The pandemic has changed the eCommerce environment for retailers and brands across the board.
The slowing down of economic activity due to prolonged lockdowns and travel restrictions introduced as measures to combat COVID-19 influenced an overall surge in eCommerce throughout the globe, propelled by accelerated digital transformation in all sectors. As lockdowns became the new normal, businesses and consumers increasingly “went digital”.
A look at the eCommerce environment post-lockdown
When the coronavirus pandemic began, most businesses moved quickly to offer secure websites and delivery services to their customers desperately in need of essentials. The ones that did not cater to online purchases risked losing their customer base to competitors better equipped with eCommerce facilities at the time.
But along with the return to normalcy post-lockdown, most eCommerce businesses continued with online sales, partly because of the unpredictability of the pandemic situation, and partly because of altered customer demand. Businesses have witnessed continuous demand from customers who opt to stay safe and shop online, and those offline customers converted to online due to the ease of shopping from the comforts of their homes.
Maintaining this eCommerce momentum requires businesses to ensure that their online experience is as convenient, if not more so, than offline shopping.
In the November 2021 edition of The Knowledge Series by Antyra, Rohan Jayaweera dove in with an esteemed panel of marketing experts to discuss how businesses can hope to maintain this eCommerce momentum post lockdown whilst facing other challenges within this transition period.
Challenges faced by businesses that are new to eCommerce
It is expected that the trend towards e-commerce will continue to rise throughout the recovery from COVID-19, forcing brick-and-mortar retailers to reimagine their store experiences and adopt digital transformation.
Over the past few months, most Sri Lankan businesses were forced to switch from their offline-based operations to online in order to maintain their revenues.
Most new businesses in the eCommerce front were challenged with their ability to entice one-time customers to return for repeat purchases. This was mainly due to many setbacks ranging from unresponsive sites to delivery delays and inconsistency, leading to a number of customers being hesitant to make a complete transition.
Meanwhile, consumers new to the eCommmerce sphere have found it challenging to navigate the new landscape altogether.
Why eCommerce should evolve with the customer
Nilusha Fernando is Head of Marketing at Keells, one of the largest supermarket chains in Sri Lanka. In the webinar, she addresses the need for eCommerce processes to evolve with the consumer as the majority of consumers are new to this level of digital transformation.
Businesses undergoing this shift need to ensure their transition to e-commerce doesn’t alienate customers who are used to traditional shopping. It is also essential to clearly communicate the benefits of the shift to customers and employees. Businesses must shift to e-commerce at the right pace for their employees, customers, and brand. Those that adapt quickly will reap the benefits, but they must ensure continued transition well into the future.
“Your customer care centre would be a hotbed for consumer pain points. The feedback they leave after shopping or getting a delivery, to what your platform and tools are telling you, would really help you understand deeper what your customers are feeling as they shop with you. So, that would be a number one priority in terms of really working this journey.”
– Nilusha Fernando
How to successfully convert offline customers to online
Most businesses that are new to eCommerce struggle with converting their customers from offline to online. Especially when a customer has the option of visiting the store, the need to remain loyal to an online brand seems to diminish. Consumers would switch to a competing brand if it meant getting a better deal or a better service.
In response to this challenge, Aruni Abeysundere, General Manager E-Commerce, H&M Indonesia, emphasised the importance of “habit creation” when it comes to converting consumers from offline to online.
“With most consumers switching from offline to online, it’s all about habit creation. We need to understand how to sustain this habit and how to move forward.”
– Aruni Abeysundere
To successfully convert customers, eCommerce brands need to establish themselves as trusted entities. Establishing trust goes hand-in-hand with building consumer loyalty. While there are a million ways to build brand loyalty, one of the most impactful is establishing habits. Building a habit is all about repetition. Once a person has instilled a habit of repeatedly buying from a particular brand, it becomes exceedingly difficult to convince them to change brands.
The importance of after-sales service and customer communication in eCommerce
Niranka Perera, Co-Founder and CEO of Antyra Solutions, spoke about the need to improve specific areas in the current eCommerce landscape in order to provide an optimum experience to the customer. He stressed on the importance of seeing eCommerce as a process – from site speed to transactions and customer communications, to after-sales support – and how these factors contribute to a holistic customer experience.
In eCommerce, customers’ needs can be relatively complex, mainly if they buy from an unfamiliar retailer. But effective communication can minimise their hesitation and, in turn, persuade the customer to move forward with the purchase.
“When we talk about e-commerce, we talk about e-commerce as a process. It’s not just the experience of the website loading fast and adding something to the cart. It’s about completing the transaction, the payment methods, the customer communication, after-sale support fulfilment. All these areas need to come into place for us to holistically talk about an e-commerce experience.”
– Niranka Perera
Customer communication is predominantly important in after sales service, as it’s vital that the customer’s expectations are managed in the event they are unsatisfied with the purchase.
Whether through confirmation e-mails that inform the customer when to expect the delivery or following up after delivery, it’s imperative to make sure the customer receives some form of communication from the seller at the varying stages of their buying journey.
If the customer’s experience is positive, the retailer has an opportunity to gain their trust. And trust is the basis of building customer relationships that pay off in the long run.
Catch the full webinar recording on this discussion here and learn more about how to re-think e-commerce propositions to meet the long-term shift in customer purchasing habits post-Covid.