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April 9, 2020 - Scale

E-commerce in times of lockdown and beyond

Almost like the vision of a dystopian future, in the last couple of weeks, virtually all companies in Europe have been forced to profoundly change the way they do business from one day to another. Finding new ways to maintain a commercial activity has therefore become crucial to keep head above water. While working through a webshop is business as usual for some companies, many others are still unfamiliar with - even skeptical about - e-commerce. Even more than structurally reconsidering your way of selling, e-commerce can be a lifebuoy in those stormy times and their aftermath. We explain to you why:

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People are currently stuck at home. As a result, they have no other choice but to massively rely on online shopping to keep on purchasing. Especially when their home situation unexpectedly uncovers material needs that can only be fulfilled online.

According to a study carried out by GfK on Non-Food Markets in Belgium on week 12 of 2020 (the transition week between semi- to full lockdown), online sales skyrocketed compared to the same week last year. +252% for monitor screens, +344% for freezers, +818% for bread makers and even +64% for hair clippers. Because it turns out that we’ve all suddenly become home-working, bread-making, self hair-cutting survivalists during this lockdown.

But beyond that epiphenomenon, we even predict that e-commerce will have appealed to a whole new series of consumers once the situation returns to normalcy. Mostly because those people will have seen and experienced the ease and importance of home delivery while house-ridden. In other words, we don’t see e-commerce as a band-aid solution, but more as a strategic choice to invest in now.


Leveraging social media in your e-commerce strategy


Great experience and support in your customer’s online shopping journey are as important as they are offline. Plus, delivering on those aspects will help you build online reputation. How? Thanks to reviews (e.g. on Google or on your e-commerce platform) and social selling. Those feedback systems are incredibly efficient and basically large-scale online word-of-mouth equivalents.

More importantly, together with your web shop, your social channels are an integral part of your online business strategy. Beyond being interaction and promotion tools, they are an important extension of your e-commerce platform. Depending on your industry, the products you sell and the people you sell them to, certain social media will be more or less relevant.

While Facebook typically hosts a more general audience, Instagram users skew younger and expect a different type of content. YouTube is more suited for TV-like brand awareness and remarketing campaigns that can target many different profiles. On Linkedin, you will mostly reach business-minded people and sell in B2B while Pinterest is exclusively for B2C with a strong focus on the fashion, beauty, food and touristic sectors. Without of course forgetting millenial-friendly SnapChat and booming Gen Y-driven TikTok that offer considerable potential for the future.

A general approach to using social media in your e-commerce strategy is social selling. It consists in identifying your social media users who match your buyer personas and converting them into potential customers. This tactic requires constant research about your audience and interaction with them to build trust and create engagement. Understanding the way they communicate and what their expectations towards brands are is key. Once you have established that relationship with them, their threshold will be lower to visit your webshop when triggered to do so.

For French bed legs manufacturer Ripaton, social media are the second source of traffic for their online shop after organic search on Google. About 13% of the traffic is generated by their social media, 50% of which is coming from Instagram only (source : PayPlug). They see the value in this channel in its high engagement potential that they exploit by working with influencers for competitions, for example. Or take Glossier, an American beauty company, whose CEO Emily Weiss goes as far as saying that the brand owes 90% of its revenues to fans, “not through paid or built marketing spend but mostly through word-of-mouth.”

Thanks to their advanced integrated marketing and advertising tools, most social media help you maximize your chance of targeting the right audience out of a large active and diverse community. Based on data from Facebook Analytics, the American resort-wear brand Lilly Pulitzer created a new targeted ad campaign that resulted in an increase of 67% sales conversion rate. Valuable insights that you gather from social media analytics are undoubtedly a way to ensure higher quality traffic on your e-commerce shop. 

So, again, why e-commerce?

First of all, don’t let the scope of an e-commerce project put you off. Your first step towards online selling doesn’t necessarily have to translate into a costly tailored solution. You can imagine easing into this new way of selling by working through a marketplace such as Alibaba, Amazon or bol.com. The logical next step is a SaaS platform such as Shopify or Magento which helps you create a sort of standardized online shop that you “rent” for your commercial activity. Inevitably, if you are seriously considering e-commerce, building your own webshop integrated with your distribution channels is definitely the way to go!


Broaden your audience

An online store is extremely valuable in that it benefits from greater visibility than its offline counterpart. Besides, your potential customers are more likely to be located within a broader geographical area than the ones you would reach with your brick-and-mortar store only. Another major difference is that your e-commerce shop is accessible at any time of day or night! Perfect for everyone’s late-night shopping sprees.


Get insights into their shopping behavior 

Selling online also offers you the advantage of capturing valuable customer data. And data is king. So, by tracking customer interactions on your e-commerce platform, you get a constant flow of information feeding your online strategy further. As mentioned previously, similarly to your offline channels, you want the customer experience to be high on your priority list for your online channels. Based on customer analytics, you will not only optimize that experience but also continuously be able to tailor your product offering accordingly. Ultimately allowing you to build long-lasting relationships with your customers.


Save yourself costs

May we also remind you that the operational costs of an e-commerce shop are far lower than a physical store? How much lower will depend on the type of platform you decide to go for. The obvious costs you will cut down on can be electricity, water, rent and general maintenance of the building as well as the costs linked to having personnel. On top of that, the investment your business makes in advertising and marketing can prove to offer better returns when done online. Organic search, social media, Google Adwords: those are very cost-effective channels for your e-commerce to promote through. 


Turning challenges into opportunities

In a difficult context where e-commerce seems to be the only solution to maintain a good level of commercial activity, experimentation is more than ever encouraged. If you already have a webshop, you know that this investment is particularly paying off now. See in that regard the case of our client Overstock and how they turned the tide by massively investing in online marketing against all odds.

If you were considering taking the plunge, now is the time to give e-commerce a try. And if you still had doubts about its added value, we hope you understand that the sudden shift that has occurred requires structural changes. And like we already said, this is a trend that is meant to last far beyond the current situation. So, we advise you to jump on the bandwagon if you can!


Mathias Bourgonjon

Mathias Bourgonjon

Creative Strategist

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