Through forced closures, physical restrictions and mitigating measures, the pandemic has posed threats that have forced retailers to rethink their entire sales and marketing strategy, both short and long term.
And the stats are there to support these notions. Ecommerce sales were up some 92.7% in May 2020, and some 60% of consumers plan to maintain these shopping levels post COVID-19.
Of course, health has been the biggest concern, and by no means should that be disregarded. But livelihoods have suffered too, and navigating out of the disruption from a commercial standpoint is going to take some consideration of them both.
At least that’s the view of Nate Burke, CEO and founder of digital marketing and ecommerce specialists Diginius. Having spent recent months helping businesses establish and grow their online offerings, in light of the restrictions in place to contain the spread of the virus, Nate explains his proposition.
“Physical stores have faced unprecedented challenges this year but before we bid farewell to 2020, many are attempting one last claw back of revenue. What they are recognising is a need for change – not only to survive the pandemic, but to come out of it stronger and well-positioned for retail’s evolved landscape.
“Digital offerings and ecommerce, in particular, have provided a much-needed lifeline. But now that they have their online footing, the next step for businesses is to establish themselves in a marketplace that is only getting bigger, more advanced and increasingly competitive. And one of the ways to differentiate and grow is through digital marketing that can in turn, drive online sales.
“Included in this are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation – buzzwords in the digital sphere. But unlike human activities, the computerised actions are much less effected by a biological virus outbreak. And therefore, their influence and impact on the industry haven’t slowed like most other factors have.
“Rather, the changes they are causing are inevitable, but by embracing their capabilities, businesses can not only make a commercial breakthrough, but a human one too. And that couldn’t be more important than at a time like this.”
A human touch
Using computers to increase the human nature of your digital offering, although odd, isn’t ineffective. Nate explains how.
“An increasing number of customers are opting to shop online where they are safe from any virus threats. But what this means for retailers is a risk of consumers becoming disconnected from their brand, which can happen quite easily when the physical distance between the two has widened.
“This is where the benefits of automation can really be felt, particularly when used to enhance customer experience.
“For example, automated marketing strategies that serve content tailored to individual interactions, or PPC tactics that automate ad copy to match users’ search queries, for example, all make for a more personal experience.
“And we shouldn’t forget about that most traditional of digital brand communications nowadays, social media – with its ability to schedule and organise ahead of time posts that will enhance digital marketing and brand communication efforts.
“What this creates is positive brand engagement as each customer is getting an experience that is perfectly suited to their requirements. And in this way, the brand feels much less like a simple transaction and more of a value-added experience.”
There is proof that this has commercial benefit too, with figures indicating that 75% of email revenue is generated from personalised campaigns.
A look inside
While focusing on addressing heightened customer sentiments, it’s important to remember that your employees too are people that are facing the same challenges and uncertainties. But luckily, automation can also help make their jobs easier.
“Another benefit of automation is its ability to lessen the admin burden for all businesses, but especially those who are new to ecommerce and those who now have an omnichannel offering with both an online and physical store,” explains Nate.
“For employees, this means less paperwork or order monitoring as the process can instead take place via a centralised digital platform, which not only holds customer and supplier information, but also analyses data to create insight that can then go on to inform business decisions.
“Pressure is taken off employees, who may well be struggling with an increased workload due to the addition of sales channels, which will no doubt improve wellbeing and workplace satisfaction. And commercially speaking, this can reduce costs related to wages and training, allowing budget and resources to be reallocated to other business-critical activities instead, such as digital marketing.”
The financial impact of the pandemic continues to grow, so we anticipate budget saving will be on the minds of many business owners in the coming months. It appears, then, that automation could be a useful technique.
Nate believes that: “When fully integrated into a business’s process, yes, automation can save costs and help to maximise return on spend in other areas. But as with anything, investment into learning, understanding and implementing a strategy are required in the first instance.”
“Despite this, automation and digital transformation are here to stay. Those who are willing to embrace AI technology now will be in a much better position than those who don’t. And with retailers having suffered enough this year, it may well be that automation is what the industry needs to propel it into a whole new era of ecommerce, giving it a fighting chance of survival amid COVID-uncertainty.”
Nate Burke is CEO of Diginius, a software and services provider with a performance based approach designed to grow your sales online.