Over the past year all businesses, especially those in the hospitality sector have been forced to be creative, take risks and adapt to survive. Now it is easier than ever to convert to an e-commerce model without requiring much capital investment. All that is really required is time and business knowledge. Even market saturation is not a concern because the number of e-commerce users is increasing all the time. There is always scope for any small business to integrate into their community using easily accessible online tools. The approach should always be to take the time to understand your customer needs and match the right solution for success.
We found in a study conducted by Finaria that last year there was a massive increase in e-commerce users globally. The interesting part? The number of users is still expected to increase by about 3.8 billion in 2021 in the e-commerce market, that’s 400 million more than the increase last year.
This incredible expansion has happened because the way in which we buy changed last year due to the requirement to keep ourselves and our families safe indoors. E-commerce created a promising future for us from its inception because of the primary benefit of convenience. It is now easier to shop for food through a mobile application and everything can be on your doorstep in half an hour, saving valuable time for other important things in your day. We can e-shop from anywhere, whatever we want, choose how to pay and choose when and where to be delivered. We can access virtually everything from our fingertips that's why it is so convenient.
Retail businesses have to deal with the difficult challenge of maintaining relevance to customers so that they remain loyal and do not drift to competitors. The whole shopping experience is not just about putting products in a virtual cart. It is all about how the retailer helps the user to overcome fears and doubts so that they can feel safe by revealing personal details, transacting and having their expectations met when the product arrives.
Key new buying e-commerce preferences have emerged during 2020 and businesses need to pay attention to them
Fast delivery is a must
Before the pandemic we were free to pop out to the grocery store whenever we needed to. Now because of restrictions on the number of people entering retail environments due to the risk of infection, particularly for vulnerable people, shopping has become more of a logistical exercise. Social distancing and sometimes long queues add stress and time to what was once a relatively easy endeavour. As a result online grocery shopping has taken off. Supermarkets have embraced eCommerce in order to retain customers and maintain turnover. To be successful they have relied heavily on their own delivery staff or independent couriers.
Users love tailored made customer experiences
Business owners have had to get creative and adapt to the new environment to survive. Take the example of the restaurants forced to close their doors by government restrictions. Many converted to become local grocery stores, to qualify as an essential service, selling both fresh produce from their usual suppliers and pre prepared food for take away. In this way the ecosystem within their supply chain was able to keep their businesses running. Farmers, wholesale suppliers and restaurants were able to keep working and in some cases expand their operations.
During this process customers cooking more regularly, were introduced to new brands and had new experiences leading to enhanced possibilities for those suppliers in the future. The importance of creating a customer experience is equally important for eCommerce because purchasing habits have evolved. Now consumers support brands with a purpose that makes them feel something special or something they can learn from. They buy the experience not the product.
Loyalty programs matter
The same customer service principles apply to these online trading as the normal retail environment. There still needs to be a relationship between customer and the business. Discounts, perhaps for buying online, price competitiveness and a reliable cost effective delivery service are essential. In-app referral reward programmes help acquire new customers by creating positive experiences for existing ones. The cost of acquisition for these referred customers is less than gaining new customers in other ways.
The grocery stores that have done this effectively have not only retained customers but have also taken some of their competitors market share, a real win-win situation for customers and stores alike. Large operators even have call centre staff monitoring orders and contacting customers if there is an issue to really enhance the customer experience.
Customer service needs to really assist the customer during the purchase
The widespread availability of suitable technology platforms which are improving all the time is pushing us more and more down the online route for all types of products. This is true for even high fashion items where platforms cater for complex clothes sizes and even virtual reality to have an experience trying on clothes online. Who knows where this journey will take us.
It is important to optimize your website for mobile device use
Convenience is the focus of this article and that's what our mobile phones give to us. The big social media players and retailers have understood the importance of this and have helped to shape the buying behaviours we all have today. M-commerce has gained popularity over e-commerce and we will see in the next article what this means and how big the impact has been.