Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Sustaining the online boom in a post-lockdown world

Georg Hesse, VP of UK and Germany at Thrasio explains how Amazon sellers can adapt their offering and remain competitive as consumers return to bricks and mortar shops.

One of the most telling impacts the pandemic has had on the global economy has been a surge in online sales. Now, with many countries beginning the journey towards normality by opening up their high streets, the question many sellers will ask themselves is whether consumer behaviour has been permanently altered. Will the retail sector see a rebalance back towards bricks and mortar or will ecommerce solidify and even grow its share of the market?

It may take months before we have the complete answer to this question. Nevertheless, there is a lot online sellers can do now to protect and grow their customer base.

A good starting point is looking at the customer journey with fresh eyes. With a relatively captive audience during lockdowns, some customers naturally cared less about the user experience and more about getting the goods they needed. Now, with physical shops back competing, it is crucial for sellers to look again at how their website serves their customer base.

The aim is to develop a user experience as good as, if not better, than the in-store experience. In practice, this means recreating some of the advantages physical retailers have through intuitive functionality and simple processes. A clear example of this is in returns and exchanges. Many online sellers fall down because the customer service support around returns is slow or opaque – in some cases deliberately so in an attempt to minimise returns.

However, this can be a false economy that ends up driving negative reviews and inflicting long term brand damage. Remember, the portion of your customer base that would naturally be more inclined to return to the High Street will do so at the sign of any significant pain point. Your priority is removing these reasons.

On that point, getting the right level of interaction is essential. There are nearly six billion mobile users in the world, so your ecommerce site should be responsive and mobile-friendly. Take a look at your online analytics and check your results. Are there certain headlines or product pages that customers want to read more? Consider what your customers enjoy on your website, what they may want more of and make necessary changes.

If you’re not already, it could also be worth taking note of the visual commerce trend – as more online traders ditch static product pictures in favour of multi-layered visuals supported with user-generated content and augmented reality for a more powerful experience. Videos have also been proven to be particularly effective on retail sites. Of course, this may come at a cost in terms of outsourcing expertise, but it could pay dividends with benefits that include higher conversion rates and richer data intel.

While reviewing and making changes – remember not to lose sight of your biggest advantage over physical retailers – your ability to quickly modify and expand your brand range. Keeping abreast of economic, social and cultural trends can enable you to continually evolve and meet your customers expectations. If you’re in doubt as to how to approach this, remember that one of the most invaluable sources of data is from your own customers. Ask them what they would like and how your offering could be improved.

As a final point, it’s worth noting that if your business has grown exponentially over the pandemic and as a result, you believe you’ve taken your offering as far as it can go, or you’ve simply achieved your goals, now may be the time to consider an exit. The simplest way to do this is to partner with a specialist acquisition company who will help you explore your options and secure a lucrative exit.

There has never been a better time to be an online seller. However, the best businesses in the world are not content to stay still. They constantly review and improve their offering and operations. If you want your ecommerce business to continue to thrive, do not be satisfied with today’s healthy profits, think about how you can achieve more tomorrow.