Our e-commerce habit is here to stay – is your brand ready?
By Senior Planner, Caroline Olechowski
As lockdown forced shops across the country to shut their doors, e-commerce sales skyrocketed. ONS figures show that online sales jumped from 18.9% of total retail sales in February to 32.8% in May, accelerating a trend that was already on the rise pre-pandemic.
This mass adoption of new shopping behaviours represents a massive opportunity for brands who want to recruit new buyers. That’s because humans are creatures of habit. It’s very hard to for us to change our behaviour, because most of our actions happen on autopilot, rather than as a result of active, conscious decision making.
But there are windows in our lives when we are more open to change. These are moments when there is a big shift in our environment that disrupts our existing routines – for example, big life changes like moving house or having a baby. Research by Richard Shotton, author of ‘The Choice Factory’, found that 21% of consumers who had experienced a major life event had recently switched brands, compared to 8% of those still stuck in the status quo.
As the world faces a collective disruptive life event in the form of a global pandemic, it’s not surprising that our buying habits are changing. And it’s likely that this new habit will stick – according to YouGov, 32% of UK adults say they intend to make more use of online food shopping delivery services. And in countries that have emerged from lockdown, such as China, e-commerce sales have remained high.
So how can your brand take advantage of this habit shakeup, and consumers’ resulting openness to change? Here are three ideas:
- Make sure your pack stands out in digital environments
For decades, we’ve engineered pack designs to stand out on the supermarket shelf, or behind the bar. E-commerce brands need to think about how their products grab attention on the ‘digital shelf’ – social media channels.
Halo Top ice cream is the perfect example – vibrant colours, bold typography and simple shapes make it highly Instagrammable and ensure the brand stands out on small screens.
- Don’t rely on organic social alone
One of the common traps brands fall into on social media is chasing organic reach. They create beautiful posts and spend lots of effort trying to beat the algorithm – but what is the reward? A slightly bigger fraction of your followers see the posts that you worked so hard to create.
We know that brands grow by increasing penetration – in other words, by getting more people to buy your brand – not by getting your existing buyers to buy more often. By focusing on your followers, you’re focusing all your effort on existing buyers. There’s a simple solution. Use paid advertising to achieve broad reach and ensure your brilliant creative is getting in front of light and non-buyers.
- Use the moment of delivery to help customers engage with your brand IRL
Brand building doesn’t just happen at the beginning of the customer journey. Every touchpoint, from awareness to purchase to delivery, is a chance to build your brand.
For e-commerce brands, the moment of delivery is a unique opportunity to connect with customers in the physical world. One way to do this is by engaging their senses. In the early days of the pandemic, my partner and I ordered delivery from one of our favourite restaurants, Dishoom. When our order arrived, we were delighted to see that it came with incense and a short note suggestion that we light it while enjoying our meal to re-create the Dishoom experience at home.
Beauty brand Glossier creates a tactile experience at the moment of delivery. Delivery boxes (in the brand’s signature pink) offering compliments to customers include a mini makeup pouch and selection of playful branded stickers to decorate it with.
As more consumers get into the habit of buying a wider range of products online, now is the time to make sure your brand is fit for an e-commerce future. Those who don’t may end get left behind as we shake off old behaviours and adapt to a new way of life in our post-pandemic world.