The next generation of eCommerce: how the pandemic has changed online shopping for good

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The next generation of eCommerce: how the pandemic has changed online shopping for good

More than a year after the start of the worldwide pandemic that indelibly altered the ways humans interact, we’re still trying to define a ‘new normal’ that takes into account temporary solutions versus permanent changes. 

It’s safe to say that the majority of people are eager to go back to attending live concerts and weddings, traveling safely, and not flinching when entering a space with large numbers of people. But, on the other hand, many of us have grown accustomed to some of the changes that the pandemic prompted, such as working from home, more easily connecting with people via social media, and the ease of shopping online for groceries, fashion, home goods, and just about everything imaginable. 

Today, we’d like to focus on the last point on this list. 

eCommerce has been permanently changed by the pandemic, and we’re not going to lie – we’re here for it. Not only has online shopping become more convenient, it’s also become reliable, and, let’s go ahead and say it – fun! It’s also allowed brands to better connect with customers in meaningful ways that are helping to change the way we live. 

So we’d like to take a good look at how the pandemic has changed online shopping and what this means for brands as we move forward past the pandemic with these lasting effects. 

Why not check out the crucial eCommerce metrics to measure when growing your online business.

10 years of digital penetration growth in a matter of months

When the pandemic forced our interactions online, we quickly grew accustomed to digitally connecting with not just family, friends, and colleagues – but with services and brands too. 

This large-scale cultural change enabled digital penetration to grow enormously in a short time, and we’re not exaggerating. Literally, the retail sector saw 10 years of digital penetration growth in a matter of months, and it’s forecasted to reach a 25% penetration by 2025, compared to 15% at the start of the pandemic. 

And these cultural shifts are expected to last. 

As young consumers grow accustomed to the convenience of online shopping – 67% of young people switched to online shopping last year – it’s expected that brands will be pushed to continue on this path without looking back. Plus, younger generations will continue to make social media a focus in digital marketing, as 54% of young consumers chose to shop via these platforms in 2020 and global consumer spending on mobile is expected to reach $270 billion by 2025, 2.5 times that of 2020. 

Of course, we’re still reckoning with a market consumer sentiment that is uncertain about the COVID crisis, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on eCommerce. In fact, it means that even those who prefer to shop in person, still have a real motivation for turning to their computers, phones, and tablets to make everyday purchases for months to come. 

Source: Shopify

So it’s safe to say that without this dramatic push towards digital, we would not have seen these changes for another decade. And this swift push has really put the pressure on brands to step up their innovative practices as they keep up with the rapidly evolving online world. 

As the online arena constantly reinvents itself with each passing day, the big question is: how can businesses accelerate their eCommerce growth as they face our latest era of online shopping?

Data-driven, customer-focused marketing in today’s eCommerce 

According to new research from McKinsey and Company,“Between March and August of 2020, one in five consumers switched brands, and seven in ten tried new digital shopping channels.”

This kind of rapid growth and movement is incredible, but it has posed another problem for marketers: the inability to keep up with the speed of online markets. Despite the availability of information, at the start of the pandemic, it was almost impossible for brands to collect it in an efficient way to turn into effective online strategies. 

So instead, many brands have had to rely on mass marketing over data-driven targeting simply to stay in the game. 

But a year later, as we start to recognize and understand the lasting effects of the pandemic, brands are beginning to leverage the possibilities of precision-driven marketing in today’s world. This means discovering access to new forms of data, like new behavioral trends, location-based insights, and also third-party analytics on customers and competitors.

With deeper insights, brands can then create higher quality data-driven marketing strategies that make an impact in the market. But with so much information and opportunity, you need a focus to keep you on track. 

Research has found that successful marketing actions post-pandemic tend to put the focus on delighting the customer. This customer-centric marketing intimately understands the customer experience and includes this information within the online buying journey. Further than that, advanced analytics capabilities help us to synchronize the eCommerce experience with other channels so that customers can seamlessly move between them. 

This is crucial, as it’s more important for retention than ever to connect on a deeper level with consumers. And we’d like to share exactly how brands can do that. 

User Generated Content and the next generation of eCommerce

How can brands create a functional and worthwhile customer-centric marketing strategy? The answer is User Generated Content. 

As the relationship between brand and consumer grows ever-closer, it’s crucial for brands to go further than connecting with consumers – by celebrating them. And the best way to do that is through authentic UGC. 

When brands integrate customer photos and videos within the online buying journey, shoppers feel invited to participate in the brand image in an immersive way that sparks engagement and conversions across marketing channels. All of this relies on the principle that UGC builds customer trust. When customers see real examples of friends and peers sharing their opinion on a product, they gain confidence in the brand, daring to make their own purchase in the process. 

We’re not just saying this. In fact, it’s been shown that 92% of consumers trust earned media, like UGC, more than any other kind of content, demonstrating that the best way to create a customer-centric marketing strategy is to celebrate your customers through UGC. 

Take iconic fashion brand KARL LAGERFELD as an example. 

They further immersed their loyal base of customers into the brand identity thanks to UGC and saw an increase of engagement within their online store. This came along with an average order value increase of 20.84% and a conversion rate of 7.02% with those who interacted with their powerful customer created content. 

Furthermore, with the acceleration in digital penetration over the past year, many brands have found that they don’t have enough content ready to properly promote their products online, let alone highly engaging content that can compete with emerging brands. With UGC, brands, like Casa Viva who have a large number of products in their catalogue, always have enough content to share compelling images and videos featuring their products. 

Finally, these campaigns uphold the intention of data-driven marketing, as an advanced UGC platform provides analytics that help brands display the highest converting content from influential users, creating even more buzz over their products.

So as eCommerce continues to advance, it’s important for brands to be innovative without losing their focus on the customer. With User Generated Content, it’s possible to achieve both. 

If you’re interested in keeping up with the next generation of eCommerce, we encourage you to learn more about how a customer-centric, data-driven marketing strategy, like UGC, can help your brand improve your online performance. Check out these customer photo examples