Retailers — particularly independent businesses — have been among the most seriously impacted industries since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Entrepreneurs selling non-essential goods and operating from brick-and-mortar premises were largely forced to close their doors to prevent wider transmission of the virus.
But there’s a caveat: retailers in the ecommerce sector. Online entrepreneurs were not only able to continue operating, but many also saw a dramatic rise in their consumer base. Members of the public who weren’t previously active ecommerce shoppers were discovering the convenience, safety, and oftentimes lower costs of this method.
This shift raises some interesting questions about how the pandemic has altered ecommerce. Recently, ShipStation — a global ecommerce ordering and shipping software developer — released the results of their study on the lasting impact COVID-19 has had on the ecommerce landscape. We’re going to review some of the key points of this report and how you can use it to improve your ongoing operations.
The Global Pulse: A ShipStation Study
If you’re going to trust the results of research to make important decisions in your ecommerce business, you’ll need to know a little more about it. ShipStation’s post-COVID ecommerce study was conducted toward the end of April 2021, so it isn’t just couched in responses to the initial COVID impact but those following events such as the introduction of variants and the vaccine rollout.
The survey covered 600 respondents based in the U.S. and more than 2000 in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. They’ve also solicited responses from a range of age demographics — the study lists all respondents are aged between 18 and 87. So it takes into account more than just digital natives who are already familiar and comfortable with ecommerce.
ShipStation focused on reviewing topics including consumer spending, supply chain anxiety, shipping, and shopping behavior. As such, it is a relevant report providing actionable insights for ecommerce retailers.
Takeaways From the Study
Take a look at these important considerations from ShipStation’s report on the pulse of ecommerce after the pandemic.
One of the standout elements of the report is that consumer priorities have clearly shifted as a result of COVID-19. As detailed in the study, 78% of respondents reported they’ve chosen to shop with small, local, and independent retailers to support the local economy.
Ecommerce businesses that used their marketing campaigns and social media to push the local aspects of their business are likely to keep seeing growth. By getting to know the altered priorities of consumers, you can make better decisions.
While there will be some consistent priorities across the board it’s also important you look into those of your demographic. Your data is one of the best tools at your disposal here, as it helps you to see what the impact of change during the pandemic has been and how consumers have responded to the measures you’ve put in place since. Take the time to adjust your data strategy. Focus on collecting information that better reflects altered consumer behavior and gives you insights into how behavior is driven by evolving interests, needs, and priorities.
Another key area of change is how consumers respond to the ecommerce customer journey. The report shows 78% of those polled already feel as though shopping online is a better experience than it was a year ago. This suggests retailers are tapping into the elements of customer service that resonate with what buyers want from ecommerce businesses. To compete in a growing and competitive field, you need to continually make relevant improvements.
Be cognizant of how you can boost buyer satisfaction during the customer’s journey and guide them to the next step. Aside from resulting in direct sales, satisfaction boosts loyalty, which in turn impacts your revenue.
One of the best tools you could use is omnichannel support. Wherever your customer is on their journey, they should be able to reach out and get immediate help in ways convenient to them. This could be through chatbots, via social media, or through a dedicated phone line. The same goes for their ability to see what your stock availability is no matter what platform they’re on through transparent inventory management; this helps to set realistic expectations.
ShipStation’s report points to evidence that consumers are not just buying online more often, but also that the types of items they are purchasing have expanded. While electronics and toys were the primary focus prior to COVID-19, 73% of respondents now prefer to buy apparel and fashion online. The study shows the majority also prefer to buy home decor and beauty products through ecommerce outlets. This bodes well for entrepreneurs looking to grow their product range.
However, don’t just fill your inventory with a lot of additional items. One of the keys to scaling your ecommerce business is to sell solutions, not just products. Look closely at your buying data and pinpoint related items and services that complement your consumers’ behavior and help address more of the problems they’re seeking to solve with your products. Utilizing a multichannel listing tool can help you to post these new products to all your ecommerce channels more efficiently so your customers can immediately start engaging.
It was already clear that COVID-19 caused a shift in ecommerce, but the ShipStation report helps highlight key causes and results of this shift. The survey information can also be instrumental in helping you shape your operations in appropriate ways — including highlighting buyer priorities, improving the customer journey, and expanding your range to include more relevant products. Aside from anything else, it is clear there are increasing opportunities for you to engage with a public keen to explore the advantages of buying online.
As you take these steps into the post-pandemic future, it’s worth exploring the tools that can make your business more efficient. Check out our range of ecommerce management solutions to discover ways to support your current operations and your growth.
About the Author: Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.