Navigating the accelerated shift to ecommerce in a dynamic environment: how to thrive during COVID-19 (and beyond)

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This content, written by Dan LeBlanc, was initially posted in Looker Blog on Jan 27, 2021. The content is subject to limited support.

As a result of the pandemic, more consumers than ever before are shopping online. At the same time, retailers and brands have been forced to rethink their business strategies as they adjust to today’s increasingly digital reality. Some retailers are moving slowly or struggling to adapt. And others are experiencing the best times ever — even outpacing Black Friday and other holiday-related shopping events.

So, how are successful ecommerce-driven retailers and brands leading the charge toward a brighter digital future? The answer lies in data. Businesses benefitting from the digital boom are investing in data tools and leveraging data-driven insights to fine-tune how they can create the best possible customer experience while fueling revenue growth.

A partner in the Looker ecosystem since 2018, my company, , helps direct-to-consumer (DTC) merchants unlock data for data-driven growth and decision-making. Daasity’s proprietary end-to-end analytics platform addresses the key steps of data extraction, transformation, and analysis. Combined with Looker's and , it can help retailers and brands thrive during the pandemic and beyond.

In a recent podcast, “,” I had the good fortune of speaking with Chris Shimojima, former CEO of Provide Commerce, an ecommerce company selling perishable goods — from hand picked fruit and flowers to gourmet gift items. From our give-and-take, I gleaned six ways retailers can navigate the shift to digital commerce as a core business strategy.

1. Rethinking your product strategy

Make sure you’re offering products that people truly want. As a result of COVID-19, we’ve seen some huge shifts in consumer spend. As people hunker down at home, product categories that are doing well are household items, home fitness, health and wellness, and skincare, while apparel and cosmetics have been experiencing a decline. By taking a critical look at data on consumer buying preferences, many brands are making adjustments to their product lines and rollout plans, shifting the focus to products that consumers really want. This presents a great opportunity to introduce new products into the mix that can take your business into a whole new direction.

2. Creating a soulful connection with the consumer

Consumers are loyal to brands they believe in, and that’s true now more so than ever. You can use your data to understand who your most important consumers are and to gain an understanding of their passion points (what they buy, where they buy, and where their loyalty resides). All this will help you with . By understanding your customer base, you can drive a more comprehensive digital strategy that will enable you to thrive in a highly competitive marketplace.

3. Expanding your footprint

Make your products available in more places. As Chris astutely points out, retailers and brands need to accept that digital interaction is a critical component of how we live today. Wholesale-centric brands can learn from digital native brands (who already had online stores that resonated with consumer passions before the pandemic). They understand how consumers engage with them across all touchpoints — from the purchase transaction, to delivery, to the customer survey.

Wholesalers need to start thinking beyond Amazon and start building a healthier, more expansive ecommerce ecosystem to amplify their business. Think omnichannel. For example, if you’re on Shopify, you can list your products on Walmart and other retail sites. And a platform like Shopify can help retailers and wholesalers quickly pivot to ecommerce and push products out to a larger global audience. Apart from creating a larger consumer pool, amplifying your footprint will bring in more data that you can use to refine your digital strategy.

4. Focusing on data for marketing insights

By using the right tools, you can analyze data to understand the impact of your marketing efforts — which likely include Amazon advertising or Google Ads. You can compare all your sales channels in the context of your marketing and make data-driven decisions so you can shift your spend and focus for maximum impact.

5. Extracting value from operational data

High consumer demand and other factors are increasing the time and cost of delivery, so having a solid grasp on your fulfillment and delivery data is crucial.

You can use it to help set your customers’ expectations appropriately; and further, you can identify ways to speed up your delivery process. In a world of one- and two-day deliveries from Amazon, many brands are seeking to tighten up their processes.

By measuring the operational value of your delivery providers and discovering their strengths and weaknesses, you can start refining these processes to provide a better customer experience. And a better customer experience means improved customer loyalty over the long term.

6. Finding new opportunities as consumer behaviors change

Brick-and-mortar retailers with little or no digital presence have been impacted in a big way by the pandemic. But by adopting an omnichannel strategy with digital at the core, can leverage their existing stores to their advantage. For example, the concept of online buying with in-store pick-ups has grown and matured, making the store a real asset. After picking up their merchandise, consumers can browse and buy on the spot. Additionally, the one-on-one relationships shoppers forge with employees can be a powerful way to activate a soulful connection and drive loyalty. This is a benefit that digital-only retailers don’t have.

These are just a few ways that you, as a retailer or brand, can make the most of these challenging times. Agility, flexibility, and the willingness to embrace change are your allies. And data can be an important tool to help you find creative ways to grow your market and find your sweet spot.

Listen to our complete podcast, “” for more insights on how to navigate today's dynamic environment.

To learn how Daasity and Looker helped retailer Snowe streamline their operations and optimize their shipping process for a 30% increase in profits, see .

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