Tag: ecommerce

The Top 5 Challenges of Cross-Border E-Commerce

Top 5 Challenges of Global Ecommerce

E-commerce is thriving everywhere. Consumers today are savvier at finding what they are looking for, comparing products online and at making informed purchase decisions. Due to advancements in technology, it is easier now for consumers to look for the best deal, even outside their countries. And this, along with global e-commerce’s predicted growth of $4 trillion1 by 2020, is what makes cross-border e-commerce business appealing for brands. Here are the top 5 challenges of cross-border e-commerce:

Understandably, leaving the comforts offered by familiar local markets to venture cross-border is challenging. It is therefore important for brands to understand the challenges they may face so they can create a holistic strategy when starting to scale globally.

    1. Currencies. Currency is a clear obstacle faced by brands when selling abroad. It is frustrating for a consumer to have to compute exchange rates on their own, and this ultimately results in a poor experiences and lost customers. For instance, one in four consumers2 will abandon their shopping carts if the price is displayed in a foreign currency. Therefore, brands must have the ability to display the right currencies on their website and automate conversions, so the experience feels local for their shoppers.
    2. Payment Methods. Variety is attractive to consumers. Offering them multiple payment options translates to an easier sales process, and thus, more sales. Brands must know what payment methods are accepted in their target countries or regions, and make sure they can support such methods. In addition, they should also ensure that they offer the most well-used and effective payment methods cited by Statista3 as the top five payment methods by transaction volume worldwide:
        • Digital/mobile wallet – 41.8%
        • Credit card – 24.2%
        • Debit card – 10.6%
        • Bank transfer – 9%
        • Charge and deferred credit card – 4%
        • Cash on delivery – 4.5%
    3. Shipping. International shipping is both expensive and unpredictable. It can also be complex. On top of all the consumer-centric worries a brand may have over shipping, they must also be aware of important things to consider when shipping offshore. According to TBOS, an offshoring business service provider4, brands must keep in mind the following when considering cross-border shipping:
        • Custom regulations and fees. Brands must prioritize this when shipping internationally, because they are required to clear customs by filling out documentation and declarations for each receiving country and the country of origin. Corresponding fees also need to be paid, and it varies by product and per country. This means that brands must have a process in place to easily check fees for every country before shipping.
        • Shipping tariff. This includes the shipping fee imposed by the shipping company and other additional taxes. Brands should check the tariff rates of shipping companies before booking.
        • Time of transit. The product delivery date must always be determined beforehand. It is important to note that on top of custom clearing times, other factors such as weather changes, border checks, etc. may cause delays.
        • Medium of transportation. While choosing between air or sea shipments, time, cost, and the products to be sent must be considered. Airfreight is fast but expensive, while sea freight is affordable, but shipping takes longer.
        • Restricted items. Some items are restricted in some countries, so it is imperative to know restricted items per country to avoid fines and other compliance-related issues.
        • Insurance. Brands must also consider getting their products insured. Having this financial safety net can save brands trouble and money.
    4. Returns. 90%5 of shoppers check the return policies of a brand before finalizing a purchase. This is understandable, especially for offshore customers. Fashion products, for instance, as the most purchased items online6, see a lot of returns because consumers don’t want to risk purchasing the wrong size, color, texture, etc. It is therefore important for brands to minimize these types of fears from a shopper’s mind. Having a returns policy in place can, in many cases, ensure that a purchase will happen.  In addition, brands can leverage a return policy to be both a competitive advantage and a way to strengthen customer loyalty and retention. UPS cites5 that allowing the return of an item, specifically a free return, can entice consumers to purchase from a cross-border seller:
        • 52% say free return shipping is key to a positive return experience
        • 68% would complete the purchase if they see a prepaid return label
    5. Übersetzung und Lokalisierung. Didn’t understand that? Neither do non-German-speaking consumers. It is therefore very important for brands to pay attention to their localization and translation strategies if they want to take advantage of opportunities presented by cross-border selling. Brands must also be sensitive to cultural and language differences in their global markets. Translating e-commerce sites and converting currencies is a clear first step. However, for a brand to be effective at cross-border selling, it must go on full localization mode and adapt everything to fit a target consumer’s habits and preferences. This means:
        • Establish a localization team. Brands must assemble a localization team that will manage the translation and localization of product content – from product information, catalogs, images, etc. A project leader needs to oversee content guidelines and select content to be translated. The team must have enough knowledge of the field as well as awareness of the cultural nuances for each region.
        • Obtain the right tools. Brands must acquire a system that makes it easier for the team to manage product information across websites and e-commerce platforms. Expanding cross-border needs efficient management of multilingual versions of data, measurements, currencies, etc.

Is it time to go global?

Not every domestic brand has what it takes to expand globally. A brand can consider expanding across borders when:

        • They have outgrown their domestic market
        •  There is an international market for their products
        • They have mastered the art of competitive pricing
        • They have the bandwidth to expand
        • They are ready to support alternative payments
        • They have a scalable platform that can support the international market

Brands can venture into the untested world of cross-border e-commerce when they have the right business strategy in place and when they can support such strategy with the right technology solutions.

Explore the possibilities of cross-border e-commerce with PIM.

