July 7, 2020 / CPOVs

Don’t Be Left Behind: Todays New Normal Is Forcing All of Us to Evolve Our eCommerce Strategies

Dana Wantman, Senior PartnerDirector of Brand Leadership

I’m not a fan of grocery delivery and Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS.)  Just sayin’.

I know I’m in the minority, and as a marketer I’m probably more critical than I should be. Call me old school, but I still like choosing my own bananas – there’s an art to choosing the right mix of what’s ripe today and what will be ripe in a few days. There are exceptions. Hard goods, for example, and for that, I’m all in. The number of Amazon packages that arrive at my house borders on embarrassing.

Admittedly,  I stand mostly alone on this topic, I get why people love it. The convenience, speed, and safety concerns, all far outweigh my overripe banana concerns.  And I know full well I need to get used to it, and fast. Both personally and professionally. In February of 2019, the commerce dept reported that total market share of “non-store,” or online U.S. retail sales was higher than general merchandise sales for the first time in history. You can thank Amazon for that. Fast forward 12 months and the country in quarantine is accelerating the adoption of eCommerce as a channel at a blistering pace.

Even as the country reopens and people can get back into stores, will they? And how long will it take? I certainly don’t know…and no one does. But what I do know is human nature. And human nature is such that the habits people have formed during quarantine, for many, will stick. In the same way companies are reevaluating the need for big fancy office space, or enormous call centers in lieu of people working from home, CPGs and product companies need to be thinking about DTC strategies, and driving online purchases and share of basket, instead of relying solely on in-store conversion. In a Brick Meets Click/ShopperKit survey conducted in late March 2020, 43% of the survey respondents indicated that they’re either extremely or very likely to continue online grocery pickup and delivery after Covid-19 stay as home orders are lifted.

As a marketer, this is where it gets fun. One of the things I get most excited about talking to clients (current and prospective) about is how Shopper Marketing has evolved over the past few years. Shopper strategies and tactics related to eCommerce have been rapidly evolving for some time, but now more than ever they should be the focus, not secondary strategy. It used to be a tactic, thought of within a linear progression from awareness to conversion/in store purchase and loyalty. If you can influence when someone goes from a “shopper” to a “buyer,” you’ve captured the brass ring. For example, if someone finds recipe inspiration online and you can get them to immediately put the ingredients (of which your brand is one) in a shopping cart for purchase, you’ve eliminated them needing to remember your brand for a future shop.

eCommerce has changed forever – not a shocking statement, I know – but the forced adoption of services will forever change the landscape of the retail shopping experience. Habits are being formed and they’ll stick long after restrictions ease. Like it or not. And brands who put their head in the sand and hope things go back to the way they were pre-pandemic will find themselves too far gone to come back.

Even brands who fancied themselves innovative in product development and execution have had to pour gasoline on those strategies to keep up and survive, let alone excel.

eCommerce as a shopping channel will continue to grow, at a steady pace, and brands willing to recognize the reality and reconsider their eCommerce Strategy will come out on top.  I’ve gotten in trouble before by telling clients that they have a choice –  they can get ahead of trends like this and make the most of it, or, they can get dragged into it later and be forced to spend more money to catch up. Either way it’s going to happen.

If this has gotten you thinking, but you’re wondering how to take that first step, consider the following:

  1. Look at your 1-3 year business strategy. If it hasn’t changed, it should.
  2. Make innovation a core strategic objective.
  3. Integrate flexibility and agility into your plan. It’s hard to stop and look around once you’re in it, but the market is changing so fast you can’t have blinders on. Stop every so-often and look around.
  4. Most importantly: Keep your finger on the pulse of your customers. How are they responding, how are their needs changing, what’s motivating them?

At Connelly Partners our specialty, expertise and passion is using empathy to help brands connect with consumers. Now more than ever, a little empathy goes a long way. Be where your customers are, help them – don’t inhibit them, show them you understand what’s happening in their lives – from a product and delivery standpoint – rationally and emotionally.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep getting my groceries delivered, and hope the store clerk gets my bananas right.