Changes in consumers' lifestyles, due to the onset of the pandemic, are directly reflecting their online purchase demand.
Image Courtesy: Datumcorp
It’s been more than a year since the onset of the pandemic. The changes in lifestyle and consumer spending habits are already reflecting in online purchase demand in new product categories. Most businesses have evolved with the shift to the digital in response to consumer's demands.
There are various new online product categories including home essentials, health, hygiene, food, and beverage, though dynamics vary across countries. With that said, the consumer’s desire for immediacy, convenience, and simplicity has also amplified.
New Customer Behavior
Consumers worldwide are preferring to buy items which were not often purchased online before the pandemic, like groceries, health and hygiene, home essentials and even home improvement. The pandemic has boosted the consumer’s desire for convenience and immediacy. The boundlessness of this switch will be determined by how satisfied consumers are with online experiences.
According to GWI, approximately 48% of customers will continue shopping online more frequently after the outbreak. Unlocking the future of retail means phygital innovation that allows consumers to buy anywhere they shop, try on your products virtually with the use of augmented reality (AR), and engineering virtual versions of retail shopping experiences.
Putting yourself into Customer’s Shoes
Actions should be focused on delighting customers. Businesses must invest heavily in examining and mitigating any customer friction points and embracing a zero-defects mentality.
For example, Best Buy, a US consumer-electronics retailer, built and rolled out a contactless curbside pickup service in just 48 hours in March 2020, when the pandemic hit. They put in effort everything and resulted in new staging areas in the stores to new roles for sales associates. Best Buy’s US online sales accelerated more than 250 percent, and about 50 percent were fulfilled via curbside pickup.
Rapid Reaction Operations
Agility in operations and supply chain has an additional strategic advantage. The first mover must improve versions continuously and establish a firm go-to-market strategy before a me-too product arrives to take over. These tasks are never “complete.” It’s important to always monitor, measure results, and push for improvements.
During the crisis, many companies were able to modify their e-commerce interface capabilities but struggled to adapt their logistics to support the high demand.
Walmart, known for its ubiquitous one-stop-shop stores, has invested heavily in digital operations over the past decade. Its digital process has been challenged during the COVID-19 crisis. When its 45 online fulfillment centers were pushed beyond capacity, the retailer turned its physical stores into mini-warehouses, which allowed the company to expand its “ship from store” offer to 2,500 retail locations.
Fulfillment emerges with competitive differentiation
Customers are wanting fulfillment in immediacy, convenience, and simplicity. Fulfillment can be turned into a competitive advantage by placing inventory closer to customers, automating returns, and offering flexible options like a curbside pickup.
How to accelerate E-commerce growth
Customer-centricity and a test-and-learn mindset are the most critical tools in successful e-commerce expansion.
A culture of learning should be extended to every corner of an organization. Learning starts with the leaders, who can bring new thoughts and open ideas culture to the team. Procter & Gamble, the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) giant, had set the plan about building a digital culture, began with learning. It assembled training modules, platforms, and programs, to broadcast knowledge and extend learning throughout the organization.
A cornerstone of every digital culture is the ability to continuously improve and innovate. Atlassian, an Australian enterprise-software company, hosts quarterly ShipIt Days, in which employees have 24 hours to work on anything innovative they want, provided it relates to an Atlassian product, and then present the work to the company. It also lets the employees spend 20% of their time developing their own innovative ideas.
Experiential e-commerce is a customer-centric strategy that reinforces the bond between consumers and the brand through a virtual shopping experience. The challenge for brands is to make the shopping experience as delightful as efficient.
A recent instance of the same is Obsess, the immersive shopping startup, that launched a virtual shopping mall, which brings a new format to online shopping. It offered customers to shop online without a search bar, unlike any other e-commerce website via explorable virtual boutique stores. It lets customers view 3D renderings on products, and access AR versions to visualize stores in a real-world setting.
Read more about how to adopt a digital-first strategy here.
Shriya Madan, an ardent learner, a digital enthusiast, aspires to make an impact in the real world with the power of technology
-Tech Researcher, BLVCK PiXEL
Pranjali Apurva, driven by curiosity, converging design principles with digital transformation
-Chief Innovation Officer, BLVCK PiXEL