Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

High street hesitation has driven shoppers to digital channels – here’s how brands can thrive

By Izabela Catiru, Product Manager, ChannelAdvisor

As ecommerce has become the shopping avenue of choice for the majority, brands have had to massively adapt their online strategies. The digital space has become increasingly competitive and online visibility has never been more important.

A recent ChannelAdvisor report examined how lockdown has fundamentally altered the way that consumers shop. The research found that ecommerce is set to benefit from shoppers’ hesitation to visit the high street, with online becoming the new home to both research and purchase.

This has not been a gradual process but a rapid change, and the report even found that smartest brands will be capitalising on this trend as you read this –  50% of UK consumers plan to do more of their Christmas shopping online this year.

But what does this mean for ecommerce businesses? Brands need to identify how to engage with both shoppers new to e-commerce and savvy online customers and align their strategies across a multitude of channels.

They must plan their operations to accommodate the higher than usual demand, offering promotions earlier to entice shoppers and spread orders outside of peak days such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Ultimately, brands and retailers must rediscover how to stand out in a digital market that just became even more crowded.

Get the marketplace basics right

While it shouldn’t be a surprise that Amazon has attracted more eyes than most, the sudden growth of the platform’s popularity does raise eyebrows – 45% of all online customers begin their shopping journey on Amazon before looking anywhere else. While platforms such as Amazon and Zalando have emerged as the go-to option for both product research and purchasing, brands must assess how to set themselves apart.

In order to ensure products surface in front of the right customers, optimise product content across all marketplaces. Product titles, images, descriptions, keywords and categories should provide your customers with as much, if not more, information about a product online as they would be able to find instore.

Each marketplace has its own specific standards, meaning your data needs to be tailored to each platform in order to rise up the listings across category and keyword searches, rather than get buried.

Blended digital and physical approach

Lockdown restrictions have ushered in a new age of digital-only shopping for many consumers and this can mean brands are all too tempted to divert focus away from physical shops. However, do not neglect the proportion of customers still heading instore when lockdown restrictions lift, even if they’re utilising digital channels before they get there.

Now 45% of shoppers are researching online more before shopping instore compared to pre-pandemic and this presents an opportunity for brands and retailers to adopt a new, blended strategy, using digital channels and resources to advertise and support the instore experience.

Through being clear about product availability across marketplaces and in physical stores nearby, shoppers will be presented with a number of suitable avenues for them to buy or learn more about the product. 30% of shoppers say they remain nervous to be shopping instore and those in this group who do make the journey will likely be aiming to be in and out as quickly as possible.

The new age of social commerce

While many shoppers start their product research on marketplaces such as Amazon or retailer websites, many are now discovering products through social media. Within the 18-25 year old group, 56% say they have researched products on Instagram since the pandemic began while 49% say the same of Facebook.

The slideshow-style photos of Story and Dynamic ads allow you to focus attention on your most stunning product imagery. They present an opportunity to show off your product and its uses, but succinct narratives will help to get your message across quickly.

Meanwhile, consumers tapping on your Collection ad will land on a full-screen Instant Experience (on Facebook) or an Instant Storefront (on Instagram) for additional product details. This format makes it easier for people to discover, browse and purchase products in a visual and immersive way — all without leaving Facebook or Instagram. In general, experiment with ad types and formats using your most captivating product imagery.

By implementing the above strategies, brands set themselves up to provide outstanding online customer experience. By making their product listings easily accessible and consistent across platforms, they inform potential buyers with the details they need, assisting them in their product research and nudging them closer to a purchasing decision.