Since early 2020, ecommerce has become a vital aspect of many Canadian businesses. Research shows that ecommerce businesses in Canada grew 20.7% in 2020. It’s what’s kept many consumer-based companies afloat during the pandemic. That connection between the shop and the customer has been the only opportunity to sell goods for a large part of the last 15 months.
Some business owners already had online shopping and delivery options in place, making the transition easier. Others scrambled to source, set up, and run ecommerce platforms for stores with little or no online presence. Even as we begin to see a return to in-store shopping, the ecommerce wake-up call might have permanently changed the way consumers act. Let’s look at some of the components of ecommerce that have affected the way we do business.
ECOMMERCE refers to the commercial transactions conducted electronically on the internet.
Some people love the convenience of home delivery while others prefer pickup service. Especially during a pandemic, there are people who are more comfortable knowing their product has had fewer touchpoints on the way to them. There may also be a cost savings for eschewing delivery. Many stores started offering curbside pickup back in May of last year. However, there were some considerations to be made for this kind of commitment. First of all, this was only an option for stores with street access. Second, there needed to be staff on-hand for pickups. Third, a process needed to be put in place that addressed hours, pickup times, and the actual steps once a customer arrived.
Some forecasters are saying curbside pickup is here to stay. It all comes down to giving customers another option—one which many find they prefer. And it’s been shown that the service is complementing, not cannibalizing, other channels. This seems true especially for food-based businesses and their ecommerce offerings. So many restaurants have an option built into their apps for curbside pickup, people have gotten used to the convenience.
Ecommerce Website Builders
Not every business was ecommerce ready when the pandemic hit. For those who were unprepared, there was a need to research, adjust pricing, and rejig business plans. Luckily, there are ecommerce website builders designed to make the adaptation as quick and easy as possible. Choosing a builder like Shopify or Squarespace means the user is walked through simple steps to set up an online shop. However, there are still customizable options so stores using the same platform can still maintain distinct personalities. There’s even an ecommerce plugin offered through WordPress called WooCommerce that can be used to create an online shop.
Customer service has always been important, but it’s amplified at a time when people feel restricted and frustrated. If you can’t talk to someone in-person, good remote assistance is imperative. This has been a challenge for businesses in part because so many customer service reps are working from home. Everything from computer systems to training had to be upgraded to address pandemic conditions.
In order to answer a surge of calls, some companies turned to chatbots in an attempt to quickly respond. Even with phone calls or online enquiries, customers expect a fast response. In fact, 90% of customers rate an immediate response as an important to very important part of customer service. Stores that were used to getting only a few emails a day were suddenly inundated with questions and forced to develop a policy for how and when customer service needs would be addressed.
How many packages have you received since March 2020? At-home delivery is a booming service! And it’s not just Amazon or restaurants delivering to your door. Many businesses began offering delivery of goods in the face of the pandemic. This is another job for ecommerce, giving customers delivery options so they could stay home and avoid in-person contact. The City of Toronto made a point of supporting stores offering curbside pickup and delivery options in May, 2020. They worked with various city divisions to develop guidelines to keep citizens safe. One thing stores have struggled with is whether to do the job themselves or hire a third-party service provider.
We’re all hoping that with vaccines, we’ll once again have the option to return to business as usual. However, most businesses will also be expected to keep the things that customers have come to love. In a survey conducted by McKinsey, it was found that two-thirds of consumers say they’ve tried new kinds of shopping during the pandemic. As a result, in the first half of 2020, the US alone saw an increase in ecommerce equivalent to that of the previous 10 years. In short, you have to ask yourself: What have you learned about the needs of your customers during the pandemic, and how will you continue to serve them in the future?