Having lived for over a decade in the UK before moving to Australia in 2011, I was used to doing most of my shopping online already then, but when I moved to Sydney I was very surprised how different things were here and how much people still relied on brick and mortar stores to do their errands.
Now, fast forward to nearly 10 years later and it looks like things might be very different from hereon in.
We all know how much the last few months have changed things on a global scale, and there are no doubts that the COVID-19 pandemic will leave big scars in the connective tissue of our society, but it will also prompt changes from which we will all benefit from in the long term.
One of these is the way we interact with businesses and the way we shop.
While we wait for Australian data, if we look at the most recent stats coming from the US, overseas online retailers are seeing an unprecedented number of sales due to the impact of the pandemic. According to the latest Adobe Digital Economy Index report, eCommerce daily sales increased 49% in April, compared to the baseline period in March. Electronics sales increased 58%, and Online Grocery in the US has seen a 110% boost in daily online sales in the month of April.
Besides, it was only days ago that Facebook announced the launch of Facebook Shops ‘to help make online shopping seamless’, allowing sellers to create digital storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. There users will be able to browse products, engage with businesses via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Instagram Direct, and in some cases buy them directly via a recently introduced online checkout feature. Additionally, Facebook is also working with eCommerce platforms, very popular amongst small businesses, such as WooCommerce and Shopify to ‘help entrepreneurs start and run their businesses and move online, growing their shops on Facebook’.
So what has the future in store for us? (Pun intended).
Well if the eCommerce penetration was already happening as a consequence of a user behaviour shift, this has now dramatically accelerated, due to the fact that the last few barriers have fallen.
On the consumer side, the confidence in shopping online has grown together with the maturity of the Australian market, whereas on the other hand, long standing challenges on the distribution channel such as the high-costs associated with freight, or the long times often required for handling the goods and shipping are now revisited to adapt with the ‘new’ user experience and expectations.
Expectations are that it is not acceptable anymore for deliveries to take longer than a couple of days for metro areas, and no more than a week for regional deliveries. Similarly it is not good enough anymore to be charged an unreasonable amount for shipping, as we also value free deliveries more than ever.
And value is the key word here.
We all, as consumers, are becoming driven by value more than before: value intended as the appreciation of the whole experience in which the transaction is only a part. As such, if we are talking about online experiences and engagement, the value starts already from the first interaction. Entering on to a website is equivalent to stepping into a physical store. Our online customers will judge us by the first impression, by how informative the content of our pages are, but also by how their online experience can be tailored to their own unique needs. If for example, a user is just looking to buy a product without having to go through unnecessary steps, as opposed to having to find their way through a convoluted journey.
You can see how as part of the perceived value, every interaction, every aspect of the engagement process between a customer and a business is important and must be given the right consideration, exactly in the same way we would for a customer coming in store.
And because of that we can no longer afford to treat the online experience any differently, because if we think that moving to eCommerce is just putting up a web page and adding some of our products online, without considering the whole experience, then we are likely to be disappointed and not see the results we would hope for. Australian customers are ready for the new eCommerce wave, but is your business, website and processes ready to take advantage of that?
In store you would display all your products strategically and have point of sale items at the till. The website should be no different, displaying your constantly updated stock with point of sale items upon check out. As you would expect your customer service employee to enrich the customer experience, making the customer want to return to the store, make your online check out process seamless and user friendly, adding discounts for signing up to your newsletter or offering free delivery/returns to ensure it's easy for them to return again and again.
We have a real opportunity here to get our eCommerce offerings up to the standard that we see in the States, Europe and Asia, and not only take advantage of the current situation but create long lasting relationships with customers, old and new, and drive our businesses to the next level.
Andrea Atzori is the founder of Ambire digital agency