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What Does E-commerce Look Like in a Post-Pandemic World?

23 June 2022 • 9 min read

Did your business pivot during the pandemic? Almost certainly. Well, so did your customers. When our whole way of life was interrupted by the coronavirus crisis, we adapted in order to survive.

A recent study has shown that 95% of consumers have made a permanent change to their lifestyle as a result of the pandemic. More people use e-commerce than ever before because of the pandemic.

The proportion of online purchases by users who previously used online channels for less than 25% of online purchases has increased by 343%. E-commerce now demands a much bigger piece of the retail pie, and has converted lots of brick-and-mortar shoppers into online ones.

This comes with fresh challenges for retailers who must adapt with their changing customers.

Before the pandemic hit, e-commerce saw significant growth. Online sales peaked during the pandemic as the world moved online. Maintaining gains made during the pandemic and adapting to a new breed of consumer should be the goal for businesses looking to scale.

Businesses now find they have both new customers and a completely altered existing base. Due to the pandemic, e-commerce has penetrated into more consumers who were previously untapped. E-commerce’s surge in 2020 means consumers who bought offline, moved to online, and in many cases have stayed.

For continued online success, retailers need to understand their new customers and identify what motivates them to purchase.

In this post we’ll detail some of the key areas of importance for the post-pandemic consumer and then discuss what you can do to keep them as a customer.

What matters most to customers in a post-pandemic?

The past few years have forced a re-evaluation of what’s important for everyone.

During times of crisis, we look to our humanity and personal connections to keep us going. Much of what’s changed in the consumer psyche since the crisis is a bigger emphasis placed on these values.

These changes in customer behavior seem to be irreversible, so businesses must take action to align themselves with this new world.

So, what do consumers value most now?

1. Trust (or brand affinity)

Building customer trust has become the focus of many big-box and mid-sized retailers over the past 2 years. With a new wave of digital customers flooding their websites, people discovered a new convenient way of doing business. However, businesses found during COVID-19 that building trust online presented entirely different challenges than the brick-and-mortar experience.

Customers who moved from shopping in-person to shopping online have lost their main touchpoint in their brand affinity. It is the job of the retailer to make your customers feel as welcome online as they were in-store. Doing this will help you build trust with your new digital audience.

Brands can do this by offering seamless experiences such as a level of customer service that matches what they were used to in-store, like being able to speak to a member of staff whenever they were in-store.

We’ll go into more detail about what you can do to build customer trust later, but it’s one of the main reasons for the recent rise in customer expectations and for some, trust has become the ultimate currency.

2. Convenience

In the early days of pandemic which featured restricting lockdowns, convenience was king. Customers wanted their deliveries to work around their schedule and circumstances. Features like curbside delivery became essential for industries like grocery.

Convenience also refers to the type of experience that customers expect. The rise in e-commerce has given people the power to purchase with one click, but customers still want a real-life interaction that you could receive in-store. Perhaps adding live chat or a chatbot to your site could help customers get that seamless experience?

Your customer journey should also be fully defined. You should have a clear and informative website that highlights the most popular products first, but also offers them the ability to search the depths of your product categories.

Customers should have the same experience, no matter how they choose to shop with you. Social media plays a part here too as you can also have shops and shoppable posts on Instagram and Facebook. Shopping there must also be a seamless experience that delivers your brand message.

All of the above can be summed up into one, perhaps overused, term: omnichannel. You need to be on multiple channels, and present the same experience across all. We’ll get into that more later.

3. Relevance (or personalization)

During times of volatility, being personal pays dividends. Everything comes down to how relevant your business is to your customer’s lives.

Emerging from the pandemic, customers expect to see a new level of personalization. Everyone has re-organised their values, and your business needs to adapt to fit around your customers’ schedules.

Offering your customers ways to personalize their shopping experience is of ever-growing importance. Every person is unique, so no two shopping experiences are the same.

Global recommendations such as your most popular or trending products can work wonders for your home page, or going even deeper by showing them items frequently bought together.

