What’s the single most important factor to know about a post-pandemic retail landscape?
It’s the customers who drive a product. Not the marketers.
This might seem obvious now. But it wasn’t always. In a time in which the mere survival of any brick and mortar retailer depends on adapting to online sales, that adaptation also means conforming to the rules of a unique landscape—a landscape which is entirely customer driven and customer focused. It’s a democratic landscape, in which heavy handed marketing tactics are becoming increasingly obsolete. It’s an innovative landscape, in which flexibility and attentiveness are fundamental. And it’s a landscape which many traditional retailers have difficulty confronting.
Not that we can blame them. Trends in eCommerce can shift so rapidly, they can seem virtually impossible to unravel. But your retail survival depends on it. Even as early as May 2020, it was estimated that eCommerce would account for as much as 10 percent of all grocery sales by the end of the year. And that number is only expected to increase. In a world where eCommerce is no longer about convenience but necessity, a frictionless interaction is absolutely mandatory.
The dilemma of eCommerce isn’t about how marketers can reach an audience, but about how they can reach them more effectively. And if you’re a small brand, you are your own marketer—like it or not. What does the future hold for eCommerce in 2021?
Celebrity Endorsements and the Social Media Hustle
Despite early predictions to the contrary, the influencer market isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s a market that was recently estimated to be worth as much as $15 Billion by the end of 2022. And it’s a market that’s inherently driven by social value, not traditional campaigns. But social value is driven by personal connections, resulting in the prevalence of micro influencers and subcategories that haven’t even been named yet. In social influence, authenticity counts for everything.
Big name brands might often rely on leveraging high profile celebrity endorsements as part of their influencer campaigns. But smaller brands are aware their social value is defined by a more personal sense of engagement. And Kim Kardashian isn’t going to drive as much traffic as the influencer who built their following organically. In 2021, celebrity endorsements on social media won’t be defined by net worth as much as relatability. Customers relate more to a high traffic blogger than a high visibility media mogul—and in social commerce, it’s the underdog who holds sway.
People Will (Continue to) Have the Power
As social commerce continues to soar to unprecedented heights, the need for retailers to adopt technology platforms which reflect personalization is becoming more critical—but also more challenging. It’s been estimated that 56 percent of all online shoppers are more likely to return to a site which offers personalized recommendations. Unfortunately, many larger brands rely on personalized technology tactics which can seem as invasive as they are ineffective.
Data will always be at the forefront of personalization technology. And that’s not going to change in 2021. But there’s a tremendous difference between data mining and more general personalization solutions which still embrace human touch points—yet don’t rely on the extraction of personal data. Tactics such as utilizing PPC alongside programmatic advertising tools such as demand side platforms can help minimize concerns over data harvesting while still crafting a campaign which is informed by consumer behavior.
Fulfillment May Take Center Stage—But At What Cost?
Customer focus may be the single most significant driver in eCommerce. But customers are becoming increasingly demanding in both shopping habits and fulfillment services. Millennial consumers may have spending power (an estimated $1.4 Trillion in 2020) but they’re also the first generation to be raised on eCommerce. Subsequently, their expectations shape digital commerce for any and every online shopper. Everything from sustainable packaging to free returns and shipping aren’t just value added features. They’re standards, with 75 percent of US consumers indicating they expect shipping to be free on online orders—even on purchases under $50.
But those standards can come at a price. 2020’s surge in online orders sparked an inventory glut of overseas shipments congesting the three most significant maritime ports in the US, prompting an investigation from the Federal Maritime Commission. The demand for big warehouses soared by 51 percent in the first half of 2020 as many merchant fulfilled services reported being overwhelmed by orders. And the recent announcement of rate surcharges from FedEx and UPS for high volume shippers has made free next day delivery increasingly cost prohibitive, leading many sellers to reconsider alternative third party logistics in lieu of traditional fulfillment providers.
Yet at the same time, a recent Ipsos poll indicated two thirds of Americans are more likely to purchase a product with sustainable packaging and are willing to pay extra for it. And it’s logical to assume that price advantage will become increasingly less of a factor in 2021 as companies pivot towards a socially and environmentally conscious focus.
As customer fulfillment demands increase, it’s critical that digital merchants need to adapt accordingly in order to survive. At the same time, abrupt and unexpected changes are inevitable. Reimagining the interplay between merchant and provider in supply chain management may involve both creativity and flexibility. But there’s one crucial factor which drives both in a post-pandemic world.
Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.