So, you thought e-commerce wasn’t for you?
That customers will always pour into your store and do business with you in spite of growing digital trends?
That you don’t need to invest in this new fad that will pass anyway?
With Covid causing people to work from home and shopfronts to close, e-commerce is now the new norm. E-commerce websites are not just an experiment, they are a must have if you want to survive in today’s challenging environment.
Australian statistics that should get you thinking
The way people research and buy products has been changing in the last decade and the 2020s will mark a definitive turn towards online shopping, whether products are delivered at home, at click-and-collect centres or self-service boxes. Even if the entire purchasing process is not conducted remotely, online tools such as e-commerce websites will be involved during at least one stage of the buying process.
Here are some of the things that have changed in the last few months:
- Australia Post says online shopping has increased by 80% since last year.
- Working from home has also changed shoppers’ behaviour, with Australia Post finding an increase in orders placed between 2:00pm and 5:00pm, and a decrease in those placed between 7:00pm and 10:00pm.
- Foot traffic in shopping malls and high streets has plummeted — in the week starting April 6, it was down 93.6% compared with the same time last year, according to Kepler Analytics.
- Boston Consulting Group surveyed Australian consumers in late April and found that 76% of people now shop online, compared to 39% four years ago. This new approach to buying essentials as well as other consumer goods has developed dramatically during the lockdown period, with the same survey uncovering that older Australian consumers began shopping online for the first time in their lives.
Customers have already changed their behaviour
It has been said that it takes 21 days to start a new habit. Many argue against this magical number, but one thing is for sure; once you get used to a new situation, you tend to stick with the new status quo and maintain your behaviour.
Experts were already warning at the beginning of the Covid crisis that circulation restrictions will encourage people to buy online and ditch the traditional way of shopping. “There’s a lot of people who have been forced into a new behaviour, and one in three of the consumers we surveyed said that they would continue this behaviour, indeed they would increase their digital purchasing over the next 12 months.” says Monica Wegner from Boston Consulting Group.
Both businesses and customers used to be reluctant about e-commerce websites before the Covid crisis, but the shift towards online has accelerated in the last few months. The fact that retailers themselves invested in their online stores, combined with lockdown restrictions, has pushed consumers to become gradually more comfortable with online shopping experiences and start ordering products that they traditionally accessed in physical stores.
How is this situation affecting businesses?
Some retailers had already invested in their online infrastructure in recent years and were prepared to offer incentives such as free shipping, free returns and ‘buy online, pick up in store’ services to attract shoppers.
Others were unprepared and are now having to pour cash into online avenues, consumers on the other hand have lost income and have been reducing non-essential spending.
However, there is hope, as both businesses and consumers have always found ways to work around difficult situations. The most effective ways for unprepared businesses to mitigate losses caused by the Covid crisis include:
– Saving money on rent by choosing not to renew expiring leases and accepting store closures where losses are too great;
– Converting stores to dark stores – stores are no longer open to the public but work as a warehouse and logistics centre for online orders and store teams are converted to local delivery teams;
– Creating click and collect pop-ups;
– Offering phone ordering if e-commerce websites are not reliable yet;
– Developing functional online stores even if they have to start from scratch. Businesses dealing with difficulties will be those that have not invested in e-commerce at all, such as those selling essential items like groceries, pharmacy products and other categories that were traditionally provided in brick and mortar stores exclusively.
The retail sectors experiencing the greatest post-covid-19 growth are grocery, health and beauty, recreational goods, and home wares and appliances. Apparel retail was already well-developed before the crisis, and automotive retailers will still see customers dropping in at showrooms and physical stores due to selling higher-value goods and requiring less social interaction.
What about you?
If you are a retail shop struggling to make ends meet, you definitely need an e-commerce website!
It may be difficult to put money and effort into e-commerce right now, but it will be the most productive for your business in the long run.
Benefits of having an e-commerce website include:
- Reaching an online market
- Customers are increasingly researching products online
- With online research having acquired such prominence, the gap between research and conversion decreases due to increased accessibility;
- impulse buying is even more pertinent when consumers are researching products online as e-commerce websites are readily available for purchases, anytime of the day or night.
- Customer benefits – Customers love e-commerce websites for multiple reasons:
- easily shopping for essentials
- a way to pass free time
- benefiting from discounts and special offers
- locating items with ease
- not having to physically interact with other shoppers or staff while shopping or making purchase decisions
- saving time and money as there is no need to travel to physical stores anymore.
- It makes more sense for your business – E-commerce websites provide a wide range of advantages to businesses:
- lower set up costs
- being able to operate online stores from anywhere
- offering analytic tools to determine which products are selling successfully
- no opening time restrictions
- being more measurable than other sales approaches
- having higher margins
- ensuring better cash flow
- You are prepared in case lock down happened again
Nobody wants this to happen, but public health experts and epidemiologists warn that the corona virus will continue to be an issue for another couple of years and several waves will likely come, requiring new lock down periods. This is why this is the time to digitise your business and be online ready. If your business is already vulnerable, another lock down period could likely cause its failure and permanent closure.
If you don’t have an E-commerce website yet, ask yourself what is the reason you haven’t taken this step yet.
In most cases, business owners have avoided developing the e-commerce side of their company due to lack of time and low budgets. Implementing a new direction into a business is often seen as resource-intensive and it is common for most people to be wary of change.
Visual Marketing Australia can help with that and take the stress out of starting an e-commerce website. Contact us today and together we will start developing the functional, attractive e-commerce website your business needs to survive and thrive in any kind of crisis!