COVID-19 stole the show because of its massive impact across the globe. Focusing on retail and ecommerce, in particular, there were monumental shifts that led us into innovation and growth in the next year. I would also refer to these as the cardinal rules to survive in ecommerce in 2021.
In January 2020, it was business as usual. By the end of the quarter, retail was turned on its head. Humble items that we take advantage of and deemed of little value like hand sanitizer and toilet paper were almost impossible to keep in stock. The world literally freaked out!
Due to shutdowns, physical stores could have been sitting on a goldmine of surplus but were unable to move products without an online presence. As a result, they missed out on the opportunity.
Fast forward a few months and we see that the game of supply and demand greatly changed. The innovators found a never-ending demand for their products in the realm of ecommerce, while those that could not or would not adapt, struggled to attract the traffic needed to stay in the black.
While many fell on hard times, others saw an opportunity and pivoted their digital marketing and advertising strategies to reach their current and NEW customers. No matter where they were located – down the street, across town, or around the world – the businesses that reacted the fastest survived.
You can see just how dramatic this shift was by looking at charts like these. Bank of America and the US Department of Commerce indicated that ecommerce market penetration had grown more in eight weeks than in the past decade!
You can make changes quickly when you understand your supply and demand curve shifts. And with the right partners, you can sell to the world.
Let’s take a look at the trends that drove this accelerated growth and how they continue growth going forward.
Traditionally one has a physical store where they sell products, and if you are lucky, you have a chain or multiple stores. But as a brick and mortar, you are still limited by your store location in terms of where your foot traffic comes from.
Until this year, ecommerce made up between five and 25 percent of retail transactions. In 2020, we saw a shift towards a more even split of online and offline sales for many industries such as furniture and home furnishings, electronics and appliances, clothing and accessories, sporting goods, as well as books & music. Half online and half brick and mortar is a big deal.
This shift means having your brick and mortar listed on Google while also having an online shop – both delivering an online presence to attract customers wherever they are – whether they are in lockdown or not.
Advertising your online and offline stores is key in generating ongoing, virtual foot traffic. Amazon may be the go-to for many retailers, it also has the highest competition. So test out your advertising strategies and see what works best.
In 2021, this could mean advertising your products on Amazon together with running Google text ads and Google Shopping campaigns. Coupled together with multiple platforms, such as eBay and Microsoft Advertising (Bing) could be and is becoming the norm for many marketing strategies.
This may seem overwhelming when all laid out together, but there are channel feed management tools that automate, centralize, and manage the process allowing you to see everything and react quickly when necessary.
To generate in-person and digital traffic, you need a tried and tested advertising campaign running on several different marketplaces.
Influencers have been tested and many have failed. Do we need them? Depends on what you are selling. Nonetheless, there is no reason to flush money down the toilet if you cannot afford them.
With that, the biggest trend seen in ecommerce is the blurring lines between social media and retail. Just like social stories, social marketplaces have been popping up just as quickly.
Facebook Marketplace, Instagram Business, Snapchat ads, and even Youtube all want a piece of the pie and have quietly been gathering and utilizing vast amounts of user behavior statistics for their marketplaces.
We all have our different views on targeting buyers. User data is the key to ad targeting. Personally, I would much rather see, custom-tailored and targeted ads based on my interests than receive random irrelevant ads for a new blender I am not interested in purchasing.
Social platforms are opening up marketplaces and people are buying without the need for influencers. Depending on your products and buyers, you may want to test one or many to see which ones are right for you.
You can significantly boost your sales by advertising live stock updates from your physical stores on Google Shopping. As mentioned earlier, online channels are key to help support your business.
However, you can take this support a step further by utilizing Local Inventory Ads (LIA) to attract local interest. LIA offers you the chance to show up in local search queries and advertise your stock online for anyone near you to purchase. It’s a great way to advertise special offers, sales, or even seasonal events.
Google developed local inventory ads to mix online stores and offline brick and mortars together. The LIA becomes visible (on their smartphone or laptop) when a potential customer is close (within 50km/31 miles) to an offline store.
LIA directs foot traffic to where your inventory actually is – so if products are out of stock online, but your brick and mortar has inventory, customers will be directed to where there is supply.
With LIA, you can integrate your online shop with your offline stores based on inventory. LIA coupled with traditional and online advertising can create the perfect combination of exposure and outreach to help your business thrive. Additionally, LIA helps customers stay and support their local shops.
2020 was about how ecommerce businesses can use digital tools to increase their agility, adaptability, and exposure. This year has shown that necessity facilitates change as what we saw happened in weeks – not years.
Anyone who has either a brick and mortar store, online store, or both need to tap into the digital tools available to survive. Online marketplaces, channel feed management, digital marketing, social selling – all while working in tandem with Google and Microsoft are the key to survival today and thriving in the future.
Rob Van Nuenen is the CEO at Channable, a leading global ecommerce platform provider for digital marketers, brands and online retailers.
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