How covid-19 will affect eCommerce + how to survive the shakeup

eCommerce is experiencing a shakeup.

Although the pandemic will cause a temporary decline in sales for a lot of niches, it will be a catalyst for overall online shopping growth.

eCommerce will experience a net-positive gain in the long run, however, the rules of the game are going to change and the online marketplace is going to be detoxed.

A lot of brands won’t make it. Not because they can’t ride out the quiet period, because they will expect to go back to business as usual and they won’t adapt or change.

Put bluntly:

  • the glory days of impulse buying a crappy product from an average Facebook ad are over.
  • Having a thrown together “good-enough” website is not going to cut it anymore.
  • Producing content without following a strategy is going to be a huge waste of time, effort and opportunity.

We will inevitably see a surge of brands converting to, or focusing more heavily on, their online presence. This will mean more competition for your customers’ attention and more importantly for their dollar. Your potential customer is going to have more options than ever.

As it always does, the cream will rise to the top.

In order to survive, brands will have to start doing what they should have been doing all along; marketing. More specifically, understanding the fundamentals principles of marketing and advertising – and using the current tools and technology to execute them.

What you can do to make sure you survive the eCommerce shakeup: 

  1. Have an exceptionally good product and customer service.
  2. Build a brand, not a commodity.
  3. Marketing first. Technology second. Use technology to simplify, streamline and automate your marketing, but don’t compromise on the basic principles of marketing.
  4. Have a funnel in place.
  5. Connect with your audience by strategically producing engaging, unique and magnetic content.

Let’s expand on each of these areas.

1. Have an exceptionally good product and customer service. 

This is non-negotiable and seems like a no-brainer however a lot of rubbish products are going to be flushed out. This includes drop-shipped, mass-produced commodities.

As we see more consumers move to online shopping they are going to become savvier and smarter. Online consumers have been burnt from:

  • amazing (but false) before and after photos
  • misleading product photos
  • influencer campaigns with no integrity
  • the same product image being used by multiple eCommerce sites
  • crappy returns policies
  • slow fulfilment
  • products that are obviously drop-shipped directly from China
  • unanswered support tickets

Regardless of whether or not you have contributed to these inferior practices, your customers have experienced it and you need to counter it and earn their trust.

Social proof, the “I’ll have what she’s having” tactic, is a great way to build trust. Like almost all marketing tactics, social proof can be traced back to primal behaviours. We would have once used social proof for survival “If that guy is eating the red berries and isn’t dead, the red berries must be ok to eat”. We now use it to influence our purchasing behaviour. Because a lot of marketing tactics stem from human behaviour, we often don’t know that we are being influenced by them.

With social media, every customer is a critic, content producer and influencer. If you have a good product and give your customers a fantastic experience they will talk about it. If you don’t, they will talk about it more.

2. Build a brand, not a commodity

Think of a brand as a living entity with heart and soul. People connect with it, they have feelings for it and they are loyal to it.

A commodity, on the other hand, can be easily discarded and substituted without a second thought.

There are currently a lot of commodity-based online stores, and these are going to hurt.

Brands who have been intentional about building connection, longevity and loyalty will not only survive but will thrive.

One of Australia’s largest activewear brands experienced a 50% decline in foot traffic while experiencing a 180% increase in online sales in the first week that social distancing measures were introduced.

Use this time to strengthen your brand messaging.

3. Marketing first. Technology second. 

The marketing game hasn’t changed in decades, centuries even. Fundamentally it’s the right message, right people, right time, right offer.

The advertising game hasn’t changed either. At its core, it’s reach and frequency. Reach being how many eyeballs, and frequency being how many times they’ve seen it.

Fundamentally, this is all marketing and advertising is. And this is all it ever will be.

The aim of the game always was and always will be the right message, to the right people, at the right time, with the right offer. And the reach and frequency are still our goal posts.

However, technology has evolved and the WAY marketing and advertising is delivered has changed dramatically.

Magic happens when you combine a solid understanding of marketing and advertising principles, with a solid understanding of technology and tools – with a practical understanding of how to apply both.

4. Have a funnel in place 

Your potential customer is going to be window-shopping more during isolation and work-from-home. They will be looking for a distraction from the negative media and are going to be seeking a connection to their normal life.

Although people may not buy from you during this time, you have the opportunity to not only build a relationship with them, but you can also retarget them when they may be ready to buy.

Having a funnel setup allows you to retarget people based on the individual actions they’ve taken on your site. For example, if they have window-shopped but left your site without making a purchase, you can target those people a different message to someone who only visited your home page.

Click here for free access to our Facebook Ads Funnel Masterclass.

5. Connect with your audience by strategically producing engaging, unique and magnetic content

Burying your head in the sand and going radio silent during a quiet time is… just, no. This time presents a huge opportunity to become a leader in your niche.

In order to do this, you must:

  • Show up frequently and consistently
  • Be vulnerable. Click here to watch a powerful TED Talk by Brene Brown on being vulnerable
  • Encourage two-way engagement. Use the stories feature to interact with your audience. Use the questions, polls and voting features within Instagram stories.
  • Build a connection. Respond to all comments, DM’s and mentions with the same or more effort. So if someone writes a 10-word comment, try to reply with 10 or more words, rather than just a heart reaction.
  • Pivot your content strategy.

While “pivot” seems to be the buzz word of the moment, let me explain what it means in practical, applicable terms.

  • If you are a fashion brand, pivot your content by producing “how to audit your wardrobe” videos. People have time to do that now, and it will identify gaps that need filling
  • If you are a kids dancewear brand, pivot your content by producing “kids dance from home tutorials”. Kids are at home and need something to do. Not only could you expand your audience, but you will also create demand for the outfits featured in your videos.
  • If you are a homewares brands, pivot your content by producing “how to freshen up your lounge room quickly and cheaply”. People are going to be spending a lot of time in this room!
  • Munchkin and Bear have done a fantastic job of this by producing a series of floor-based play videos that kids of all ages can engage in.

Click here to access our free Content That Converts Masterclass.

Final word

We aren’t going to sugar coat it. Times are tough. You will, most likely, experience a drop in sales but you can come out the other side… stronger than ever.

Remember, this too shall pass.

Written by Megan Winter

Megan is an award-winning marketer and has worked with some of the fastest-growing eCommerce brands in the world.

Megan loves helping ethically-produced, heart-centred, soul-driven online store owners to make more income and achieve more impact. 

eCommerce Facebook ad challenge

About Karyn Parkinson

Karyn (“with a Y!”) is an eCommerce marketing specialist with a knack for high-converting Facebook ad funnels and website optimisation. Through her eCommerce marketing agency and on-the-pulse training programs, Karyn’s helped hundreds of eCommerce store owners across the globe boost profits, generate more revenue, and achieve an ad-spend ROI of their dreams.