There is no silver bullet. Heard that one before, but it is true. eCommerce is tough, relentless and broad. I get disheartened when I see the #shoplocal raise it's head once a year. It feels a bit like the boy who cried wolf. This time, we really mean it. Over the last 2 years, there have been many new entrants to the #ecommerce space, through necessity, not design.
We have operationalised ecommerce for many. Being able to transact is a good first step. The marketing required to get this to scale is extremely challenging. Every marketing channel has it's own nuance and required skills. We don't, as a small island with no education policy for ecommerce, have the volume of skilled people to deliver on this.
We don't have the culture to support it and we are not trusting of long term plans. If you couple that with the general fatigue people are feeling, this makes the outlook for 2022 even more challenging. We are fatigued from life, from pandemics, from work and from learning. Recovery from this won't be happening soon.
You think you are ready for eCommerce? Benchmark yourself now.
So what for 2022?
#Supplychain problems will mount. The shape of your selling year will be different. #COVID has not gone away. We need to prepare our marketing and brand strategy to match this. Here is my problem with marketing.
#ShopLocal has become a calling card for many during the last few months. We need to earn the right to get in front of people. #Shoplocal has it's place but thinking about the first sale only leads to unprofitability. In Christmas 2020, I made just shy of 40 purchases in Nov/Dec. I had 2 follow ups from brands in Jan/Feb. The profile of my purchasing reduced this year (closer to 25 purchases) and for the most part, I have received no follow up marekting, none. I check my spam daily with gleeful delight sure that something will land, but, no, nothing.
Retargeting, rarely happens and loyalty is not properly rewarded. Shoplocal is centered around 1 seasonal peak. We need to be prepared to market year round. We need to earn the right to ask people to #Shoplocal next Christmas. You earn that right through service, customer experience and being interactive.
Ireland should Co-Op
In 2011, I wrote about this for the first time. Ireland, as a retail economy should dvelop co-ops for ecommerce. Shared services, mean economies of scale. What do I mean? Specificaly, 3-4 regional warehouses - to house stock. Aggregate the demand and get better pick/pack and ship rates. By my best guess, MicksGarage could support this, Autofulfil and more. There are enough cold rooms around the country to facilitate chilled delivery and for once tackle that beast. But it is achievable with strong integrations and co-operation. By taking this approach, you open up export possibilities, that just do not exist today - they cannot exist today. This is new revenue creation - this is how economies grow.
Next up marketing. Imagine having a top class agency managing a budget of €50 a week across a client pool of 2000 small retailers. What kind of efficiency could be gained by that one small action? The variable skills you need at any point in time are huge. You need many small parts of multiple skill sets in play, all of the time.
Customer service a 24/7 CS service could provide remote working jobs for people who need flexibility in their lives, whatever the circumstance.
I am being very simplistic, but at its core this is the essence of delivering profitable ecommerce. A Co-Op could have a real loyalty programme - where delivery could be paid annually and you get all these other services built around it - access to local gigs, money off cinema trips - tie in tourism etc.
Amazon is coming to town ...
It's trading when you are sleeping, it knows we are not awake - forgive my festive breakout. Amazon's arrival in April will cause disruption. I started working in marketplaces in 2007 in eBay. I was hooked from day 1 - the scale, the simplicity and the opportunity. Ireland's retailers and brand owners have not just resisted marketplaces, but have said eBay = fleabay ... Amazon - customers don't like it, they will shop with me. Or, it is too difficult.
These marketplaces combined enjoy over 50M visits per month in our neighbouring market, the UK. They have set up requirements and standards way above what we aim at for ourselves. Both sites will rank you on your service proposition over your sales ability - this is a great signal to us that service matters, in fact, good service trumps everything else.
Amazon is not something you take on. You plan for it. You determine the possible paths forward and you plan for it. You will have to. That is where we will spend alot of 2022. Helping you plan and sell through Amazon.
Shopify is not ecommerce
Shopify has done an amazing job over the last 2 years. Marketing itself, building an eco system, onboarding retailers, being an affordable channel. Why does it work so well? It is an enabler. That is how we should be thinking about ecommerce. As an enabler. That is how we should be thinking of tech.
Things to watch in 2022
#Livestreaming or video shopping are becoming very valuable playing grounds for brands.
TikTok now has 1.5B users - this is a platform you need to pay attention to.
The Rise of Retail Media - watch for your retail partners becoming ad platforms. As written by me during the week.
Talent will be harder to come by.
#eCommerce will be dropped by many.
Finally, the media and others will jump in and start telling us that ecommerce has burst. eCommerce is still embryonic for most. The tools of it have become more ubiquitous - payment systems, email (use Sensorpro) so the ways we use ecommerce are becoming more widespread. We need to take that principle as a small economy and determine a collective strategy for us all. This is how we can take all the good things that we have partially learned over the last few months, and build on it.
Happy Christmas, stay safe and healthy.