Pivoting Online – There is no going back, only forward!

By James Lutchmaya, MD ANZ at Tryzens

Covid-19 caught the world unprepared and has forced behavioural and social change in a way and on a scale that is hard to fully comprehend yet. The fact it has gripped the world over a few short months since the original breakout in China and went on touch every corner of the planet and placed billions of people in lockdown is staggering. Lockdowns will end, effective treatments will be found, but society has arguably adapted and changed for good off the back of this pandemic – there is no going back, there will continue to evolve ‘a new normal’.

With social distancing, retail was one of the first markets severely impacted as non-essential stores closed. However, such is the power of consumerisation, and the fact that our markets already embraced digital channels and commerce, that eCommerce became a saving grace for many businesses, enabling trading, albeit on a different scale, and to keep operating. What was, pre December 2019, a strong but minority part of the consumer retail experience, eCommerce has matured and become centre stage and now forms a key plank of retail business continuity as well as an engine for sales, marketing and consumer engagement planning in 2020.

Of course, limiting choice does tend to have an impact on outcomes! The lockdown and social distancing most citizens of the world have experienced has created a number of enforced behaviours, for example:

  • Visitor Traffic levels shot up to eCommerce Stores, App Stores and social media as people browse, shop and hunt for bargains.
  • The closing of non-critical stores has notably forced buying behaviour online in some regional and age demographics that had been less engaged digitally. This experience has an impact and, guess what, the convenience, the price, the ease of use and the quality of product and service are pretty good! New mindsets will be being formed.

We are also seeing other trends where Direct to Consumer sites have had record trading as people go straight to the producer for the products they want. Yes, shopping may be a bit more fragmented where you may have visited one store for multiple product types, but hey, when you want the branded product and queuing at/closure of a physical store makes buying it more difficult, the ability to shop with the Brand directly has become a real consumer benefit. It also provides a more engaged and informed digital presence for Brands, an ability to portray their products they way they want them to be seen, which will no doubt go on to influence and shape strategies for years to come through digital stores, Marketplaces and Apps alongside wholesale and traditional retail (post Covid).

The Market reach opportunity provided by digital channels has never been broader or greater. With swathes of the population forced to migrate online, with each day that passes new behaviours are being formed and new ways of finding and buying products are being developed and worked out.

Of course, just being online in and of itself does not make you successful, you need to know your product, you need to know your customer, you need to have the tools to capture online traffic and convert into effective repeat customer sales, you need to be able to adapt with your customers and you need to know how to spot the signs for market expansion into new demographics and geographies. But if you invest your time in understanding and learning and adapting, the barriers to entry for spinning up another locale/site are lowering all the time and the upside opportunity is significant if you can harvest the traffic.

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