Ecommerce After COVID-19: How to Adapt to the New Normal
Written by Cassandra WrightJul 30, 20
Coronavirus has changed customer habits and expectations in Australia, probably forever. Find out how you can satisfy them through your online store.
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on businesses in Australia and worldwide, and its repercussions are likely to set the tone for the decade. Even as we work towards a post-COVID world, new consumer habits and preferences born out of the pandemic are unlikely to go back into the box – especially when it comes to the convenience of online shopping and home deliveries.
From major retailers to local boutiques, ecommerce has been a lifeline for Australian businesses of all sizes that's helped them to maintain connections and serve their customers during the crisis. For many customers who are shopping online for the first time out of necessity, the cost and time savings of ecommerce have made a big impression.
With around 73% of Australian households now shopping online, and research showing that many aren't planning on going back to their old shopping habits even when restrictions are lifted, companies need to make sure their ecommerce services are competitive.
Coronavirus impact on ecommerce
With social distancing and lockdowns restricting travel, and concerns over employment and the economy affecting buying behaviour, the impact of COVID-19 on retail in Australia and worldwide shouldn't be understated.
While the full impact will only become clear with time, Forrester forecasts that the global retail sector will lose $2.1 trillion in 2020 and that it will take at least four years for growth to recover. Non-grocery offline shopping has taken the hardest hit, declining by 20% as fewer people visit brick and mortar stores for non-essential purchases, instead choosing to shop online.
So how many people are shopping online during the pandemic? According to Australia Post, approximately 200,000 new households used ecommerce for the first time in April, making Easter 2020 the busiest period in Australian online shopping history.
This is in line with global trends that have seen online retail sales in the UK increase by almost a third year-on-year in May 2020 (IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index) – particularly homewares, electricals and alcohol sales – and Americans spending an average 10% to 30% more online (Engine survey).
The coronavirus boost supports what was already strong growth in ecommerce, with online transactions in Australia having grown from 5.9% of all retail sales in 2015 to 7.2% in 2019 and an estimated 10% in 2020, although this figure may be even higher and won't necessarily fall after lockdowns are lifted.
Changing customer habits and expectations
As COVID-19 (hopefully) becomes less of a threat, social distancing recommendations are eased or a vaccine even becomes available, will customers return to their old offline shopping habits? Not according to surveys.
In the short term, nearly half of global customers say they don't expect to resume shopping in public spaces for 'some time' or 'a long time,' according to GlobalWebIndex April findings, and only 9% would return to stores 'immediately' when allowed, due to the risks involved.
In the longer term, increasing familiarity with ecommerce as part of everyday life and greater awareness of its advantages are likely to see online stores replacing physical store visits permanently for many.
How can businesses adapt?
Coronavirus has changed how people interact with retailers and what they expect, so your business needs to keep up with the times. Implementing a modern ecommerce platform and embracing new solutions to improve customer experiences will help you to weather the current crisis and the longer-term uncertainty of the economic downturn.
Integrated marketing using Artificial Intelligence and machine learning can customise each user's experience with your website through welcome messages, abandoned cart notifications and promotions tailored to their interests. This makes customers feel valued and helps to nurture long-term relationships.
Now that people are buying more products online, consider whether you should diversify your product range to cover items highly in demand. Giving customers a choice of payment gateways (e.g. PayPal, Afterpay, Buy Now Pay Later) and delivery options (home delivery, next day delivery, click and collect) will also increase checkout conversions.
Sales are always popular, but they're especially important in an economic crisis when people are more hesitant to spend. Be transparent about prices and the duration of sales and raise awareness of your promotions across email, SMS, social media and other platforms through coordinated multi-channel marketing.
Your ecommerce website needs to have user-friendly design, fast loading times and be optimised for mobiles if you want to make sales and retain customers over the competition. Customer service chatbots can help users with general enquiries and notify your team if more assistance is needed.
Cyberattacks are a growing concern for businesses and customers. Make sure your ecommerce website has the right security and encryption protocols in place to protect your data and reassure users.
Expand your reach with marketplaces
According to Episerver’s Reimagining Commerce report, 43% of consumers use Google if they have a specific purchase in mind while 43% use an established marketplace. Promoting your products on major marketplaces will put your products in front of more engaged customers, but you should also research the costs involved.
Social media sites including Facebook and Instagram have also recently launched their own native shopping experiences to help businesses sell directly through the app.
Upgrade your ecommerce website today
If you're new to ecommerce or your old website isn't meeting your customers' needs, iST Digital's web design experts in Perth help businesses of all sizes to set up a custom online store with integrated marketing and support.
Call our team on 9443 2221 to find out more about our simple and secure ecommerce solutions or get a quote today.