The impact of the pandemic could add £5.3 billion to the UK economy this year and this growth is being driven by online sales as people flock to the internet to buy everything from apples to iPhones. Traditionally bricks and mortar venues could prepare well for the rush of shoppers through December and the January sales period but this year the focus will be on providing the best online experience from search to checkout in order to make up for shortfall in earlier parts of the year.
As people have embraced the internet to stay at home and avoid public spaces, businesses that previously would rely on their physical stores to engage with customers are also learning they need to continue investing in their online presence to keep up with this new demand.
Adapting to a new way of buying won’t be a short-term phenomenon either. Other than a dip in late May, online orders in home and leisure retail have grown 200% year-on-year March to July (according to Gooddata and CCINsight). The Office for National Statistics states that the UK spent almost £2.5 billion online in June compared to just £1.5 billion in January 2020 – almost a billion more in just 6 months. As this was shopping on general items, for seasonal sales the numbers will be expected to rise significantly. Without proper systems in place, UK retailers could stand to lose out on huge amounts of revenue unless action is taken. Investment into a new online presence is something UK businesses should be embracing as a long term plan, not only to attract customers who already expect a slick experience but also to retain offline customers who are seeking to get the same experience they had in-store.
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Fabio Torlini is Senior Vice President and Managing Director, International at WP Engine (opens in new tab)
Global ecommerce platforms such as Shopify (opens in new tab), BigCommerce (opens in new tab) and Magento can play their part in integrating a secure and efficient ecommerce platform that can handle the increased traffic that will arrive in the coming weeks. But online retail outlets need to cover all bases to make sure they can capitalise during the crucial next few months, following a year of unprecedented economic crisis.
Here are five ways for UK retailers to bolster their online presence for what will be the most important seasonal selling period ever.
Get ready to scale: With major crunch periods like the Christmas shopping season, it’s smart to perform load tests to understand how your site will scale when your site is exposed to a heavy traffic load. During these volatile times, you may have to constantly check your traffic, data and bandwidth use. Ensure you have a scalable infrastructure in place, and be ready to make quick-fire decisions and adjustments that meet your business strategy.
Think small (screens): If you aren’t optimising your content on a variety of platforms, you aren’t attracting and retaining the amount of content that you could. 59% of ecommerce sessions come from mobile. What’s more, 40% of mobile users will ditch a mobile site if it doesn’t load in three seconds whilst approximately 47% of consumers expect it to load in less than 2 seconds. Far too many businesses’ mobile sites still lag behind this threshold. A mobile-first approach is essential for improving usability and increasing your potential conversions.
Tackle abandoned shopping baskets: From guest checkout and one-tap payments to live chat functionality and multiple available payment options, there are many features you can introduce to remove friction on your site and reduce customer frustration. More so, excessive shipping charges displayed at the end of the checkout process can prevent a shopper from completing the purchase, so be strategic about shipping costs. Some statistics show that around 61 percent of users who abandon their cart do so because of shipping costs being too high. Conversely, offering free shipping is likely to attract more customers and will initiate more incentive to complete the purchase.
Know your audience: Digital selling allows you to build more complete digital profiles of your customers than you would have had based on data from in-store purchases, which you can act on. These digital purchase platforms also reduce friction from completing the transaction or service versus rather than going to a register. Moreover, personalised and engaging digital experiences are something that users now expect from web pages. If you can’t provide engaging digital experiences, someone else most certainly will, and you will pay the price for it – 93% of consumers consider visual appearance to be the key deciding factor in whether or not they make a purchase.
Personalise, curate, guide: Brands can start to help buyers on a journey of discovery and exploration, showing them what’s trending, what friends in their circle have bought or explored, or even making new product suggestions based on search history or past purchases. Previous product visits, or sudden shopping cart abandonments can be capitalised on, try sending follow-up emails that contains some sort of incentive, like free shipping or a coupon code. If utilised correctly, these efforts would result in a highly curated experience which few, if any, retailers deliver on today.
The pandemic has drastically accelerated businesses’ shift to digital, which has been a positive factor in keeping many companies afloat during this difficult year. However, it’s not enough to simply exist online. Companies need to execute their digital and ecommerce strategies extensively and with conviction. With the accelerated timeline in companies transitioning online, we’re now at a point where businesses have significantly less time to settle online and find their feet. Organisations should look to move quickly and bolster their online presence, especially in the face of what is such an important festive season.
Before the pandemic, bricks and mortar venues would prepare thoroughly ahead of the holiday season, ensuring all avenues of their company are utilised. Why would businesses not treat their online platforms in the same manner now? Don’t just treat your online presence as a supplementary arm of your business: prioritise it and reap the rewards this season.
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