This year has been unpredictable to say the least, but one thing is for sure, there will be a rise in online shopping during the holiday season. eMarketer released its UK holiday shopping report at the beginning of November, forecasting that while holiday spending is generally expected to lower this year, e-commerce sales are set to rise by over 16%.
Capgemini’s Holiday Trends research shows that many retailers have prepared for this, however, the rise in e-commerce doesn’t end here. While we all hope Covid-19 will disappear in 2021, a penchant for shopping online certainly won’t, with forecasts showing a continued increase in online spending. The question is, how do brands keep up?
Holiday season upgrades
According to research conducted by Capgemini, the majority of retailers have readied themselves for the e-commerce boom over holiday season, realising the importance of not only having a presence online, but offering customers a great experience. The survey revealed that nine in 10 retailers have taken steps to bolster their online offering in the lead up to Christmas. Additionally, 50% have been working to improve their e-commerce experience, and 34% increasing their web traffic capacity. On top of this, 45% of the retailers surveyed have increased their online advertising to drive traffic to their websites. These are all worthwhile efforts in the race for consumers’ Christmas shopping spend for this year, but considering that shopping online will only continue to increase, retailers and brands must make sure they are equipped to embrace a change in consumer habits, well beyond Boxing Day.
What should brands consider for e-commerce in 2021?
We all know that the competition for success on e-commerce is only going to get tighter, with more and more brands entering the space by the day. Online shopping behaviours are changing quicker than ever, it’s tough to keep up and drive success. This calls for keeping up with e-commerce trends as much as possible. Brands should be agile in e-commerce operations and be willing to try new things, while also accepting when some trends aren’t right for them – not every tactic will work for everyone. Here are three key areas for brands to consider when planning e-commerce for next year.
Bringing in-store experiences home
The in-store experience is still a crucial sales-driver for most brands, many customers want to see products in the flesh, try them on or be advised on what to purchase. However, with spending habits shifting towards e-commerce, brands need to get creative and find ways to bring the in-store experience to the consumer at home, breaking any barriers to purchasing online.
Beauty brands seem to be leading the way in this space, with many already working on ideas before others were forced to, thanks to Covid-19. Coty revealed it’s ‘smart mirror’ technology back in 2019, which uses AR to allow customers to virtually try on different hair colours and styles in the salon. This technology was instrumental in driving cosmetics sales for Coty during the pandemic, where it implemented the feature on Snapchat filters, driving make-up sales when people weren’t allowed to try before buying.
Bringing the store experience to the customer doesn’t have to rely on big technology innovations though, a focus on building relevant on-site content can have an equally positive effect. Brands need to think about the questions customers often ask in-store and build relevant content around this, removing any doubts about which products are right for them. Levi’s has done a great job here, introducing online content designed to give its customers the confidence they are buying the right jeans, including a ‘Jeans Guide’ that talks through each specific fit.
Dedication to data
Thinking about data-driven marketing is nothing new, but data is so instrumental in driving success on e-commerce that brands should continue to evolve their data-driven marketing strategy for 2021. Collecting first-party data is more important than ever, with a cookieless future on the horizon brands must consider how they can collect as much owned data as possible. With owned data comes a multitude of possibilities, not only more effective targeting of your consumers (useful when marketing budgets are particularly tight), but also the ability to drive better personalised experiences on e-commerce, something that consumers are increasingly coming to expect. As ever, Nike is doing a brilliant job here and have subsequently reached its e-commerce goals three years early. The introduction of its Nike Member programme a few years ago not only allowed the company to collect rich first party data, but also meant a more exclusive experience for the customer, with access to new releases and promotions.
Secondly, thinking about data is equally important if a brand is not selling directly to consumers on e-commerce. Many brands, especially in the FMCG space drive most of their e-commerce sales through third party retailers such as supermarkets, online beauty retailers, and of course Amazon. For these brands, it’s critically important to explore retailer data partnerships to enable them to understand their consumer’s online purchase behaviour better. According to research by Coresight, when brands collaborate with retailers and share data it drives increased sales performance, as well as improved customer experience. Additionally, Google has outlined how ad solutions such as shopping campaigns, that enable retailers to partner with brands, can drive success for both parties. Collaborating on Google Shopping campaigns can drive increased traffic and sales on retailer’s e-commerce sites, while giving brands more insight into how their digital marketing investments lead to purchase.
Embracing new e-commerce channels
I couldn’t talk about e-commerce trends without mentioning China, a global leader in this space. Established practices for driving online sales in China are now being used as a blueprint for the next big thing in e-commerce across the rest of the world. New retail channels, such as live-streaming, are driving both sales and brand engagement in China. Live-streaming consists of influencers with large followings (also known as key opinion leaders), streaming shoppable video content on retail platforms such as Tmall. Customers can interact directly with each other or the influencer during the stream, discussing the products on sale and asking questions. They also have the ability place an order in that moment. This channel is excelling in China. The Chinese retailer JD’s sales exceeded $15m (RMB 100m yuan), within six seconds of live-streaming, during it’s Singles’ Day event this year.
Live-streaming is important for brands to consider in 2021, as it’s coming our way. This year, Amazon ran Amazon Live in the US during Prime Day. Amazon Live is the retail giant’s attempt at emulating China’s live-streaming, they used influencers to create live video content around featured products, a digitised version of QVC if you will. Brands should prepare to embrace these new ways of selling online, inspired by China, as it provides customers with a combination of entertainment, e-commerce and direct access to engage with brands or influencers. This mix is even more enticing in a Covid-19 world, as customers can do all of this from the safety of their own home.
Keeping up with the changing e-commerce landscape isn’t always easy and remaining competitive in 2021 will become even harder. Therefore brands need to stay ahead of the curve, through leveraging customer data, exploring new commerce channels and finding new ways to bring the in-store experience home. This will help brands to drive more customers to their e-commerce, as well as enabling an improved customer experience, which is vital for driving sales and brand loyalty.
If you are interested in finding out more about how Capgemini can help brands with e-commerce and D2C strategies, then get in touch.
Hannah Atherden is digital marketing senior consultant at Capgemini Invent