The stay-at-home orders that were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on retail. While people were unable to visit brick-and-mortar stores, and businesses were struggling to maintain them, there was a swift and dramatic shift towards e-commerce.
As people looked for ways to get what they need without access to nearby stores, they searched for a convenient means of buying their favorite goods from home. E-commerce enabled them to do just that. During this period, people became more familiar and comfortable with e-commerce websites to purchase everything from groceries to luxury items. Now more people prefer to shop online than ever before.
When the states rescinded their stay-at-home orders, many families continued to rely on online shopping to purchase clothing, groceries, and much more. Until a vaccine is available to the public, the preference for online shopping will continue to be strong. After a vaccine is available, the shift towards e-commerce will remain significant.
Even if you reopen a physical location, there are several key benefits of using e-commerce to connect with your customers.
For local businesses, one of the main limitations is geography. Unless you're selling something unique, people aren't likely to travel great distances to shop at your store. E-commerce removes the limitations of geography and allows you to sell to people all over the country and the rest of the world. The ability to use mobile devices to shop online further eliminates geographical limitations and allows people to shop literally anywhere.
Aside from the obvious elimination of expensive retail space, e-commerce can save you money in other ways, including:
As your expenses decrease, you can also choose to pass on all or a portion of the saving to the customers. The lower prices may drive an increase in sales.
One huge benefit of e-commerce for consumers is the ability to locate the products their looking for almost instantly. Your customers won't need to spend time browsing the store or asking staff to help locate an item. They can perform a quick search that takes them directly to the product. Many online stores also make it easy for customers to locate items in their purchase history, which makes repeat purchases super easy.
Comparison shopping is also very convenient with e-commerce. Consumers can visit multiple stores from the comfort of their living rooms and evaluate the merchants they're considering. Online merchants that are on-the-ball will win more than their share of this business by providing useful, relevant information during the buyer's journey.
With an e-commerce platform, you can keep your store open 24 hours a day, seven days a week without worrying about the stress of overworking yourself and your employees. Customers can do their shopping and make purchases at any time. This makes your customers' lives easier, particularly if they don't ordinarily have much time to go to the stores.
These are just some of the many benefits that e-commerce can deliver to your business and customers.
There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic will have some permanent impact on the world of e-commerce. Many businesses have been forced to shift to entirely remote work environments. Customers, who have been unable to visit physical retail locations, have become accustomed to shopping exclusively online.
We've seen just how invaluable e-commerce is as businesses and consumers alike have become increasingly reliant on it for months. A recent Forbes article noted that U.S. retailers' online year-over-year revenue growth was up 49% in early January. That was before the arrival of COVID-19. Since the arrival of the virus, many companies have recommitted to optimizing their e-commerce strategy. Other companies have reconsidered their approach to e-commerce and have embarked on a journey to introduce an online store for the first time, or have significantly expanded their catalog to include products they haven't offered for sale online in the past.
The virus has accelerated the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce. The convenience, capabilities, and cost-effective nature of online shopping make e-commerce an integral part of the consumer experience. The growth rate of online orders will continue to increase for the foreseeable future.
If you want your e-commerce store to perform well during and after these uncertain times, here are some ways you can strengthen your online presence.
Stay in tune with what your shoppers are looking for. Online shippers will often look for as much information as they can find about the products that interest them. Make sure your product pages and website are providing content that will help them make an informed decision. If they feel like their questions are unanswered, they'll go elsewhere and may not return to your online store to make the purchase.
If you haven't already done so, introduce live chat and staff it properly. People love the convenience of chat, and it's a terrific lead capture tool. Use a chatbot to answer questions when you're not available for online chat. Many chatbots can handle fairly complex logic and can answer a wide array of questions when configured correctly.
Consider using a tool like HubSpot for marketing and sales enablement. It will enable you to be highly responsive to your prospects and customers, and react to changes in their online shopping behavior. It will also keep your team connected and working efficiently, whether they're working in the office or from home.
If you want to maximize your company's online visibility without spending a lot of your marketing budget on paid ads and other efforts, maximize your ROI by developing and implementing a strong SEO campaign.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tedious discipline. If you aren't knowledgeable about it, you should enlist the help of someone who is. Done correctly, SEO can increase the number of qualified, interested prospects visiting your website by improving your performance on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Using SEO to drive organic traffic takes a while to do, but the benefits are truly amazing. When you invest in paid advertising, like Pay-Per-Click (PPC), the traffic disappears as soon as your budget is depleted. An SEO optimized content marketing campaign will create content that will attract free traffic to your site for years at a fraction of the cost of PPC. A good content marketing can take about a year to have an impact on your organic search traffic, so you have to be patient and stay the course.
As more and more people rely on e-commerce to do their shopping, implementing a strong SEO campaign will be the key to keeping ahead of your competition.
Eniture Technology specializes in helping e-Commerce merchants grow by providing useful information, digital marketing services, off-the-shelf apps that solve common problems, and custom programming services. Please contact us if you need help growing your online business or implementing the concepts presented in this blog post.
Interested in learning more? Start with our free guide on how to increase online sales, and subscribe to our blog!
© 2015 Eniture LLC. All rights reserved.