How Brands Can Meet New E-Commerce Expectations

As COVID-19 upended consumers’ lives, a host of new shopping behaviours have emerged. While some behaviours were driven by necessity, an interesting phenomenon has occurred: people found they prefer many of these new options, such as working remotely from the comfort of their home and found favour with shopping online.

How Brands Can Meet New E-Commerce Expectations
How Brands Can Meet New E-Commerce Expectations. Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

Forward-thinking brands must reconsider how engagement with consumers takes place to successfully capture more loyal shoppers. In this article, discover how to meet your ideal customers at the intersection of their shopping needs and shopping behaviours using our road map. This article explores:

  • The key to winning market share – satisfying shoppers’ needs
  • Three strategies to re-imagine digital marketing and increase the likelihood of converting sales
  • A new solution to allow brands to be more present with shoppers across all stages of the shopping journey

Table of contents

The new online shopper is… prolific.
The new online shopper is… loyal.
The new online shopper is… frugal.
But, the new online shopper also has high expectations.
Satisfy Shoppers’ Needs
Strategy 1: Focus on contextual and time relevance when engaging with consumers.
Strategy 2: Implement a loyalty-rewards element.
Strategy 3: Drive incrementality.

As COVID-19 has upended consumers’ lives and routines, a host of new behaviours have emerged during shelter-in-place. While some have been driven by necessity, an interesting phenomenon has occurred — people have found they prefer many of these new options, such as cooking from scratch or working remotely from the comfort of their home — and certainly found favour with shopping online.

But as businesses begin to reopen, theoretically allowing consumers to return to their previous omnichannel habits, we face the trillion-dollar question: What do these recently adopted patterns mean for the long term?

And, even more critically, how can brands evolve their business strategy to ensure new online shopping preferences dovetail with their current online consumer-engagement plan?

Forward-thinking brands of all sizes must reconsider how business engagement with consumers takes place to successfully capture more loyal shoppers and more growth.

“Consumers benefit when they have the opportunity to engage more directly online with the brands they love and organically discover new brands,” said Celiena Adcock, Director, GTM & Partner Marketing at online shopping platform Honey. “It’s essential to create a healthy ecosystem where online retailers can engage shoppers more authentically and directly that allows them to own the brand experience, instead of solely relying on one intermediary distributor.” Consider this your road map to the success you’ll find by focusing on the mutual benefits of a strategy that meets your ideal customer at the intersection of their shopping needs and behaviour.

The new online shopper is… prolific.

As brick-and-mortar stores closed, the move to online shopping accelerated — to the tune of an 18% increase, according to eMarketer. Its recently updated forecast pegs e-commerce’s share of 2020 retail sales to reach 14.5%, which is an all-time high and the biggest share increase in a single year. In 2019, for example, e-commerce’s share of retail was 11%, an increase of 15% from 2018.

E-Commerce’s Growth Skyrockets:

  • 18% Increase in Growth
  • 14.5% E-commerce share of retail sales

“COVID-19 took trends that were going to happen but accelerated them in an unprecedented way as people adapted to new ways of shopping,” said Erica Thompson Moran, president and owner of ACIRE, a retail and digital marketing consultancy. “Even those who hadn’t been previously enthusiastic adopters discovered that online shopping is easy and convenient.”

Data from McKinsey asserts that the industry vaulted five years forward in digital adoption in just the first eight weeks of the pandemic.

The new online shopper is… loyal.

According to research from Honey, 80% of its members continued to shop their favourite brands online as they had before COVID-19 hit. “It highlights that their loyalty to specific brands did not waver, despite growing economic uncertainty,” Adcock said.

“In the months since the pandemic, 15% of those members who are shopping their favourite stores are browsing and shopping more than they have historically,” she added.

Thompson Moran said that brand loyalty was a byproduct of people’s general mood and their yearning for assurance. “Credibility is really important to consumers who are considering whom they want to let into their home via package or computer. They want it to be a brand they know and trust.”

