The pandemic has propelled e-commerce into the future, but how will you adapt? Here are three strategies you can implement today.
Remember the carefree days before the COVID-19 pandemic, when life was simple? No, me neither! Many industries and parts of the world were operating in a state of crisis management long before the virus struck.
Trade disputes, Brexit, and climate chaos, to name just a few, have all played their part in recent years to create an unpredictable and precarious backdrop for international retail.
When the pandemic led to lockdowns, empty streets, working from home, and much worse, it seemed the only part of life that remained unscathed was our existence online. As a result, shoppers flocked from traditional stores to e-commerce channels to make their purchases.
According to data from IBM’s US Retail Index, the pandemic accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years.
Many brick-and-mortar stores were struggling long before the pandemic struck. The COVID-19 shutdown only seems to have expedited the decline.
Department stores, in particular, experienced significant decline. The same IBM survey found that department store sales and those from other ‘non-essential’ retailers fell by 25% in the first quarter of 2020. This increased to 75% in the second quarter.
Now that much of the world appears to be adjusting to some kind of post-COVID life, the thought that we will revert to the old normal, seems unlikely.
So, what’s next for e-commerce?
Here are three strategies to tackle the key factors shaping the new normal.
1. Plan for Diversity, Not Loyalty
Product inaccessibility and unavailability during the COVID pandemic forced many consumers to abandon their previous brand loyalty and explore alternative options online. As a result, much of the shopping public are now experienced in the ways of e-commerce.
According to a report by McKinsey, a large proportion of e-commerce newcomers like what they see. The research identified that 75% of US consumers tried a new way of shopping during the pandemic, and around three quarters of them intend to continue with their new online shopping habits.
The breadth of choice, the ease of jumping between stores, and the ability to access product reviews and further information will have been a revelation to e-commerce newcomers and long-established brick-and-mortar shoppers. There’s still room for both, as e-commerce is helping many small businesses survive by providing them with access to a global market.
Effortless online browsing is also a wake-up call for e-commerce companies hoping to capitalize on the new wave of post-pandemic shoppers. Often, these customers are not going online to switch loyalty to a particular e-commerce store. They are going online because they are scouring the Internet in search of the most inviting proposition.
An e-commerce company is by nature international, with potential customers from many different cultures speaking many different languages. The foremost step an online retailer can take to ensure their site’s content gives visitors the most welcoming and compelling marketing message possible is to localize.
E-commerce localization involves translation and much more, such as altering the text to account for local cultural references, units of measurement and currency, date formats, and local idioms.
E-commerce websites like Ellos, for example, also have diverse types of content. Not only do they have product text and descriptions, they also have images, marketing content, and other site elements that require translation.
Get this right and your site will encourage these eager browsers to remain and continue their journey to the checkout.
2. Be Smartphone Savvy
Before COVID-19, Internet use was already shifting from computers to smartphones. This has not slowed down during the pandemic and, thanks to increased use by the new wave of online shoppers described in the previous section, smartphones are becoming an increasingly popular method of shopping.
Research published by Big Commerce showed that, in 2017, the proportion of e-commerce sales coming from smartphones was 34.5%. That figure is expected to reach 54% by the end of 2021.
High mobile penetration in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular, has seen the smartphone become an essential part of most people’s everyday existence, with shopping and many other aspects of life being centered around their pocket-sized portal.
Another aspect of the smartphone revolution is the increased importance of social media. Recent social distancing rules have seen more people turn to social media platforms to communicate with friends and family. Shopping too is becoming part of the online social mix, with research and purchasing decisions often taking place via a smartphone social media app.
Any e-commerce company that fails to localize their content to integrate seamlessly with smartphone users around the world is in danger of going the way of the brick-and-mortar businesses that failed to embrace online retail a decade ago.
3. Personalize Content with AI Technology
Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) enable hyper-personalized customer journeys. By monitoring a wide variety of data and responding in real time, it’s possible to predict each customer’s intent and present them with uniquely tailored content and offers.
Right now, every brand in the world is scrambling for new customers among the surge in demand.
AI’s ability to test and optimize e-commerce content at scale, in real time, across multiple languages and cultures is particularly exciting post-COVID. Such a precision-targeted way to catch a customer’s eye and automatically mitigate reasons they might abandon the product-buying process before it happens provides online retailers with a powerful competitive edge.
The Online Future is Here
The rapid, post-pandemic evolution of e-commerce is being further fueled by the expectations of a younger generation of shoppers. This age group is entirely comfortable with life online—and they won’t be impressed simply because a retailer has a website.
For the latest generation of shoppers, the “new normal” involves a slick customer journey within a seamless digital ecosystem that allows them to research brands, discover inspiration on social media, make a purchase with the minimum of fuss, then follow favorite brands and the wider community online.
Localization for each regional market, therefore, is a must for any e-commerce company wishing to tap into this growing customer base.
After all the uncertainty of 2020/21, one thing is clear: the e-commerce landscape has changed and new strategies are needed to survive and prosper.
With localization at the heart of the three post-COVID e-commerce strategies described in this article, the e-commerce localization experts at Summa Linguae Technologies are ready to put your post-COVID strategies into action.
Contact us today to get started.
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