The extended lockdown has forced customers online but what does COVID-19 mean for eCommerce? Everyone is aware about that COVID-19 has been blamed for the downfall of several giant retailers but what does it actually mean for eCommerce? There was quite a discussion on this matter with a good number of experts to find out in detail which was organized by BusinessCloud. It’s been described as the retail sector’s apocalypse.

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“We’re seeing a huge shift in what consumers are saying. For example if we look at cosmetics we see some subjects are no longer discussed. People don’t talk about promotions but they do talk about long-lasting and moisturizing. People care about how the product is performing. People are talking differently about product. The rate between sales and online reviewing is higher than ever. We speculate that people have more time to write a review. They care more about deliverability and service. Post COVID-19 new products will have to be introduced in a faster way to accelerate the change in consumer taste. We also expect brands to go direct to consumers and they’ll expect it faster than ever.” Said Alon Ghelber, CMO of Israeli tech firm Revuze – which has built a machine-learning system to analyze customer opinion.

“We made the decision to invest in advertising because there was going to be demand for anything that promoted social distancing, like traffic cones and barriers. We moved budgets around into areas that were going to be more beneficial and we’ve had quite a big take-up of that. Customers have done a Google search and we’ve been there first time, every time, providing a swift service. I think after COVID-19 you’re going to see companies with a large scale and cash reserves in the bank, look to swallow up smaller independents.” Said Sam Eastwood, founder of online business Street Solutions UK – which sells traffic products.

“We’ve always based our business model on the assumption that online penetration will continue to increase. I’m generalizing but the older generation are getting more used to shopping online. Post COVID-19 I think people will continue to expect things like next-day delivery and a lot of retailers are going to have to adjust their logistics model. There needs to be a lot of investment in UX.” Said Matt Mawdesley, strategy and innovation lead at online electricals giant ao.com

“Had this hit us five years ago we wouldn’t be here now, that’s for sure. Diversification has, without doubt, saved us on so many fronts. In terms of discretionary spend, every one of us is holding back a little bit. In terms of our clients there was a real slowdown at the end of March and since Easter conversations have started back up again. There’s a real focus on how we’re going to come out of this. If you look at Primark they had sales of £650m in March and nothing in April. Surely they’ll have to accelerate their online presence. Post COVID-19 the retailers that engage with their customers and care for them will be the winners going forward. Independents have a large opportunity to get their messaging right and take market share.” Said Jayne Riley, head of creative content agency Seventy7 Group – which plans, creates, delivers and optimizes content for retailers.

“We were a traditional wholesale business and we delivered the goods direct to the customers on our vehicles. We were pretty much a logistics company at the same time. We didn’t have any eCommerce. Then COVID-19 came along and we build an eCommerce platform in three days! Our sales team is working hard to shift stock. One of the big challenges we have is we have a 20,000 sq ft warehouse full of food. We know we had to move quickly. What we’ve realised is how important our supplier relationships have been.” Said by Hannah Barlow, joint MD of multi-million pound turnover food wholesaler Dunsters Farm, in Bury. It pivoted its business to become eCommerce when COVID-19 struck.

“We’re heavily reliant on our suppliers still being active and being able to ship. In terms of life post COVID-19 I think eCommerce will continue to grow but there will be a different demographic to the traditional online user.” Said Gareth Monger, operations manager at Bolton-based Ladderstore – which specialize in all things to do with working at height safely.

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“People are staring over the precipice into eCommerce and there’s no going back once they’ve done it. We’ll see a lot more people coming out of this trading online. Small retailers can’t afford not to be doing this now. The other thing is the pace of change will accelerate even more. COVID-19 has opened people’s eyes to what can be achieved in a short period of time.” Said David Herington, CEO of Barrow-based eCommerce business Etail Systems – which is offering ‘pop up online shops’ to SMEs during the pandemic.

“Consumers want to use adverts more than ever. It gives them reassurance. If the company is advertising it’s got stock and you can get the product to them. The other thing with eCommerce at the moment is every day is the same. For most eCommerce businesses you’d see dips on perhaps a Thursday or a Friday evening because they’re going out. Now every day is the same. There’s no peaks and troughs. Post COVID-19 I think we’ll continue to see the rise of the independents. This has been an opportunity for many independent brands to break out because a lot of big companies have stopped operating.” Said Mike Blackburn, managing director of digital marketing agency I-COM – which creates eCommerce platforms.

“I’ve been doing this for 12 years or so and I’ve never seen CPMs of £1-£2 since 2008/2010. CPM stands for Cost Per Thousand and is a marketing term to denote the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one webpage. The going rate is £6-£12 normally. At peak times like Black Friday and Christmas you’re going to be looking at £10-£15. At the moment CPMs are £1 even for high demand audiences like children. I’ve got some tiny clients who are doing testers for £10 a day and they’re coming out at 2p-a-click. When I look at the analytics the bounce rate is tiny. I’ve never seen such cheap traffic and so much time being spent on site. The number of people using eCommerce has expanded and will probably continue after the restrictions are lifted.” Said Nikki Hesford, managing director of Hesford Media and an expert in digital PR, PPC and Facebook advertising

“You’re going to find a lot of businesses will take a step back out of fear. When others step back, you step forward and fill that gap. As an agency, we’re seeing good opportunities. We’ll be recruiting coming out of this. I think we’ll see some really good talent out there. I think there’s an opportunity for anyone who thinks smartly. Post COVID-19 I think at board level they will have to give digital a full voice and innovate. I’m not a believer in the death of the high street but what we’re seeing is a reinvention of the high street.” Said Simon Wharton, director business strategy at award-winning eCommerce agency PushON

“This is the biggest thing to happen to eCommerce. Across the board, we’re seeing a big spike in conversion rates. It’s the only sales platform for merchants. When we come out of this the conversion rates will drop a bit but this is a change that is not going to stop. The UK eCommerce market is very mature but what’s going to happen in the less mature markets? Post COVID-19 I think we’re going to lose a lot of traditional retail businesses that have not had an eCommerce strategy. You’ll see eCommerce pushed to the top of the agenda for a lot of businesses.” Said Ollie Hunt, commercial director of Gene Commerce – which works exclusively with the Magento platform.

Author

Amin Lalani is a subject matter specialist in Internet Retailer with several articles and research paper published so far. He has done M.Phil from IoBM in Marketing with emphasis on Internet Retailing. Besides academia he has various other certification like SAP, Google Analytic, Microsoft Small Business Solution Provider and more.

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