Darren Hodgkin, CEO of Digital&Code
E-commerce has made massive gains during the Covid-19 pandemic. Consumers were forced to purchase online at the height of the crisis, and confidence has been slow to return for bricks and mortar stores. People are likely to choose the safety and convenience of virtual shopping for some time yet, and now they’ve made that shift, physical footfall might never be the same again. But just because the current market conditions mean more people are buying online, it doesn’t mean e-commerce providers have it easy, or that the current surge in sales will correlate to long-term loyalty. Alongside the rapid rise in digital adoption came a 228 per cent increase in e-commerce complaints during May compared to the same month last year; 26 per cent of those cited non-compliance with the terms of the agreement and 13 per cent non-compliance with after-sales service, according to Dubai Economy. These figures prove there is no time for complacency. Instead, retailers need to focus on building robust foundations before purchasing habits evolve again.
Digital marketplaces were thriving in 2019, with more options becoming available across multiple sectors. Many grocery retailers had migrated their offering, increasing market share and tempting tech-savvy customers. Fashion and apparel brands were experimenting with integrated technologies, adding native applications and augmented reality, while last-mile delivery and F&B aggregator services were exploding globally.
Despite this, the pandemic took retailers (and shoppers) by surprise, because of the speed in which its shockwaves spread across the world. With entire supply chains cut off, even the most well-considered logistics solutions faced massive challenges to keep the flow of goods moving into customer hands. Online retailers with strong stock holdings and stable supply chains were the first to feel the benefits, as were those with expert delivery services and attentive customer communications. For retailers without an e-commerce solution, the race was on to catch up and capitalise on online spending.
INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS
During the first six months of 2020, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development issued its DED Trader licence to 1,947 new e-commerce businesses, up from 1064 in the same period a year ago.
The total number of DED Trader licences issued in June reached 577, an increase of 163 per cent on the same month last year. The assumption was that almost everyone had something to be gained by going online, and the faster the better. However, speed to market is just one aspect in a much bigger picture. There are many examples of companies failing to deliver the goods in more ways than one. ‘The customer's perception is your reality' message is true in any economic climate, and business that was so fiercely fought for can be lost far easier in just one transaction. Whatever stage of the journey they’re at, online retailers need to get the critical areas right to survive:
- Creating an omni-channel approach
These days, simply being online is not enough and we always recommend an omni-channel approach where possible. Consumers expect instant access to their favourite brands and the ability to interact across multiple channels, whether that’s via a website, an app, social media or in-store. All of these elements need to work in conjunction to deliver a consistent user experience and a seamless shopping journey that reflects the buyer’s needs. Brands should take time to understand what customers are looking for at every stage and remember that digital performance still depends on customer care. Quality interaction across different channels means access to more data, allowing retailers to serve customers in more personalised ways and build loyalty.
- Thoughtful content
The online retail environment is just as important as the physical one, if not more now fewer people are leaving home to shop. Customers still want an immersive experience, which is why platform design and content should bring a brand’s essence to life in the most enriching way possible. Elements such as thoughtful copy, impactful photography, simple navigation, and clear calls to action will all help to drive traffic, boost conversion, and build positive customer connections.
- Cross-channel integration
Even with the above in mind, a digital commerce offering that isn’t integrated at every possible level can interrupt consistency and have a negative impact on the overall strategy. Integrating enterprise resource planning (ERP) and point of sale (POS) ensures active stock and price reconciliation, ultimately helping to prevent negative customer perceptions caused by non-availability or price surges. Also being able to streamline a product’s transition through picking and packing and into an efficient logistics process, which prioritises timely last-mile delivery, is crucial. Connecting everything with cutting-edge technology is what turns an e-commerce platform to a truly comprehensive solution for superior results.