During these unprecedented times, the Covid-19 pandemic spread uncertainty and fear around the globe. Who would have predicted this only 6 months ago? Britain’s economy has plunged a record 20% in one quarter, the National Debt exceeds GDP and 11 million people now rely on the government furlough schemes.
This has had the most dramatic effect on the already suffering high-street in living memory. Retail sales in May fell by a record 12.8%, according to the ONS, but fashion retailers suffered even more with numbers plunging by more than 40%. What is more, industry commentators said that the expected recovery in retail sales in the week after non-essential stores were allowed to reopen “tapered off in the following days” and sales ended up 15.5 per cent down, year on year.
The obvious move for retailers has therefore been online, to digital platforms. Fashion retailer Mango has reported a 50% increase in online sales during the crisis, gaining almost 900,000 new online customers during the big high street shutdown. “The lockdown caused by the Covid-19 health crisis has intensified the process of digital transformation within the sector,” Mango chief executive Toni Ruiz said.
The trend is clear, and it is vital for SMEs for their very survival, to realise that e-commerce offers a realistic and practical way of dealing with customers, even as lockdowns are eased. It also offers access to new markets, having grown by 300% over the last few years worldwide and with continued warnings from high street retail analysts, only looks to be growing over the next few years.
E-commerce has some obvious saving benefits, so we’ve noted some of the key ones to get your e-commerce thinking flowing:
Above the line advertising costs can be considerable, but digital advertising by contrast is inexpensive and much more easily adjustable to fit varying budgets. Social media platforms offer a direct link to customers and the opportunity to start direct conversations, that can lead to new sales.
Email marketing is also a form of digital advertising, the benefits of which are often underappreciated. It is a simple digital tool that is cost-effective and simple way and can be easily adapted to target specific markets segments. There are some great tools available, such as MailChimp that can help you get started on email marketing.
Digital platforms that use e-commerce will allow you to gather information about your customers and build databases far more easily than through traditional channels. You can create and adapt customer loyalty programs by analysing customer buying habits and offer products when they will have a need. You will also be able to target customers by demographic so that you can shape marketing and promotional efforts more effectively.
This will allow you then to focus on particular age groups, personal preference groups, locations and spending habits, offering upselling and cross-selling opportunities without that uncomfortable face-to-face pressure moment that most customers dislike. Instead you can now give hints and tips for add-ons and offer cumulative savings that the customer can consider without feeling eyes boring into the top of their head and salesperson desperate to make their monthly target.
Principals of SEO now become more and more important, as traffic flow becomes and essential life line. Developing traffic will not only generate enquiries and sales, but also allow you to understand your market better so that in turn you can offer new and innovative products in return.
Creating a digital strategy is therefore key, and you might need some help with this stage, but without a form strategy, neither you or your staff will know how to treat your site or how to prioritise tasks that twill need to be done in order to maintain your shiny new e-commerce platform. No time for that here, but watch this space for further blogs!
A key benefit of an e-commerce platform is that you can flex your budget as you go and in line with other aspects of the business. You can easily start small and flex and grow your spend as and when your online presence and customer base expands and grows.
Once you’ve set up an e-commerce platform there is no reason why you can’t process orders 24 hours a day, if your market reach allows. This will allow you to earn a passive income stream beyond normal working hours and without needing staff present to make the sale, offering plenty of opportunities to boost sales and reach new customers in overseas markets, out of normal working hours.
So here are your 5 e-commerce essentials, the 5 key things to bear in mind to ensure a smooth e-commerce experience:
So there we have it, as the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need for flexibility in our lives, e-commerce becomes more and more important. Not only this but it offers a flexible and cost-effective way to reach new customers, if you do it right. You might need some help with e-commerce, digital marketing and SEO, which is where we can help. Why not get in touch, we’d be glad to hear from you!
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