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The Year eCommerce Changed Forever

In a very controversial year, from politics to how COVID was handled, one thing we can all agree on and that is that 2020 changed eCommerce forever. Everyone depended on Amazon, Walmart and even Chewy for their day to day, week to week, and even month to month needs. Beginning in March of 2020, these companies had their challenges, but rose to the occasion.

In face, the chart below shows the percentage of online shoppers making at least one online purchase every two months since the outbreak.

They were made for such a challenge. They had their ducks in a row a long time ago. I can remember back 10 years ago when many retailers were still less than optimistic of creating an eCommerce site for their business. “People like to have the in store shopping experience”, many would say. Many retailers felt that eCommerce was a nice to have, but not necessarily a must have.

Late to the Game in eCommerce

Prior to COVID many retailers did try to develop an online presence. Retail stores like Pier1 come to mind. They are a good case study because when they launched online, they semi-launched. I am certain this had to do with many supply chain issues and operation logistics that were out of their control. However, I have to wonder if they jumped on the bandwagon at the very beginning and worked through it over the years, would they have been in a better place in 2020?

Back in 2015, The Wall Street Journal said this about Pier1:

The downward trend coincided with the launch of Pier 1’s e-commerce initiative in July 2012. The company’s heavy investment in that area showed results with 16% of sales coming from e-commerce in the third quarter, up from 12% a year ago. What Pier 1 failed to anticipate was that growth in e-commerce business wouldn’t simply be additive to its overall sales. It also meant less traffic to its bricks-and-mortar stores where costs are fixed. That left Pier 1 with too much inventory. It plans to close 20 to 25 stores this fiscal year.

“Years ago, Pier 1 was a great place to get these unique products, and they would source all this cool stuff, but once Amazon and Etsy came on the scene, you didn’t need them anymore,” said digital marketing consultant Judge Graham, who said he has previously done consulting work for Pier 1. “Target really broke out and reinvented itself years ago, and Walmart did that by becoming more niche.”

What the Consumer Experienced

As a consumer, one always views things retailers do from a different angle. That is why market research so important. You can never learn enough from your customers.

When a consumer would visit the Pier1 website, it was everything you thought it would be. It was colorful, inviting, full of great products and it loaded quickly. All great, until you focused on an item of interest. When attempting to place the items in your cart, you would first have to provide a zip code. At this point, it was hit or miss if the item would be available to ship to your address. To make things even worse, it might not have been available at your nearest retail store either. How many times will a customer return to browse a site knowing ahead of time they may not be able to get their item?

Let’s say that the item was available in your zip code and you purchase it. The next part of the process is important as well. How long did it take? What condition was it in when it arrived?

If you think the above image is an exaggeration, it is not. It is a good representation of several boxes I personally received during the holiday season.

2021 Prediction

I predict the winners in retail down the road, post COVID, will be the ones who are serious about eCommerce. They will be the ones who are listening to their customers in every touchpoint possible. Data will become even more important than it ever was. It will be needed to not only evaluate the customer experience, but to do some predictive analysis on what consumers are looking for in a provider of goods and services.


LL Bean Pushes Shipping To The Limit: All Hands on Deck


Online shopping was a favorite this holiday season – reports are indicating that online shopping broke records this year. If you did any online shopping yourself, you may have felt the effects of it – more items were out of stock on many retailer sites, and some customers reported (minor) issues with items being ordered and then later notified that the item was on back order or out of stock.


Many retailers pushed the envelope with shipping dates, pushing the “must order by XX to receive by Christmas Eve” deadline farther back than it ever has been.


Personally, I was pleased with some of the online shipping options and deliveries I received during the holiday shopping season. Two retailers, Toys R Us and Amazon, promised delivery on some of my items on Christmas Eve. However, they arrived days earlier than anticipated, which was excellent. I was not surprised by Amazon’s early shipment, though Toys R Us surprised me for some reason.


LL Bean was another retailer that made the news as far as catering to the truly procrastinating customers. This year, in addition to wanting to help as many customers as possible, LL Bean pushed the last “order by” date and had an “all hands on deck” mentality. 500 administrative staffers, including Chris McCormick, CEO of the company, worked in the shipping department during the height of the holiday shopping season. From packaging items to handling customer service calls, everyone pitched in to make sure their customers’ shopping experience was a successful one.


According to an article on this topic, LL Bean went above and beyond. In addition to ensuring that all shoppers, no matter how much they procrastinated, would get their purchases before the holiday, they went into anticipation mode: in anticipation of the storm that impacted a good portion of the country right before Christmas, the company upgraded hundreds of orders to next day air at no cost in order to get items delivered before the storm.


Competition is as fierce as ever, so it’s no surprise that retailers are pulling out all the stops to encourage customers to purchase from them. LL Bean was no exception, and I think that the “all hands on deck” mentality sent a positive message to both customers and employees – you’re important to us.



How Do Consumers Shop Online?


Online and mobile shopping are expanding at a quick pace; both venues are allowing consumers to shop anytime from virtually anywhere. It’s important to understand what consumers are looking for when they venture online to shop.


The E-tailing group presented a study of 1,300 consumers at the Internet Retailer 2012 Conference. This study looked at online behaviors of consumers and asked what factors drive their purchasing decisions.


From the study, the top five considerations made when making online purchasing decisions include:


● Price, 80%

● Ability to purchase online for home delivery, 62%

● Ability to get the product within a day or two, 54%

● Ability to purchase locally at a store, 45%

● Advice/reviews from peers on web sites, 38%


The study goes on to state that there has been a 43% increased their online shopping in the last year. Trends are also showing in making online purchases from tablets, smartphones, and even Facebook.


This trend will only continue to increase as the internet, mobile apps, and the enhancement of smartphones develops. Ensuring that your online purchasing options are as strong as possible will help businesses stay competitive.


What are some considerations you can make to enhance consumers’ online shopping experience?


1. Ensure that products are easy to find, and pictures are of good quality. Offering various viewpoints of products online will help customers make decisions quicker.


2. Incorporate a product review feature into websites so consumers can easily find reviews and make informed decisions. Also incorporate social sites, such as Facebook, to allow users to see what their friends buy.


3. If you are using social sites to engage with consumers, make it easy to visit your website. Many businesses are incorporating shopping pages on their Facebook accounts, for example, so consumers can browse without leaving the social networking site.


4. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Make it easy for consumers to shop wherever they are. Consider the use of mobile apps to enhance business from mobile customers.