Mark Ballett is an ecommerce expert with more than 25 years’ experience helping retailers to grow and evolve. He was Supply Director of Cable & Wireless, and CEO of several telecoms companies at the beginning of the internet era, played a leading role in an £80M broadband start up, as well as leading Norweb Telecom's growth from £10M to £100m turnover.
Ecommerce has just become a war zone and only the fittest will survive.
The introduction to a series of articles on how to rebuild your online sales after Lockdown.
Sometimes, you need a kick-up-the pants to break a habit. The paradigms that structure our lives have inertia that drags us along, keeping us doing the same things, in the same ways, often discounting new ideas and ways of doing things. Covid-19 has made us think about a different way of life.
People who would never have considered socialising, or shopping, online, or even working from home, are embracing it all. In a few short weeks, society has pretty much crossed the Chasm from ‘early adopters’ of networked services and they have become ‘mainstream’ for the first time. Who isn’t Zooming these days? I’d argue that this leap of necessity has changed our lives, and ecommerce, forever.
But how does that affect you?
First, let me say I’m writing this for the survivors, as some of us won’t survive the business interruption and subsequent lull in activity. It will have been one step too far. It isn’t just banks that need to survive ‘stress tests’. Any business that aspires to last more than a few years needs to be either, lucky, prepared for the unknown.
Fortunately, successful businesses have inertia of their own, which can carry them through all this; it gives them the chance to adapt and prosper. But beware, the more money directed online at your products and services, the more competitive life will become and the big beasts, most notably Amazon, are having a feeding frenzy at the moment that will only make them stronger. Post Lockdown, ecommerce is no longer a fight for customers, it is a war, and only the fittest will survive.
The three things we think you need to get right - the subjects of our next three posts - to survive and prosper post Lockdown, are\\:
1. Reconnecting with your customer base
Inertia also keeps people buying from you, rather than looking elsewhere. It’s just easier, if they are getting what they think they want. But then there is a break and they have time on their hands to look around. For the first time in a while, perhaps, long-term customers are wondering why they are buying stuff from you. You need to keep in touch, so they don’t forget you and when the moment is right, they need an incentive to start buying again, from you, before they start to think you are no longer their best option.
2. Managing your difference.
If Amazon is now a retail utility, as some now describe it, why would people continue to shop with you? There is only one answer to that: you offer something that Amazon doesn’t. Now, if you are doing well, that is probably true already, but you may not have formulated, or communicated what it is - the difference - well enough to succeed in the ‘new normal’ that we are all expecting. You need a good answer to this inevitable question, and you need to make sure your customers and prospects know what it is. If you are just selling commodities – something you can easily buy elsewhere- you will not survive long.
3. Store refurbishment
It will be even more important to pay attention to every aspect of how your online store, looks, feels and operates. We have customers who manage each page, almost pixel by pixel. Guess what? They absolutely dominate their markets. You’ll need to refresh your online store more often and that will take more cash than you have invested to date. Only the most successful online retailers – the differentiated ones, who can demand higher margins - will be able to afford to do this.
So, that is our Blueprint for post Lockdown ecommerce success: reconnect; pay much more attention to what makes people buy from you; and get the paint pot out and spruce your store up a bit. You need to do all of this for it to work. We’ll go into more detail about each aspect and, crucially, how to integrate them, in our next three weekly blogs.
Yes, this is one of the ways we are trying to keep connected with you, our customers, and those of you who may, one day, become one.
Next Week: Reconnecting with your customer base.