The COVID-induced economic tailspin has shrouded the global economy in the first half of this year. It may even extend until Christmas 2020. To combat the same, retailers including pure-play ecommerce and omnichannel players should gear up in advance.
This is specifically because the festive shopping season, which started in India with Raksha Bandhan, will run right up to the year-end. And, it represents half or more of annual revenue for many retail businesses.
The effect of COVID-19 on ecommerce platforms
In its latest Adobe Digital Economy Index report for May 2020, Adobe Analytics found that ecommerce sales during May 2020 alone eclipsed the entire 2019 holiday season. The reason behind this development was the pandemic which has left numerous people isolated at home.
Since the enforcement of lockdowns in March, ecommerce spending has grown beyond expectations with more than $52 billion in transactions. The Indian e-retail market is ready to reach 300 to 350 million shoppers over the next five years, driving the online Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) to $100 to $120 billion by 2025.
The pandemic has transformed business forever and the present ecommerce trends are likely to stay. The next few months will see an even bigger focus on experience-driven ecommerce. This is because the competition might become cut-throat as consumers place a lot of their attention online.
It becomes essential for offline retailers and new e-tailers to begin planning right away. They still have room to grow business by improving their online presence and website experiences.
What ecommerce players must focus on
Mobile phones are more popular than before
As people spent more time at home in May, smartphone-based shopping continued to rise. The share of online sales by mobile phones has increased with the pandemic-induced ecommerce activity.
Increase in online shopping of apparel, electronics, and grocery
After a sudden surge in online sales and discounts in both March and April, May and June saw a more subdued rise and some falls in certain categories as the nationwide unlocking progressed.
Masks, disinfectants, and sanitisers have become priceless products along with a rise in online medicines, essential commodities, gadgets, and so on.
Growing digital play for retail
During this time, many businesses are also adopting various approaches to respond differently to the ongoing crisis. This holds for cash generation as well as engaging and maintaining customer interest. Today, businesses have doubled-down on digital initiatives.
Some of these initiatives include increasing online promotions, contextualised social/digital campaigns, online-to-offline omnichannel sales, social commerce, and pure ecommerce approaches.
How can ecommerce help in driving sales in the festive season
The commerce rule book, as we knew it, is not applicable anymore. For the first time, consumers are purchasing from the new product categories online. But not all are so sure about the medium.
Besides, a lot of businesses are competing for customer attention. So, how can ecommerce brands cut through the clutter and connect with the customers?
Enhance visual experience
The only way a customer can experience your product is through the videos or life-like-imagery on your Product Details Pages (PDPs), for instance, showing how the fabric flexes as you move. This leads to higher engagements, better conversions, and lower product returns. With almost no exposure to product in-stores, ecommerce brands will have to tweak PDPs with visual experience through AR or VR.
Improve digital interaction
In the post-COVID world, brands will have to make significant changes to establish true connections with their loyal customers. One way could be using user-generated images or videos on their digital properties. This can be a valuable tool to replicate in-store social shopping visits.
Here, AI can play a great role in enhancing the digital media experience. It can automate image-detection as well as video-cropping and streaming adjustments while considering the upload and delivery performance.
Tailor-made assortment merchandising: Brands will have to customise their assortments as per their digital requirements. For example, a few leading FMCGs have re-designed packaging to reduce the use of plastic and water. It has made the packaging lighter and cost-effective for shipping.
Here too, AI can help get an in-depth understanding of customer preferences which can assist brands in optimising portfolios and product assortment and, at the same time, personalising recommendations.
Enable easy search via AI-enabled voice assistants
Conversations are an integral part of any business. This makes voice assistant the next best innovation for your ecommerce store. Voice-based product discovery can both simplify and amplify your customer experience and also lead to faster conversions. AI-powered voice assistants can enhance your shopping experience by returning with 100% accurate search results.
The technology also makes use of customers’ historic behaviours. It leverages data to understand their preferences by analysing keywords and improving results on every search. This data can also act as a foundation for conducting marketing campaigns across multiple channels.
Instant shopping makes any page apt for the checkout. The approach enables customers to purchase in a flash by placing a quick checkout button anywhere on the platform with AI.
The technology can identify customer actions and adapt to their checkout preferences on all devices. Doing so converts new customers into loyal ones.
Personalised category page experiences
Most product discovery happens on category pages. Yet, a majority of shoppers never scroll beyond the first page. AI can ensure that the products driving a brand’s goal are visible exactly where shoppers will engage with them.
AI can combine the power of personalisation with product placement to influence sales. Changing product arrangements, order and selection for each shopper can drive more discovery, engagement, and revenue.
Enhance supply chains
AI can help brands in managing the sudden surge in demand by forecasting inventory planning during the festive season. The direct-to-consumer platform should be ready to merchandise new products, reprice, dynamically run sales, and change tone and messaging to suit consumer sensitivities. Brands must ensure their ecommerce is flexible enough to render superior business and supply chain agility.
Technology will determine the success quotient in the ‘new normal’
To lead, ecommerce players must excel beyond customer expectations at every step of the purchasing journey.
The new-age technologies can garner you both the new and the most demanding online shoppers, ensuring that every single purchase brings them back to you. But the deployment of such technologies depends on the businesses.
The best part about the Indian festive season is that it offers precious opportunities for customer-brand interaction. A large number of shoppers have already started making online purchases, checking out the best deals, searching for gifting ideas, etc. Businesses still have some ambiguity over the consumer’s current buying behaviour, preferences, and the patterns to make a robust business decision.
Nevertheless, while some brands are losing time figuring out things on their own, the tech-driven ones are already attracting customers by flashing creative ad campaigns and promotions backed with data. After all, those who plan their moves in time are always sure to succeed.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)