where consumers are buying from

But where consumers are buying from is changing. In the US (and here too), there’s been a shift from the big online ecommerce brands such as Amazon, and the major retailers with an online presence to smaller, more artisanal, independent brands. In fact, nearly 50% of shoppers are shopping with ecommerce brands they’ve not shopped with previously. Sure, it’s early days, and that’s possibly due to the delays on international shipping/product availability and the greater likelihood of local free shipping (70% of shoppers said this was a top reason that influenced their purchase decision), but we’d hazard a guess it’s something that’s likely to remain.

So what do these ecommerce insights mean moving forward?

  • Stay true to what you do when it comes to marketing – it’s not the time to up your email marketing sends, or be really ‘edgy’, if it’s not what you’ve done previously, even if it does feel like we’re entering a period of recovery.
  • Communicate effectively – if something’s not available or free shipping doesn’t apply – point it out. A small delay isn’t a showstopper, but you don’t want people having a bad experience by not being transparent up front.
  • Put your stake in the sand on your commitment to social responsibility – not in a passing, trivial way or having it be all about how wonderful your brand is. Showcase what you’re doing to help, the differences that help is making and share how others are interacting with, benefitting from or contributing to your chosen cause. 2020 has been one of those years to demonstrate doing what you can.
  • If you’re swamped with online orders, consider outsourcing your logistics and shipping. Same day shipping and speed of delivery is a key way of creating customer delight and it also frees you up to spend more time on strategy, recovery and what’s next.

And that’s where we can help. If you want to clear the decks of some of the pick and pack, shipping and logistics time-suck so you can focus more on creating your own insights from your own data and improving your business for the longer term, we’d love to chat. You can call us on 02 9828 0111 or get in touch via the form below.

* The research was based on a global respondent base of up to 30,000 people – both consumers and ecommerce business owners.

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