Ecommerce is one of the few industries that has not been negatively impacted by COVID-19. In fact, it’s been a boon, with total online sales numbers surpassing pre-pandemic predictions by a factor of four. While some consumer spending may shift back to offline post-pandemic, most believe it’s here to stay. According to Euromonitor International, 73% of retailers believe the shift to online sales will be permanent.
To better understand this shift to online shopping, and learn how brands can leverage it in 2021 and beyond, Worldwide Partners asked our independent agency partners around the world to weigh in. Following are the key insights and predictions on the next big trends in ecommerce.
Provide a Complete, Holistic Approach
Simply building an ecommerce website is not enough to drive revenue. A brand must create demand, connect with customers and continually enhance their operations to break through the crowded online environment. Our agency partners are helping to streamline the entire ecommerce landscape by providing complete solutions from start to finish.
“We not only focus on helping clients build an efficient Ecommerce website but have a PMI system to manage inventory, listings and are able to scale across marketplaces and etailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, etc.” says Alex Ramirez with Worldwide Partners Agency T2O Media, headquartered in Spain.
WE Marketing Group in China takes this complete solution one step further by becoming the online distributor of several of their clients, including Kjeldsens Butter Cookies, Campbells Soup, and Ninjiom Throat Lozenges. “Very few agencies dare to buy the products to resell,” says Viveca Chan, WE Marketing Group Chairman & CEO. “The fact that we can gives us a complete understanding and knowledge of the market and data of the end consumers.”
Build First-Party, Private-Domain Data
Many retailers rely on the customer data shared by platforms, yet this approach limits them to only understanding past demand. To build a clear and predictive roadmap for future growth, brands must build their own first-party data. And build it now, before the planned phase-out of Google cookie data in 2022 (and likely other platforms in the near future).
Worldwide Partners Agency The Shipyard in Columbus, Ohio, USA recently launched an ecommerce solution to address this challenge, called eCommerce Growth Engineering. This offering brings together D2C data-driven performance with inspiring creative to predictably drive growth across a client’s entire business.
“Selling directly to consumers enables a two-way dialogue with your customers that is yours alone, generating extremely valuable first-party data,” said Lance Porigow, head of the ecommerce growth practice at The Shipyard. By capturing, leveraging, and extracting actionable customer insights from data, The Shipyard is able to create truly relevant and motivating creative messaging, engage consumers at scale, and drive repeatable growth.
Get Ready for a Live Streaming Explosion
Live streaming, a popular and successful ecommerce tactic in China for several years, will continue to grow and expand to other markets around the globe. Live video changes the way brands interact with audiences, providing an authentic, entertaining and immediate experience.
“Online sales has evolved from ‘traffic driven by search and awareness’ to ‘conversion driven by entertainment and interest,’” says Viveca Chan. “Today, video, live broadcast and entertainment has taken a larger part in online sales conversion. People look at short videos, feel they are relevant and entertaining, and click to convert.”
And click to convert they did. For new cosmetic brand Millet Pepper WE Marketing Group launched via live broadcast. Using a celebrity to highlight the brand’s natural ingredients and quality, WE achieved RMB 3 million in sales in a single day.
Look Beyond the Small, Tangible Products
Ecommerce is no longer just for selling apparel, household items and other small, tangible products. Every type of business can sell online. But adoption for purchasing these “non-traditional ecommerce products” varies considerably based on the region.
“We foresee a services boom as [China] has not yet realized services via ecommerce,” says Humphry Ho, Managing Director of Hylink Digital Solutions. Services-based commerce sales include car repair and maintenance, finding a nanny for kids, purchasing car washes, even telehealth, all things which have been available and popular in other countries for years. “China has already done MCommerce, GCommerce, but somehow the culture is still very much not into services-based commerce.”
In Latin America, the focus is shifting to large-expense items, which previously required a tangible experience and face-to-face sales process to purchase. “The next step in our region is to be able to sell cars through ecommerce,” says Andres Sierra, CEO of Grupo CCP in Colombia.
Don’t Overlook Older Demographics
When brands consider their online audience, they typically imagine a younger demographic, but that’s no longer the case. Older generations are coming online at a more rapid pace. According to GlobalWebIndex, mobile and online usage is up more than 10% globally for Boomers and Gen Xers.
“Today we have 80-year-olds connected to the internet,” says Sierra. “Reaching the elderly with products and services is key to growth in our region.”
Focus on Shoppable Content, Not Social Content
China is leading the pack in social commerce, and WE Marketing Group has been at the forefront of the industry since the beginning. “Our social media team has evolved from social media content to shoppable content that ensures conversation,” says Chan.
WE recognized early on that there was an increased need for creative entertainment and content relevance. They created specialized teams to handle social commerce planning, content, creative, media and data analytics to optimize results and learnings.
Offer Payment & Subscription Options
With millions of people around the world suffering financially from COVID-19, providing payment and financial options is essential. Worldwide Partners Agency Ardmore in Northern Ireland has been successful using staggered payment tools like Klarna, which “make things instantly more accessible from a financial standpoint,” says Paul James, Account Strategy Director. And it’s not just for those larger expense items; offering payment plan options for purchases under $100 can make a big difference.
The success of Amazon Prime subscriptions proves the notion that consumers want simple, convenient, frictionless shopping experiences that require as little effort as possible. Many new companies have launched with subscriptions as their primary model, but established brands have been slower to adopt. In an effort to recover lost revenues and build value for their businesses, Ardmore anticipates other ecommerce providers like butchers and bakers will begin offering subscriptions as well.
Don’t Forget About Your Physical Stores
Despite the astounding shifts to online commerce and virtual shopping in 2020, physical stores will continue to be an important part of the customer experience.
According to Euromonitor, these online experiences won’t be able to replicate the in-store experience, especially when it comes to testing or sampling a product. They predict that the role of the store and “in real life” experiences will remain equally important to any digital advancements. James agrees: “It is no longer a case of either or. A complete, joined up approach to commerce is required to truly grow.”
As consumers of all demographic groups enjoy the convenience and safety of shopping online, ecommerce sales will continue to grow. Brands that are prepared to address the shifting consumer needs and leverage the latest technology and platforms will not only fare the pandemic better, but will be more successful for years to come.