What e-Commerce 2020 has taught us

Amazon Christmas box delivery with Christmas decorations

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Snapshot : It’s been a heck of a year for online selling, so we reflect on e-Commerce 2020 and what it means for future e-Commerce plans. 

Well, unless you have a super local, super fast online delivery service, the biggest e-Commerce period of the year, Christmas is over. The final deliveries will land on door-steps tomorrow. (Obviously, excluding those from the big red fat guy himself on Christmas Day).

And so, it’s a good time to reflect on e-Commerce 2020.

What has this year has taught us?

We know we talk about e-Commerce a lot. We admit it, it’s one of our favourite topics. And yet this year, we do worry what we’ve been saying has been a little drowned out.

Because, when it comes to e-Commerce, it’s a noisy world out there. 

Our e-Commerce 2020 experience

We don’t know if you’ve had the same experience this year, but it seems like we’ve heard pundit after pundit proclaiming that they always knew e-Commerce was going to boom. It was a game changer. Traditional retail was dead. (it’s very much still alive, by the way). 

In fact, it feels like there’s been a deluge of articles and news about e-Commerce this year.

And yes, we’ll admit that maybe the pandemic has finally driven the tipping point of more businesses doing e-Commerce than talking about e-Commerce. 

But pandemic restrictions aside, we still see shopping centres and shops full and busy at this time of year.

And in terms of e-Commerce 2020, there’s an awful lot of people out there that like to talk the talk. But, it’s much tougher to find people who walk the walk. And as a business that likes to do both, we wanted to reflect on what e-Commerce 2020 has taught us. Hopefully, that’ll give you some thoughts about what that means for your business. 

Getting the basics right still matters

Well, firstly, despite the pundits banging on about the cutting edge of technology and the future as being AI or AR or PWA driven, our number one lesson in e-Commerce is still that you can’t really do the advanced stuff unless you’ve got the basics of e-Commerce working. 

As we first mentioned in our how to start selling online guide, there’s some basic things you need to get right when it comes to selling online. You need something to sell. You need somewhere to sell it. And, you need to be able to manage payments and deliveries.

That’s when you then move on to the next level of basics like setting up your product page properly.  

How to get more sales online - 3 key basic of a product page - product name, images and information

All this came very much to mind when we were doing our online Christmas shopping recently. 

We ordered a couple of alcohol related gifts for family here in Australia and overseas. These were orders from sites that had great product pages and what seemed like clear and well thought out store websites

But after we placed out orders, we suddenly found these sites couldn’t get the damn basics of e-Commerce right. 

Both sites accepted the online orders. And then cancelled the order two days later, with no explanation. We emailed them to understand why, and still haven’t heard back from them. 

Yes, they cancelled the payment and refunded us. But, both cases, lost sales.

Terrible customer experience.

We won’t go back to either site. Because, if you can’t take an order, then why would we trust you with our shopping needs? 

The basics can be tough

We remember the first online shop we launched, and when it started to take off. The order to delivery process was really clunky and manual. Orders arrived via email from Magento. And someone then had to manually key orders from Magento into SAP. Each order had about 13 fields of data. Not a fun job, but not too much of an issue when you only have 10 orders a day. 

But, when we started to get 300 orders a day, manual keying became a real issue. We couldn’t keep up. We even remember our not very digital boss’s suggestion “can we just take the shop offline for a few days?” Yup, that’s not really how the internet works. 

In actual fact, we ended up putting Out of Stock notices on all the big selling items to stem the flow of orders, which helped in the short term. And we did eventually manage to set up data capture in Magento that could be dropped directly into SAP. That was the least glamorous but one of the most impactful projects we ever worked on. 

E-Commerce needs more substance than style

We’ve spent quite a lot of time working with bigger global organisations. And in them, we frequently come across what we call the “centre of attention” style leader. The one who thinks about their profile a lot, and who loves to give presentations and talks. They like telling people what to do, love spending time with agencies and their biggest concern is keeping the Most Important Person happy. And that’s their boss, not the customer.

They’ve always has their eye on that next role, and spend most of their time making sure they manage internal perceptions of what they do. They are all about the style. 

You’ve met that type of person, right? 

These people should be nowhere near e-Commerce.

