The business effects of this pandemic will be widely discussed in management schools for years to come. COVID-19 has altered delivery models across businesses around the world. Thanks to the lockdown, people now have a taste of online shopping during isolation, and it may take them longer to get back to a physical store. This has spurred many neighbourhood retailers to embrace small business ecommerce services in a big way. COVID-19 has changed the customers’ mindset and the retailers’ behaviour.
In many families, online grocery and shopping will replace store visits permanently. Ecommerce service companies that have been personalizing web content, pricing, and promotions based on customers’ buying history, may now look toward using AI and Machine Learning algorithms to personalise consumer experience. As daily interactions keep growing, online consumers are looking for cost saving, convenience and availability. Many local retailers are beginning to build their online identities and reach consumers directly. This has put them in direct clash with the likes of Flipkart and Amazon, but the emergence of hyperlocal delivery services has levelled the playing field to a great extent. For instance, a neighbourhood store, whose deliveries are restricted to a small geographical area, can make use of a hyperlocal delivery service to professionally and efficiently deliver groceries to customers in a 10 kms radius. Stakes get a lot higher when the small retailer takes steps to set up a mobile-friendly ecommerce site listing all products, transparent and hygienic inventory control, online visual merchandising and local marketing.
For larger ecom companies, their world view has changed in the past 30 days. To turn the occasional customers into the most loyal ones, companies will have to think of alternative supply chain models so that that the product journey—from the manufacturer to the consumer—would not involve so many dependencies. The Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) model will witness newer avatars in the coming days, including big ecommerce players establishing a chain of stores in captive markets. The pandemic has already stoked other trends: social media has emerged more powerful than ever before. In fact, the concept of “social distancing” is furthered by social media.
The triumvirate of hyperlocal stores, ecommerce, and social will bring renewed focus on omnichannel sales and intent marketing. Going forward, marketers will capitalize on social conversations to leverage users’ intent. This will perhaps change customer experience from being a transactional relationship into a more meaningful one. What’s more, this is just a prelude to greater changes, some of which have already taken root:
- Consumers have adapted faster to the lockdown and are living “in the moment.” In other words, they have become more impulsive. This will affect how brands and agencies deal with driving traffic to a site.
- Consumers are willing to make new “discoveries” when it comes to brands. By becoming even more spontaneous, consumers are connecting with products or services across domains and are being more brand agnostic.
- Brands have to contend with user-initiated discoveries. In fact, brands have to connect with consumers by identifying their shared interests, passions, and values. In a way, this completely affects the control that brands exercise over content.
- New opportunities will disrupt how brands and consumers interface. The mobile and social ecosystem will evolve with ecommerce, intent, discovery, and conversation. Although technology will provide the foundation for this ecosystem, user-driven content will connect the pillars of this ecosystem.
In many ways, the mass behavioural changes due to the pandemic are causing considerable stress for many brands and online retailers. The race to retain existing customers and win the occasional consumers is heating up. Data security, payment, and cloud service providers are one of the few sectors benefiting immensely from this uptrend in ecommerce business activity, but they will soon be sucked in by the changing retail landscape. It is high time that all players realize the fact that the issue here is not about scaling up services or driving traffic, but adapting to behavioural changes that is redefining the retail landscape with user-initiated experience and discovery.
To ride the ecommerce wave that is taking roots closer to your home, get in touch with us to understand the variables and win the battle for consumers’ heart and mind.