Covid-19 has impacted everybody’s daily lives. We’ve gone from an ‘unprecedented set of circumstances’ to a ‘new normal’ and plenty in between. However, it has also impacted the ecommerce market with growth being accelerated four to six years according to Forbes.
For the merchants we work with every day, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. Total online spending has hit a 77% year-on-year increase and for some, business has boomed. For some, the opposite. For others, online operations had to be set up from scratch, and fast.
Reflecting on my own experience as a business owner, there have been multiple challenges. But there have also been unexpected positives that have changed the way we work for the better.
Ecommerce marketers have been challenged to think and prioritize differently, getting closer to their customers. In turn, they have seen a positive impact on customer loyalty.
Loyalty program engagement remained high from March to May, with the number of points earned and redeemed reaching up to 56% and 44% higher than they were at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Loyal customers also remained more valuable, with the average order value of program members remaining between 20 and 30% higher than non-members.
So which of the changes caused by COVID-19 should we consider maintaining to secure that loyalty long-term?
Many ecommerce businesses were forced to furlough staff – for days, weeks or months. This forced remaining staff to drop extended to do lists that had grown over time, and focus only on the things that would be immediately impactful. ‘Must-haves’ quickly became ‘nice-to-haves’, and teams with narrower focuses became more streamlined in terms of tasks.
However we shouldn’t let the ‘nice-to-haves’ creep back in. We should remain focussed on the activities that have the biggest impact. That means keeping marketing efforts centred on customers with the highest lifetime value. It also means ensuring that marketing tools and technologies are working together to drive efficiency and greater ROI.
2. Customers came first
Ecommerce brands have consistently been there for their customers during this time. I’m talking about the product pivots to produce hand sanitizer and facemasks; the discounts provided for healthcare professionals; the free workouts distributed to keep people healthy and happy; and the clear communication around delivery and shipping that gave customers the confidence to continue shopping.
Loyalty is intrinsically linked to positive customer experiences and ecommerce brands focussed on providing those even when customers weren’t spending. Brands must continue to think about how they connect with customers outside of transactions from now on.
3. Content built communities
Brands were forced to start engaging with customers entirely online, which meant more noise to cut through. Stores had to think what would get traction with shoppers outside of promotional and discount messages. And they got creative! From lockdown playlists and daily baking challenges to homemade hand sanitizer recipes, many ecommerce stores thought outside the box and produced reams of engaging content. This content served another purpose – it built communities.
People want to feel that they are part of something bigger and stores who successfully achieved this feeling during COVID-19 should take the opportunity to keep those communities going longer-term.
4. Challenging the concept of change
Change is predominantly seen as scary and negative. In this case it was forced upon us and stores had no choice but to embrace it. With physical locations closed, brands had to act quickly to adapt offline behaviors and operations to work online. Some embraced this change in innovative ways – for example, providing online stylist and fitting consultations via video calls.
Brands that adapted are now fully equipped to provide the same personal touch online as they do offline. If they continue to do so, we will be one step closer to solving the age old problem of how to give loyal online customers the same great experience that they receive in-store.
We all look forward to a time post-pandemic, but we in the ecommerce space have an opportunity to step back and learn some lessons that will help us to drive growth, efficiency and customer loyalty for a long time to come.
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