Understanding your target market and how you serve them is the staple of marketing – and it is more important than ever in the world of e-commerce.
In the final piece in our series looking at how Covid-19 has affected our search behaviour, we take a deeper look into online buying and what it tells us about the impact for businesses.
Mid-tier department stores are struggling with their proposition, affecting online sales performance, while those with a clear message are reaping the benefits of the increase in online shopping.
The data points to this conclusion: either be big enough to offer pretty much everything or niche enough to be a specialist, and be very clear on what makes you stand out from your competitors.
Your business’ value proposition is becoming ever more important in an ever-increasingly competitive online world – and goes way beyond the ‘why buy us’ page on your website.
Meeting consumer needs
Consumers have been forced to buy online – and the evidence shows that businesses are looking to keep pace with searches for ‘grow online’ matching this new behaviour.
Consumers’ needs and desires are clearly visible at this moment as well, with industry sectors such as clothing, furniture and pharmacies benefiting from large increases in search interest.
The challenge for online pharmacies is how to retain its online customer base. Interest peaked during the uncertain period around the availability of certain medicine and is already tailing off – but the evidence shows that consumers are comfortable with searching for alternative solutions.
Seeking e-commerce answers
Proactive businesses are hunting for ways to adapt and expand their e-commerce offering.
Leading e-commerce platform Shopify is more popular than ever and has experienced a steep rise in interest during the lockdown period.
WordPress e-commerce plug-in Woocommerce has also witnessed an increase in interest although not to the same extent as Shopify.
Selling on Amazon is an alternative e-commerce solution for businesses and there has also been more interest here, although some of this will have been driven by individuals seeking to utilise the platform’s Marketplace.
The changing face of retail
The high street faces ongoing financial challenges and we have already seen household names such as House of Fraser, Debenhams and Mothercare go into administration over the last 12 months.
Others are struggling – Next has reported a drop in online sales of 32% – and the reasons why are varied, but department stores which haven’t been able to transform their business and adjust to the increasing online demand are suffering.
Brand searches for Next, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer are at lower levels of five years ago as they struggle to compete with the likes of Amazon and Wayfair, both of whom have seen big increases in their brand searches over the last couple of months.
It could be argued that online shoppers are becoming less interested in brands, focusing more on what products they buy rather than where they buy it.
But this doesn’t stack up when the likes of Amazon and Wayfair have seen significant increases in search interest.
Interest in Amazon is hitting levels only previously seen in the run-up to Christmas.
And searches for Wayfair – the online furniture store – have never been so high in the UK.
And then there are the online platforms offering unique products, carving out niches for themselves through defined and well-understood customer propositions.
Take Etsy, for example, the e-commerce website selling hand-crafted, unique goods. The platform saw an initial dip in mid to late March during the initial wave of public uncertainty, but is now experiencing a rise in interest.
Then there’s Red Bubble, the site which offers community-driven unique designs to consumers. Over the last five years, the brand has enjoyed an increase in searches and, again after seeing an initial dip, has benefited from a resurgence.
We were buying more online before coronavirus, we’re buying even more during the pandemic and the prediction is that e-commerce will be in a very strong position once this is all over.
Businesses are seeking digital solutions to their current challenges and, for some big names, it is clear that change needs to take place – and fast.
Department stores offering a tiny range compared to the e-commerce giants, while also not being able to deliver a clear customer proposition, need major transformation if they are going to keep up with consumers. If they don’t the future for them looks bleak.
Covid-19 has changed the present and the future for us all. The question for your business is: How are you going to adapt?