How can brands cater to new fans of eCommerce?

While shops have reopened, it is likely that many retailers will not return to business as usual for quite some time. Even with the rise in sales seen in early July following the reopening of pubs and restaurants, footfall was still below half of what it was this time last year. Restrictions such as limited entry and closed fitting rooms mean that the in-store experience will be quite different for months to come. On top of this, a significant proportion of consumers who turned to eCommerce out of lockdown necessity appear to have become permanent fans of online shopping.

Surprisingly for some, older shoppers make up a significant proportion of these new eCommerce converts. Recent research found that 70% of shoppers aged 56 years or older said they shopped online occasionally or rarely before lockdown. Yet nearly a third of this group now predict that after lockdown they will shop online more frequently than they did before March 2020. They’re far from alone — 42% of shoppers aged 36 to 45 say they’ll be shopping online more regularly than before, while this number rises to 59% for 26 to 35 year olds. 

Brands that provide a convenient online service will win the loyalty of this new wave and keep them coming back, even if shoppers are slow to flock to the high street. So how can digital channels, from social media to online marketplaces, be deployed to cater to eCommerce’s newest wave of fans?

Bring the store experience online

Brands can make the transition to digital much smoother by replicating an in-store experience as much as possible. Shoppers in the 56+ age range in particular are often the trickiest group to convert, as they are most accustomed to the in-store experience of assessing a potential purchase with their own eyes. Breakdown the barriers preventing them from making this assessment by ensuring your channels offer up-to-date product imagery and descriptions, as well as clear delivery and returns options. Optimising all of these details should be a priority for each product listing.

A huge advantage online has over in-store retail is readily available customer reviews. Amazon’s star rating is a tremendous example of how placing reviews front and centre assists in product comparison. Facilitating a customer’s research will help them find the right product while giving them the confidence to complete the purchase.

Shoppers are also being more adventurous with where they shop online. A quarter (25%) of survey respondents purchased items from retailers they had not shopped with before and 30% purchased items they hadn’t bought online before. Selling on more sites not only helps to reach a broader audience base, it eliminates your dependency on any one site, making you more protected against future disruptions.

Deploy traditional marketing methods

Despite online shopping’s growth in recent years, many shoppers have regarded a quick high street browse as the more convenient and accessible option for years. This has now changed as retailers rightly incorporate Covid-19 restrictions around limited entry into their bricks and mortar locations. In order to offer a significantly more convenient online experience to customers, brands must now ensure they provide quickly accessible, browsable digital shopfronts, not just through their own dedicated websites but across channels.

Marketing messaging needs to be completely transparent and consistent across all channels. Certain messaging or content targeted at one specific group can alienate another, so should be re-assessed with a diverse audience in mind and in light of the global context. Advertising swimwear at a crowded beach could make the product seem inappropriate to much of your audience during the era of social distancing. Simply put, brands need to be where their consumers are across a diverse channel mix and provide befitting messaging.

A great way to connect with customers is to produce authentic and helpful content. With the majority of people now spending more time at home, there has been a surge in customers browsing tools and hardware for DIY projects. Many homeware brands have created specific DIY guides on using tools and completing projects, sharing expertise while fostering a trusting consumer relationship.

Meet product demand

Consumer shopping habits have altered rapidly since the beginning of March, and continue to fluctuate across product categories. It can be difficult to predict the next spike, but with the right data collection tools, brands can easily measure their own product performance across age groups to see who is purchasing what. This information, alongside industry data, can be used to make well-informed business decisions from inventory management to marketing priorities.

Brands doing this can identify a whole new audience segment visiting their product pages and it may also point towards new product launches. Our research found that shoppers with disposable income are still purchasing luxury items online, meaning the focus doesn’t have to just be on essential products. Through narrowing the reporting window, brands can reassess their ad spend on a more frequent basis to help drive demand for particular products and product categories. For example, fashion brands might find a surge in casual wear now that restaurants are beginning to re-open, and at least temporarily, redirect spend from their underperforming product ranges. 

There were high hopes that the reopening of bricks and mortar locations would provide a welcome reprieve for retail. While any sales should be welcomed it will likely be some time before footfall returns to pre-Covid levels. Digital channels offered a much-needed lifeline to brands during lockdown, and research indicates that online avenues will continue to provide a much-needed revenue stream in the months ahead. It has never been more important that brands ensure that their digital channels are firing on all cylinders and are set up to attract and retain this new generation of online shoppers.