The global pandemic has caused seismic shifts in many areas of our lives, with shopping behaviors permanently changed as a result. Product discovery and purchase is now even more likely to take place online, particularly via mobile or social. Omnichannel ecommerce marketing is also growing in relevance; for example, we’ve seen a merging of the online and offline worlds with the rise of social shopping, BOPIS, and AR.
To help make sense of everything that’s been happening in our industry over the last year and look ahead to a post-COVID future, we chatted with a panel of ecommerce marketing brains about the shape of retail right now.
The ecommerce experts shared:
- Often-overlooked must-haves when marketing products online right now
- Key lessons learned in 2020 that brands and retailers need to embrace in 2021
- Emerging and accelerating trends you’ll want to act on asap
Before we take a look at what they said, here's an introduction to our panel of experts.
A serial entrepreneur, Productsup's Marcel Hollerbach founded hiClip, NativeAds, and Cavalry Ventures. His expertise in ecommerce means he has a solid understanding of user behavior in a digitized world, as well as the importance and impact of high quality, contextualized product data.
As CEO and co-founder of Pimcore, Dietmar Rietsch deals with new technologies and the digital transformation of companies daily. He is a passionate entrepreneur who has been designing and realizing exciting digital projects for more than 20 years.
Greg Harris is a 30+ year veteran of ecommerce strategies having built half a dozen ecommerce sites over the course of his career and consulted with dozens more. His personal success with content strategies ultimately attracted him to eZdia, which specializes in helping ecommerce sites grow sales with content optimization strategies.
And here are their top 10 tips, trends, and takeaways:
Three often-overlooked but crucial steps to success in the current world climate
1. Form emotional connections with your customers
Marcel: “I think people are craving for purpose, personal connection, and being able to relate to each other. Brands can win big time if they communicate with customers very personally on their website, on social, and through campaigns. Right now, customers need to feel that a purchase will make their life better more than ever before.”
2. Focus on quality and quantity of content
Greg: "Content has to be original, it has to be in the language of your customers, and it has to appreciate how shoppers shop for a product like yours. Its job is to attract, engage, and ultimately convert the visitor into a customer. Content is to an ecommerce site what a sales rep is for virtually every other retail company. While most may claim to recognize the importance of content, few have taken steps to optimize that content to maximize its ability to generate revenue."
3. Master your product catalog & data management
Dietmar: “Have a solid master data management strategy in place. With an increasing number of channels to serve, multi-channel publishing can become a quite complicated and work-heavy task for marketers. Master data management creates centralized golden data records of products, ready for syndication to multiple channels.”
Three retail lessons from 2020 that brands must embrace in 2021
4. Forget selling your brand; be where your customers are & be relevant
Greg: "Any lingering doubt about the importance of brands building strong ecommerce channels got wiped away in 2020. Everyone is in. Everyone is investing, but most find themselves unprepared to shift from selling their brand vs the ecommerce necessity of trying to intersect the buyer's journey and competing on features and benefits."
5. Bring your products to life online
Marcel: “When shops are closed, customers have no way of physically evaluating a product. Complete and informative product information, especially high quality images of your products shot from multiple angles and ideally product videos or AR models is key to win.”
6. Optimize the omnichannel experience
Dietmar: “Thoroughly optimized omnichannel retail processes from supply chain management to product information management, perfect logistics, and customer support are key to modern day retail success. Every aspect has to be optimized in a data-driven and customer-centric way to fully enable a perfect customer experience.”
Four ways to turn growing trends into opportunities
7. Further digitalize your ecommerce operations
Marcel: "Online shopping went from 15% in most countries to close to 50% last year, due to consumers having no other option. And it won’t go back down to 15% again. For brands and retailers who didn’t already have a robust ecommerce operation, this was a loud wake up call. Digitalization has accelerated by years in a couple of months, and consumers will benefit from more options to shop their favorite brands on multiple channels in addition to brick and mortar."
8. Blend the physical and digital to get "phygital"
Greg: "It's fair to say that most retailers have realized what used to be a second class sales channel (ecommerce) is now a primary channel. This new status comes with new funds and in 2021 it appears that there is a consistent investment shift from the retail showroom to the virtual showroom, and ideally one that delivers an online shopping experience consistent with its retail experience."
"The end-to-end customer experience will continue to be one of the critical factors in 2021."
Dietmar Rietsch, CEO and co-founder of Pimcore
9. Use marketing tactics to enhance the customer experience
Dietmar: "2020 meant the death of undifferentiated, pure offline retailers. Brands and retailers must now think digital and customer first. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the professionalization of ecommerce has increased tremendously.
"As the end-to-end customer experience will continue to be one of the critical factors in 2021, we will see an ever-growing trend toward topics such as marketing automation, personalization, AI/ML based conversion rate optimization, mass customization, and product experience management."
10. Guide shoppers through the on-site journey from search to purchase
Greg: "The planned ecommerce investment in 2021 is twice as much as the planned growth in ecommerce sales. Companies are playing catch up and that means a significant increase in digital marketing budgets. In a competitive world, this is going to drive up the cost to acquire a customer to record levels, sending the path to profitable growth directly through a site's ability to convert its visitors into customers. The winners are clearly going to be those sites that effectively guides customers from search to close."
…And that's a wrap. Thank you to Marcel, Dietmar, and Greg for sharing their wisdom with us.
If you're keen to learn more about how to enhance your product feed and sell more products, download our retail guide for 2020 and beyond.