When the Coronavirus shut down most of Europe in March 2020, and made a UK-wide lockdown seem inevitable, everyone held their breath. Some bricks-and-mortar businesses were still essential and in-demand but many others were forced to close for months. Ecommerce businesses, however, have had a unique opportunity.
Bulk buying, brand new hobbies, working from home, home-schooling and other key changes in our routine pushed year-on-year e-commerce sales up by 72% in the UK. This rapid rise in spending has long-term implications for how we buy online. This is what your ecommerce business needs to think about.
What have we been buying?
Some online industries have understandably flourished (digital streaming, groceries, health supplies) while others have become next to useless (travel accessories) or just not a priority (luxury goods).
Essentials are dominating our purchases:
- Medical supplies
- Household goods/groceries
- Baby products
- Toys and games
- Health and wellness
Fast and safe delivery options
Our couriers and Post Office workers have been very busy these past 6 months. At the start of the pandemic it was common to find the usual 1-2 day delivery times had tripled and quadrupled, as sales teams and dispatch centres struggled to keep up with demand. The ecommerce sites that could get their products to their customers’ doors the fastest were understandably winning.
Fast and safe delivery is a given – we all expect it now. Online customers want a choice of pick-up, home delivery, regular subscription services, and mobile payments to minimise their face-to-face contact and keep them stocked up on essentials with minimal time and effort. These options should be clear, incentivised, and affordable.
Many of us are cutting back
The luxury goods market has reportedly lost $10 billion in profits during the pandemic and no wonder. When the job market is uncertain most people don’t have their eye on diamonds and designer bags.
Discount codes, multi-buys, and other money-off benefits have always been a big hit with online shoppers, but the pandemic has made us even thriftier. 24% of baby boomers, 34% of Gen Z and nearly half of Millennials are watching what they spend and say “current events impact what items they purchase”.
Pay attention to the national mood
The effects of the pandemic are still so fresh there’s been very little research into how it’s changing our behaviour, but a quick look at the national mood clearly shows people are frustrated, bored, and potentially lonely. Retail therapy won’t solve our problems but we are looking for satisfying and enjoyable purchases that are easy to make, which gives ecommerce sites trading in ‘fun stuff’ like fashion and lifestyle products a good opportunity.
Competition in the ecommerce space is now fiercer than ever, and online shoppers are going to leave sites that have poor or frustrating UX. If you haven’t paid attention to this before, you need to now. Your mobile and desktop site shopping experience needs to be user friendly, glitch-free, intuitive, and ideally make it easier for people to make specific choices.
Your marketing communications, including emails and social media, should be sensitive to how people will be feeling too. Your own stats will tell you what’s currently working and what isn’t. Ignoring the pandemic and pushing irrelevant products should give way to messaging that encourages shoppers to treat themselves, focus on self care, give gifts to friends, and make meaningful purchases that help them feel good.
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