Amazon Item Template screengrab

Because, the people who make e-Commerce happen are the ones who get stuck in to the job at hand. Who fill in the product information management pages. The ones who find great images, and write great sales copy that ranks on search engines.

And most of all the ones who really get what online shoppers want. 

What shoppers want, not what you have to sell

We saw a statistic recently that suggested that are over 12 million e-Commerce sites online. That’s like everyone in Los Angeles, or Moscow, or Guangzhou having their own online store. 

That’s a lot of choice for online shoppers. A lot. 

What it tells you is that having an e-Commerce site is probably more interesting to you than to online shoppers. It’s what’s you sell on your e-Commerce site and what it does for the online shopper that matters more. 

So, basic market research skills still applies. Do your secondary research. See what’s currently going on with shoppers and in your category. Carry our qualitative and quantitative research so you can build your knowledge of online shopper needs. Look at all your digital data to see what’s working currently, and what’s not. 

Test things out with your customer experience. Identify key touchpoint, and create options and choices for online shoppers so you can more closely match their needs. 

The great benefit of e-Commerce – speed and control

The real main thing that e-Commerce 2020 has shown us, is that you can go fast in this space if you really set your mind to it. And you generally have more control in terms of how your product reaches consumers, even when you work with online retailers.

With channels like marketplaces or Print on Demand, you could be selling online today if you really set your mind to it. And if, you have had the foresight to set up your own online store, you would have total control over the online shopper customer experience.

Add new products, change prices, run sales promotions, change the design, look and feel of your online store website? All pretty fast to do when you run the website. 

And just think about all that lovely data from your online store website. That is essentially free market research to build your marketing plan and run your brand activation

And yes, it might take more time to change your order to delivery system than your website. But, it’s still a lot faster than most bigger businesses tend to move. It’s the businesses who have been slow to move, that are going to get left behind in the online world.

It’s now the smartest fish that wins, not the biggest fish.

Three brains working together

Finding good e-Commerce people

We keep half an eye on the job ads in the worlds of marketing, creative and e-Commerce because they are a great place to look out for trends, and also to keep an eye on potential future clients and competitors. 

What we’ve really seen this year, is that there’s a high demand for good e-Commerce people, but a lot of businesses either don’t know what they are looking for, or undervalue the skills required. 

You’d think with the e-Commerce 2020 boom in sales, businesses would be hunting down those with the right skills. But what we see a lot of are established businesses only just starting their digital and e-Commerce journeys. 

For example, we know a couple of well known businesses in pharmaceuticals and medical only just hiring their first digital person. And who have their websites managed by head office overseas. What’s that about?

These businesses define e-Commerce roles that stretch across marketing, sales, design, code development, system integration and commercial acumen. And believe us, there’s very few people who have ALL those skills. And if they do, they’re probably working for themselves.

Add to that the many start-up businesses advertising for e-Commerce specialists, who at least seem to know what they’re looking for. But, people we know in the industry tell us when they follow up on those roles, the salaries and benefits on offer fall way behind the most established businesses. Like, way, way behind. 

And that presents a real challenge.

The e-Commerce people challenge. 

Work for a business that pays well but doesn’t really know what it needs. Or work for a business that knows what it needs, but doesn’t value the skills enough to pay well. 

Mind you, saying that, there are many out there who claim to be e-Commerce experts, who when you start to ask “expert” questions, suddenly turn out to not be so expert after all. 

We once worked with a Head of e-Commerce who’d never calculated an ROI on any of his digital activation for example. And we know another e-Commerce consultant who claims to be a marketing expert, but had no idea what we meant when we asked them their approach to segmentation, targeting and positioning

E-Commerce 2020 has taught us there’s another way

To be honest, what e-Commerce 2020 has most taught us, is that there is another way. Because you can set up on your own pretty quickly, the best way to feel valued and to take some control is to start doing it yourself. That would be the best e-Commerce Christmas present you could give yourself. 

We’ve got a lot of experience in setting up online stores and in e-Commerce strategy in general. Check out our e-Commerce guides, or contact us, if you want your e-Commerce 2021 to be a step ahead of your e-Commerce 2020 results. 

Photo credit 

Amazon Christmas package : Photo by Wicked Monday on Unsplash

Three people pointing at laptop : Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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