Personalization also applies to your offsite marketing too like your emails. Sending personalized emails based on a customer’s individual shopping habits can win you more sales.

Staying relevant to your customers by utilizing personalization is key to post-pandemic success.

What retailers can do to thrive online post-pandemic

Keeping the online gains your site made during the pandemic can be a challenge, so we’ve broken down 5 of the best ways you can respond to what customers value most now.

1. Improve your website

All of your digital touchpoints should have both scale and stability to handle increased loads. In times of crisis your digital infrastructure should be able to handle traffic from customers coming from a variety of channels.

Your site needs to be fast and look good on every device by being mobile responsive. Your checkout process should also be quick and hassle-free. Friction during checkout is one the primary reasons why customers fail to complete a purchase on your site.

The best way for WebSell merchants to get a fast and mobile responsive site is to upgrade their e-commerce site to a Next Gen design. Next Gen is the biggest upgrade to site speed and user experience we’ve ever made. Next Gen webstores deliver a hyper-fast experience across every device, resulting in websites loading in just 1 second — on average, 1.2 seconds faster than current WebSell stores.

To upgrade your site to Next Gen, discuss your upgrade with your account manager today.

2. Invest in marketing

During the pandemic, a diverse marketing stack meant retailers could communicate to customers through a variety of different channels. With brick-and-mortar stores closed, some businesses had to find new ways to reach customers and keep them informed.

Businesses who didn’t even have an e-commerce site found a way to sell to customers by turning to social media to sell items through direct messages on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Customers wanted convenience, and businesses were happy to accommodate by utilizing social commerce.

The pandemic taught us that your marketing should be fluid, and there are a number of questions retailers need to ask of their business when moving forward.

Businesses that have clear answers to these questions will be able to handle any times of crisis and uncertainty in the future.

If you need help with your digital marketing strategy, get in touch with our team who can help you develop your marketing in areas like SEO, Paid Search, Social Media, and more.

3. Expand your customer touchpoints

As seen with social commerce, having a number of different touchpoints optimized and ready-to-go should the next crisis hit will mean your business is scalable and responsive.

Customers in the post-pandemic world want convenience, and that means meeting your customers where they want to do business, whether that’s Amazon or Instagram.

A touchpoint is any situation where customers engage with your business with the intention of purchasing.

As such, you should consider everywhere that you can advertise your business or products. Expanding into online marketplaces like Amazon, Google Shopping, and eBay in particular, can ensure your business is maximizing exposure to your products.

With WebSell, you can sync your product inventory and listings automatically to marketplaces like Amazon and Google Shopping. You can also integrate directly to social platforms like Instagram, where you can make your Instagram business account an extension of your webstore.

4. Embrace omnichannel

Omnichannel refers to a business strategy that focuses on seamless integration between all your retail contact channels. It means making all your touchpoints operate, look, and behave in a similar way.

Post-pandemic customers demand a seamless experience as they may discover you on social media, browse through your website, and complete a purchase in-store. That’s 3 distinct touchpoints used where you need to present a unified journey.

It all starts with connecting your brick-and-mortar store to your website, and WebSell does this better than anyone for some of the world’s leading POS systems. To integrate your POS and e-commerce site, request a free demo today.

For existing WebSell customers, think about how you can bring the digital experience in-store. More customers have become digital adopters because of the pandemic, and you need to determine how you can integrate the two even further.

Many businesses are replacing traditional in-store experiences with ones that embrace technology. Can you implement a click-and-collect system in your store? Would allowing customers to order items on a subscription basis reduce customer friction even further?\

Digital fulfillment capabilities were a huge trend during the crisis, and customers expect them to stay in a post-pandemic world.

There’s no better time to invest in technology and systems that can deliver exceptional customer experiences. Businesses that can understand their customers and adapt faster will be the leaders in the customer experience space.

Wrapping up

While we have seen a welcome return to brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce continues to play a significant role in how any business operates.

Businesses that want to succeed need to maintain a diverse and comprehensive digital strategy. There’s a new generation of shoppers leading the online retail charge that have a new different set of values and expectations. Will you be ready to serve them?