The New Normal for eCommerce Has Arrived: Is Your Brand Ready?

While changes in the first two quarters of 2020 came abruptly and seemingly without warning, direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers have had an entire year to adapt. The new normal for eCommerce is all about customer experience.

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While uncertainty and disruption raged in 2020, consumers took full advantage of the new opportunities to purchase from their favorite brands. While changes in the first two quarters of 2020 came abruptly and seemingly without warning, direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers have had an entire year to adapt. The new normal for eCommerce is quickly coalescing. Many workers are still at home and, as a result, have embraced more shopping options that allow them to stay at home. Some of these are lingering health concerns or risk management, but it’s also convenient.

Customers have expanded their digital lives, and many of their habits are likely here to stay. Restaurant and curbside pickup are still wildly popular. Digital health and wellness tools, including virtual doctor office visits, are growing. Customers are ready to try new brands and services that offer a superior experience and align with their values.

To continue to compete in the new normal for eCommerce, brands need to shift how they think about the things that matter most to their customers: personalization, transparency, privacy and localization. Here’s how to recognize what matters to your customers and deliver on the experience they expect.

Build a Realistic, Personalized Shopping Experience

Brand loyalty experienced a massive disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three out of four U.S. consumers tried a different brand or store during the pandemic, and 60% of those consumers plan to continue shopping with these retailers in the future. In particular, younger consumers are looking for retailers that offer more than just the lowest price. Millennials and GenZ consumers want a longer-term commitment with DTC brands that share their values.

Personalization in eCommerce in the past was driven by third-party cookie data that followed users across their web experiences. Today, international data and privacy laws are quickly eroding the usefulness and practicality of cookies. Users can only click out of cluttered pop-up cookie notifications so many times before becoming frustrated.

In response, brands are becoming more acquainted with first-party data that relies on consent and transparency. Users want personalization, but not at the expense of their privacy. In a recent report from Gartner, Penny Gillespie, VP Analyst, says, “Customers expect to be recognized and want their experiences personalized. If they don’t get it, they may go elsewhere. Organizations that combine identity data with behavioral data will outpace those that don’t.”

Brands that can build trust in their data gathering and analytics process provide real value to customers with a shift in strategy:

  • Build compliance initiatives with the customer in mind.
  • Educate customers on how you collect data and how it is used.
  • Reward customers for providing information about themselves and their shopping habits.
  • Deliver on the personalization promise with compelling experiences.

To capitalize on the benefits of personalization, brands need to evaluate how they are collecting and using behavioral, transactional and demographic data. Be specific in your privacy policy and regular interactions with customers about how this data makes their shopping experience better. Instead of fighting or skirting privacy laws, embrace them as an opportunity to educate and build rapport with your customers.

Invest in eCommerce Platform Tools

Building a winning strategy for the new normal in eCommerce requires a strong backbone in infrastructure. Choosing the right platform partner can be a make-or-break decision. Brands should prioritize platforms that can provide security, scalability and deep expertise in digital commerce throughout the commerce technology lifecycle. These building blocks go beyond just features and aesthetics into the back-office that makes your brand operate flawlessly. 

In our blog post, “The Must-Haves to Look for in an eCommerce Solutions Provider,” we identified several key functionalities that should be on your checklist:

  • Inventory, order and tax management
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Global eCommerce fulfillment
  • AI-powered personalization
  • Localization and internationalization 
  • Flexible pricing 

These capabilities are crucial to delivering the type of experience customers expect. Offering a product or service that your customers want is only half of the equation. Delivering an experience to match is a top expectation — 74 percent of consumers are at least somewhat likely to buy based on experience alone. DTC retailers should choose a partner that can propel an eCommerce brand into the new reality and remain flexible enough to take on whatever challenge comes next.

Tap Into New Global Markets

China is set to take over the majority of the eCommerce market in 2021, with continued growth on the horizon. The Chinese marketplace is primed for eCommerce transactions, and there is plenty that brands can learn from Chinese retailers. Whether DTC brands are looking to expand in China, South Korea or even broaden their footprint in North America, here are a few major points to consider:

  • Mobile-first eCommerce is a must. Consumers in China and South Korea dominate in mobile adoption. Brands should recognize that the vast majority of shopping research and even pushing the buy button happens on mobile devices.
  • Lead with localization. 75% of consumers choose products whose websites have content available in their native language, yet many digital storefronts doing businesses across borders do not offer a multilingual experience. Make the shopping experience easier and more personalized with content that caters to international customers.
  • Adapt to the context of international markets. One size does not fit all for international consumers. Build a brand image that reflects local identities and cultures to capture their attention and appeal authentically. Build a UI and customer experience that shows you understand their unique sensibilities instead of a boiler-plate approach.

New markets spell big growth for DTC eCommerce brands with the tools to take advantage. But, poor personalization or localization can leave a bad impression on new customers. Keep international customers engaged by leveraging platforms like Scalefast to handle the logistics, legal concerns, personalization and localization aspects that keep you up at night.

Accelerate Strong into the New Normal for eCommerce

Customers have settled into new habits after COVID-19. Digital connectivity has enabled more consumers to be homebodies and use technology more frequently to handle their day-to-day tasks. NielsenIQ predicts that consumers have experienced a permanent shift in how they return to their daily routines. They write, “Companies that can leverage technologies—by meeting changing consumer demands online, enabling seamless interactions through direct-to-consumer offerings, and enhancing consumer experience with augmented and virtual realities—have the opportunity to earn consumer loyalty well after consumers’ concerns subside.”

This new reality is here for DTC brands, and it’s up to them to seize the moment and build an experience that customers want to be a part of or risk being left behind. Take our interactive self-assessment to learn where you stand and where to start as you develop, evaluate and scale digital storefronts.

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