The global pandemic, COVID-19, has changed the way we work, shop and have fun. It has hit both e-commerce players as well as retailers badly. Well, none of us expected retail shopping to be limited to mostly essential buying. Consumer habits have changed and retailers without an online presence have been quick to work on taking their products and services online.
Existing e-commerce websites have realized that simply having a website isn’t enough, they need to rethink their online marketing policies and find ways to overcome the effects of the pandemic. Here is how online shops are overcoming the challenges:
Offering better customer experience
Customer experience has proven to be directly proportional to revenue growth. This isn’t just about getting new customers but also about how to retain existing customers. In current times where everything seems so uncertain, clarity is one of the basic things customers seek.
E-commerce platforms are looking at how they can define and categorize their products and services for easy navigation. Instead of waiting for customers to call the customer representative team, delivery timelines, product details, etc. have been made more clearly visible. Many companies are also working on improving the UI/UX so that their customers have a better experience with the brand.
Incorporating address verification and address auto complete has also played an important role. By ensuring that address data is captured in a standardized format, e-commerce players can ensure that essential commodities reach their destination without any unnecessary delays.
Building a multi-channel experience
Apps take customer convenience a step further. Companies that had not entered this space earlier have quickly rolled out iOS and Android apps. The customer accounts on websites need to be linked to app accounts to ensure a seamless experience.
For example, instead of needing to enter their details at different stages of the shopping process, doing so once, while creating a customer profile on either the website or the app, and having cart selections reflected on both platforms can help reduce the chances of cart abandonment.
Making better use of technological innovations
As cities across the globe were locked down, call center executives became one of the groups of people who had to completely change the way they functioned. For customers, calling the company’s contact number only to be put on hold indefinitely was frustrating. Hence, e-commerce companies had to embrace new technologies like chatbots and voice assistants. This use of technology is more efficient and cost-effective. Only issues that could not be resolved this way would need to be addressed by a company executive.
Investing in improving SEO rankings
Simply having a website is not enough. At a time like this when many people may turn to e-commerce for the first time, the companies with a strong SEO ranking are the ones that will succeed. That said, SEO is a long-term game and strategic decisions need to be made about the keywords to be promoted. Non-essential keywords with a low conversion rate may be cut back on while keywords with a higher chance of conversion need to be pushed forward even if the margin is lower on these products.
Making data-driven decisions for the product range
When brick and mortar stores across the USA and Canada ran out of toilet paper, e-commerce sales of the same jumped up by 186 percent. E-commerce companies need to look not only at their own historical sales data but also consumer buying behavior trends when putting together their product range. The ability to foretell what customers will want determines how successful the platform will be.
Using Identity verification tools
As e-commerce sales grow so do the risk of fraud. The best way to fight this is by strengthening the verification processes used during customer acquisition. Identity verification also reduces the risk of shipping errors and the associated costs incurred. This, in turn, helps avoid unnecessary delays and improves customer satisfaction rates. Having a technological solution such as email verification to protect user identity also makes transactions safer and easier, thus boosting confidence in the website/ app and helping retain customers for longer.
Digitize secure payment channels
The ‘Cash on delivery’ option is being dropped by many e-commerce retailers. Given that the COVID-19 virus is believed to be transmitted through surfaces, the exchange of notes is not recommended. Instead, e-commerce websites have strengthened the security around their digital payment collection avenues. Websites that were earlier not receiving payments through digital wallets have started accepting payment in these forms.
Customizing shopping experiences
Just as loyal customers are recognized when they walk into their favorite stores, e-commerce websites too have customized the experience people have on the website. Instead of a common account verification process, an adaptive approach is being taken wherein VIP-level customers who have already completed the KYC process can have a smoother experience. Many websites are also using AI and machine learning to customize promotions and pricing according to the customer’s purchase history.
Promoting the brand through helpful digital PR
While digital PR activities haven’t completely stopped during this pandemic, their tone has changed considerably. Instead of only promoting goods and services, digital PR has taken on the challenge of spreading the good news and giving customers something to feel happy about. Businesses are offering customers help on how to stay positive through these times. It’s an indirect form of marketing but it increases brand recall and builds an association with positive emotions.
The need for e-commerce players to step up their game isn’t limited to the current time when brick and mortar shops are closed. Even after the lockdown eases, the new buying habits will persist for a while and many people are likely to want to continue shopping online. In a study conducted by Morning Consult, 24% of the respondents said that they would not want to shop in a mall for more than the next 6 months. This is something all e-commerce players should keep in mind and take advantage of.
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