E-Commerce Strategies for Post-Peak Season Retail Success

It’s safe to say that nothing about 2020 has been normal. In the first few months of the global COVID-19 pandemic, all non-essential physical stores were forced to shut their doors. This caused retailers around the world to quickly pivot and shift their focus to online sales and safe delivery methods to stay afloat.  

While shoppers are returning to brick-and-mortar stores, it’s much slower than retailers were hoping for. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, foot traffic in the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the US is still 57% lower than pre-COVID levels after re-opening and when consumers do visit stores, the experience has been significantly diminished. There is a broken retail experience causing consumer hesitation in venturing out including long lines to get in due to capacity limitations, mask wearing and other social distancing rules, and the wrong or limited inventory.  

In addition, once storefronts were allowed to reopen, in accordance with local health and safety mandates, retailers had to prioritize safe shopping options for consumers who didn’t want to get out of their cars or be in close proximity with other people inside stores. This meant that many stores pivoted to begin offering curb side pick-up options, even if they may not have been set up for it before.  

Retailers who were predominantly e-commerce-focused before COVID-19 have done better than most businesses during the shutdowns. Nevertheless, an increase in online competition, higher numbers of budget-conscious consumers and the overall unpredictable nature of the 2020 holiday shopping season are putting added pressure on an already critical time of year for retail success.  

Many businesses are also relying on holiday sales to make up for financial losses from the first half of 2020.  

Given these facts, this is shaping up to be the most important holiday shopping season in recent retail history. So now comes the big question: how can retailers move into 2021 and maintain a level of success and sales volume?  

There are a few factors that will continue to drive e-commerce growth as we enter the New Year and likely keep customers doing their shopping online:

  1. New shopping habits. Due to the quarantine and now a hesitation to go out, people's way of purchasing items has dramatically changed. The “new norm” has lasted long enough that these patterns have become habitual and convenient. While stores may be open, it doesn't mean consumers will suddenly stop the convenience and comfort factor of shopping from the comfort of their homes.
  1. COVID-19 fears aren't going to disappear overnight. Even when this all ends, people will be cautious, and many will still prefer shopping from the safety of their homes with a lingering fear and feelings of unease.
  1. The rapid growth of mobile devices is making it easier than ever to browse and shop online. Customers can place orders quickly and easily from their mobile phone or tablet any time and from anywhere.
  1. Even as some items became scarce in physical stores there are expanded options for ordering online. And things like toilet paper that became nonexistent in brick and mortar stores could be ordered or pre-ordered online.

Convenience, wide selection and savings have spurred online retail since the beginning. This will continue as e-commerce becomes even more popular and competitiveness remains post peak season and pandemic. Now the question is, how do you set your brand apart from others to keep consumers coming back to your online store?  

The key is to have a solid omnichannel strategy.

Omnichannel marketing means having consistent digital touchpoints across web, mobile, email and more, so you have an option available to your customers based on how they choose and prefer to purchase from you.

While we can view in-store and online shopping as distinct and even competitive models, in reality, they are actually merging more and more. Customers who are loyal to traditional brick and mortar brands will inevitably find it tempting to do more browsing and buying online. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, keep in mind that combining it with a digital experience you can improve both in-store transactions and online shopping. Starting with an easy to navigate website, you can make it convenient for customers to do research, check options and specifications, and anything else that's relevant online. You can also offer the convenience of buying online with in-store pick up (BOPIS) as well as mentioned earlier.  

Factors to Keep in Mind for the E-Commerce Revolution

While COVID-19 will inevitably end at some point, many of the economic changes that are happening are likely to remain. Here are some general tips to keep in mind as we move into our now post peak and pandemic norms:

  1. Connect with your customers in a multi- or omnichannel way, understanding that the same customer may, on different days, shop on Amazon, another online store, or come to your business in person.
  1. Be transparent. If you're experiencing difficulties due to shortages, rising costs of certain items or shipping, or delays due to supply chain issues, be open with your customers. Keep them informed about the latest developments and don't try to hide problems.  
  1. Consider a regional courier. With shipping fees and delivery delays on a continuous rise, consider adding a regional shipper to your carrier mix, like ShipperBee. We offer a lower cost alternative shipping model that is eco-friendly and offers a 99.7% on-time delivery rate. We have no hidden fees, fuel surcharges, residential fees, peak season fees or volume restrictions.
  1. Be flexible. Customers appreciate having as many choices as possible when it comes to customer service, shipping, payment options and every aspect of their transaction with you. For example, if you began offering home delivery service while you were forced to shut down or offered buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS), consider continuing these services even when your doors are open.  
  1. Study your data. It's important for you to know which platforms and channels are bringing you the best results. You can also collect valuable information from customers directly through polls, customer service interactions and monitoring social media comments and reviews.

More and more, customers now appreciate the convenience of online shopping. While the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 may have made online shopping even more appealing, this will undoubtedly be a long-term trend that's likely to continue well into the post-pandemic future. To make the most of this, and be successful, you need to offer transparency, flexible options and policies, and convenient omnichannel solutions for your shoppers.

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