Consumers Remain Brand Loyal:

  • 80% of Honey members continued to shop their favourite brands online
  • 15% were browsing and shopping more

The new online shopper is… frugal.

Nearly half of households have seen a decline in income, and an additional quarter foresees a future hit, according to marketing firm Kantar. To help bridge the gap, they expect brands to lend a hand: 45% believe companies should offer discounts or promotions as consumers grapple with the downturn.

“We find people who are shown a Honey Offer are nearly three times more likely to convert than those who aren’t. And we’re also seeing that shoppers who redeem an offer are 91% more likely to return to that store within seven days, showing an incredible increase in loyalty,” Adcock said. “Our data shows incentives and deals from brands consumers care about are increasing engagement in this changing landscape.”

Consumers Crave a Deal:

  • 45% believe companies should offer discounts or promotions
  • Nearly 3x increased conversion rate of shoppers shown a Honey Offer
  • 91% more likely to shop the same store again within 7 days

But, the new online shopper also has high expectations.

Today’s shoppers have increased expectations, Thompson Moran noted. “In this environment, shoppers will be less forgiving of inferior service,” she cautioned. For example, consumers are bound to be frustrated when shopping with a brand with whom they’ve previously done business that doesn’t offer a level of personalization. “Savvy brands find opportunities to create a deeper relationship,” she said. “If I’m shopping women’s apparel and I’ve already invested the time in a certain brand and they indicate they know me and my preferences, I’m pretty captured.”

Added Adcock, “This now-near complete dependence on online retail has revealed challenges in the online-shopping model at every stage of the consumer journey, which in many cases has resulted in suboptimal experiences for customers.”

And that means that while e-commerce has attracted more people, shoppers aren’t shy about shining a glaring eye on its drawbacks, thus forcing companies to consider how to make it better, Thompson Moran said.

Fortunately, there are ways brands can level up their experience to inspire passion and loyalty among shoppers.

Satisfy Shoppers’ Needs

The Key to Winning Market Share?

While consumers are shopping online in droves, are they shopping with you? Brands have the opportunity to gain market share by helping consumers seamlessly move from consideration to purchase, but they have to give consumers an incentive to do so.

Here are three strategies that allow brands to re-imagine digital marketing and increase their likelihood of converting sales.

Strategy 1: Focus on contextual and time relevance when engaging with consumers.

Push versus pull is the classic, well, tug of war in marketing. But consumers today want to make their own decisions, rather than being sold to. “What if we halted pushing our brands to consumers and, instead, focus on pulling them in with offers that are relevant to their habits and behaviours at different times throughout the day?” Adcock said.

For example, a consumer receiving a pizza deal via email at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday sees it as spam. ”But if they receive the same incentive in the form of a reward while ordering pizza online on Friday night, you’ve made their day.”

Strategy 2: Implement a loyalty-rewards element.

Providing value back to users is a key lever in driving purchases, but many shoppers have become overwhelmed and disillusioned with programs that don’t offer a convincing advantage. That’s especially an issue for speciality retailers, whom you might shop only a few times a year, meaning you’re unlikely to accrue the points required for significant savings. “You need frequency for a loyalty program to work; otherwise, you risk disenfranchising the consumer and losing engagement,” Thompson Moran said.

One solution is a “coalition program,” where brands partner for a joint loyalty program or participate on a site such as Honey, where members earn “Gold” (redeemable via gift cards) no matter which merchant they shop with.

Strategy 3: Drive incrementality.

The one-and-done shopper presents a challenge to most brands because their behaviour makes it hard to nurture a real relationship. In contrast, garnering repeat customers leads to the higher average order value and a deeper relationship that breeds loyalty.

Source: Industry Dive Brand Studio

Published by Jeannette Scott

, a wellness coach specializing in stress management and quality of life. She’s covered topics from nutrition to psychology, from sexuality to autoimmune diseases and cancer.