Here’s my round-up of the most interesting or important adaptations we’re seeing in the ecommerce sector in Q2 of 2020. I’ve included a list of journalists and ecommerce experts worth following as we prepare for what lies ahead, as well as useful supports and resources being made available across industry providers. If you have more — let me know. I’ll be updating this list regularly.
The COVID19 pandemic has placed retailers in a unique position. Shopping online is no longer about convenience — it’s about survival. As of March 24th, 1.6B people are in lockdown around the world. Exponential increases in growth and conversion levels across the ecommerce spectrum are widespread.
But are we really all that surprised by the surges in demand for things like bread makers, boardgames and webcams? Me, not so much.
What really matters?
What we should be really paying attention to are the seismic shifts in behaviour that have been driven by the economic forces at play in the world.
We should also be paying close attention to the new opportunities and innovations that are presenting themselves to retailers.
We should be preparing for the next wave of change, not reacting to the ones that have already passed us by. And we should be making our businesses as robust and relevant as possible. Because things are going to get worse before they get better.
We also should be asking ourselves, as an industry, how can we help each other to overcome the challenges ahead, and looking to those with the widest vision and perspective for guidance and support.
INSIGHT 1: Consumer Uncertainty is Increasing
It’s interesting to see how marketplaces are treating their sellers right now. Feedback from buyers has always been influential, and so how the biggest marketplaces have reacted to the current increases in negative feedback is interesting to say the least. With consumers shopping for their very survival — its not at all surprising to see that both pre-sales and post-sales queries have shot up. How many “where is my order?” emails have your team received. How connected are your internal teams to know the answers for first contact responses?
In analysis of over 40 million plus orders from March 2020 across all categories, eDesk — which makes customer support software — reported a 54% increase in customer support enquiries, compared to last year. (They’ve made their customer support software free until September)
Consumers are worried about supply chain, they’re worried about deliveries. Whether it’s an essential delivery of masks and cleaning products to a care home, or a stack of jigsaws to keep small hands busy in apartments in locked down cities, there are millions of customers frantically pinging suppliers with more questions than ever before. Feedback scores have a direct impact on marketplace sales rankings, especially on Amazon. And so for many, rankings are in freefall, with a direct impact on sales and revenue. However, eBay has offered some protection for sellers until June, as supply chains continue to be disrupted. On the flip side, Amazon has asked small retailers to stop sending them stock, because they’re focussing on ‘essential items’.
INSIGHT 2:Supply Chain and Warehousing Will Become the Linchpin for Sellers
As brands and marketplaces cope with overburdened demand and reduced capacity to deliver, with restrictions about workplace safety, and the increasing likelihood that workforces will be impacted by those that become unwell, consumer fears about order delivery delays are not unfounded. And so these issues should be prepared for. That means ensuring your customer communications are absolutely on point.
“Communications are directly attributed to your brand equity. Right now that equity is pure currency”.
Using every tool at your disposal to reassure your customers, to clearly manage their expectations and to ensure every touchpoint is as effective as possible. That means email marketing, social channel engagement and frequent and up to the moment liaison with your supply chain, so that you’re prepared to act before issues occur. Check out seller help from eBay and the seller support area for Amazon.
Ensuring your emails land in inboxes and not in promotion tabs or spam filters is no longer just a nice to have, it’s essential. Sensorpro are very smart in this area, and even if they’re not your email partner, their blog is a mine of useful information on email sending.
INSIGHT 3: We need to plan forward, not look back
What goes up, must come down. What we’re seeing right now is the online equivalent of panic buying and hoarding. At some stage, the unavoidable recession is going to land, and land hard. Consumers will likely curb the panic purchases we’re seeing in March and April. Quite simply, people are going to hang on to their cash. Retailers will need to think long and hard about how they are going to compete and in what areas. What can they offer consumers above and beyond the product and the need, to deliver the best value and experience.
Retailers that have survived the seismic shocks that have spread throughout our industry need now to start asking themselves where they can be the most relevant to their customers. What is going to assure them of a permanent place in their customer’s essential survival skills.
We also need to stop reacting and start planning for the future. For example, the hospitality sector has done well to market future vouchers, as a means to ensure business security in the future. Smart businesses have tapped into local markets, where there are less likely to be delivery concerns.
To do that, being informed and up to date is going to be important. These are the opinion leaders I look to for future insight.
People you should follow
Ina Steiner — Ecommerce Bytes Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She’s a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of “Turn eBay Data Into Dollars” follow her on Twitter.
Kevin Traynor — eComm Live was due to take place in May, one of the UK’s leading conferences for ecommerce. His podcast has some excellent speakers and has its finger on the pulse of what’s happening right now. Thursday speakers include: Noel Mack — Chief Brand Officer, Gymshark, Cassandra Stevens from Publicis Media and Scott Field from Facebook. What a lineup !
Rick Watson — Strategic eCommerce Consulting. Never wastes a post and has an amazing capacity to distribute useful macro information every single day.
Each week, I will be adding more people and insights to this list. You can add yourself to the mail list here: https://www.vinnyandco.com/
Resources and supports
- This Internet Retailing report demonstrates to some degree the levels of opportunism (invention) adopted by many brands and retailers.
- This report from Channel Advisor takes a deep dive into category level trend data — that is key.
- It’s worth bookmarking eBay’s news and updates page for sellers.