Sources

1 https://www.fierceretail.com/digital/top-5-challenges-cross-border-e-commerce
2 https://risnews.com/correct-change-foreign-exchange-secret-weapon-solve-cart-abandonment
3 https://www.statista.com/statistics/348004/payment-method-usage-worldwide/
4 https://offshoringtbos.com/important-points-to-consider-in-international-shipping/
5 https://www.ups.com/media/en/gb/OnlineComScoreWhitepaper_CN.pdf
6 https://www.doofinder.com/en/blog/best-selling-products-on-the-internet

Top 5 Global B2B Marketplaces

Top B2B E-Commerce Platforms

The global B2B e-commerce industry was worth US$12.2 trillion in 2019 and according to Statista, that was six times more than the worth of B2C e-commerce1. These numbers suggest that the future of e-commerce, at least the near future, is B2B. But are you familiar with the top five B2B marketplaces? As it stands Amazon Business and Alibaba.com lead the pack, but let’s take a deeper look at the top 5 B2B marketplaces.

Amazon Business

Their tagline says it all, “Everything you love about Amazon. For your business2.” That means businesses simply register and can start using the platform to purchase business supplies. Employers are also allowed to add multiple users to buy on their behalf. “Workflow Approval” allows buyers to create carts to send back for approval and build a list of preferred suppliers and products.  Amazon Business also provides “Spend Visibility” where the account admin has an overview of what is being spent on what.

Key features:

/         Price savings. Offers exclusive price discounts, price breaks or quantity discounts and provides access to millions of products.

/         Shipping. Has four fulfilment options: Business Prime (same day, one-day, two-day shipping depending on eligibility), Amazon Fulfilment (user’s choice), free shipping (on orders of $25 or more of eligible items) and pallet shipping (dock or doorstep delivery).

/         Payment. Offers purchasing via card or line of credit, plus tax exemption for convenience and savings.

/         Sponsored ads. Helps shoppers find brands at every stage of their journey, such as the first page of search results or product detail pages3.

/          Enhanced product content. Helps businesses improve their listings by providing key product information such as CAD files, images and videos, application and user guides, manuals, etc.

Key benefits:

Amazon Business claims that “third-party sellers make up +50% of our $10 billion annualized sales run rate.” Additionally, because it’s a one-stop destination for both on the spot and strategic purchases, it boasts that it helps businesses control their spending4.

Alibaba.Com

What was originally a yellow page directory, Alibaba.com is now an end-to-end trading platform “to make it easy to do business everywhere5.” Its focus may be on Chinese manufacturers, but it serves millions of buyers and suppliers worldwide. Often referred to as the “Amazon of China,” Alibaba acts as a middleman between two parties. Businesses can list their products for free on Alibaba.com or pay for greater exposure on the site much like how Google does it for brands.

Key features6:

/         Product verification. Inspects products for quality and when a product is successful, it gains a “Verified Main Product” designation.

/         Trade assurance. Refunds businesses enough to cover the initial deposit in the event of delayed shipping or if a wrong item is sent.

/         Payment. Offers security and flexibility via Alipay (similar to PayPal), bank transfers, letter of credit, Western Union and Escrow.

/         Customs data. Provides U.S. retailers access to public trading records of the foreign suppliers they’re dealing with on Alibaba.

Key benefits:

Aside from access to countless numbers of suppliers, businesses can buy at extremely low prices and sell at premium retail prices. Equally important is that, unlike Amazon, Alibaba doesn’t compete with its customers and doesn’t require them to invest in warehousing and logistics as their business model is software driven. Their philosophy is to facilitate business between two entities.

Rakuten Marketplace

Dubbed as the “Amazon of Japan,” Rakuten Marketplace was primarily a Japanese marketplace until it acquired Buy.com and started to compete with Amazon and eBay. To strengthen their game in the US, Rakuten acquired Ebates.com allowing customers to earn Super Points or 1% of the product’s price which they can use on the next purchase. Sellers must be approved by Rakuten to sell.7

Key features8:

/         Personalized storefront. Allows brands to mimic their website, enabling them to showcase and control their identity and messaging.

/         Custom product pages. Enables brands to provide rich product content such as detailed product information, images and demo videos.

/         Customer support. Provides sellers with training and guidance, as well as a dedicated e-commerce consultant (ECC).

/         Email marketing. Offers R-mail, a newsletter-like tool, allowing sellers to send existing customers updates and offerings.

Key benefits:

Much like Alibaba, Rakuten doesn’t compete with its customers. On Rakuten, the competition is strictly between merchants. Big on providing great experiences, it encourages merchants to compete on hospitality and customer service, not just on price.

IndiaMart

With the tagline “To make doing business easy,” it sounds very similar to Alibaba. It’s India’s largest B2B marketplace boasting over 98 million buyers, 5.9 million suppliers and 66 million products & services9.

Key features:

/         Two-way discovery. Facilitates buyer-supplier location on its marketplace via email or SMS query or through IndiaMART.

/         Payment protection program. Offers reliable and secure transactions through their free service IndiaMART Payment Protection10.

Key benefits:

IndiaMART believes that its unique selling points against other marketplaces are “reach, brand recognition, breadth and quality of suppliers and product listings, pricing and customer service.11

Global Sources

According to their LinkedIn page, “Global Sources is a leading B2B media company and a primary facilitator of trade between Asia and the world using English-language media such as trade shows (GlobalSources.com/exhibitions), online marketplaces (GlobalSources.com), magazines, and apps 12.” It has the same goal as Alibaba, which is to facilitate global trade. However, Global Sources’ close ties with Hong Kong trade fairs ensures it doesn’t encounter issues with counterfeit products.

Key features13:

/         Verified supplier system. Helps suppliers build a reliable image by running their registration details through independent third parties.

/         Supplier capability assessment. Enables buyers to audit suppliers based on production facilities, capabilities and product quality.

/         UI/UX. Facilitates easy navigation with a user-friendly interface, provides convenience with a flexible search engine. Provides insight via a built-in tool to compare suppliers and their products14.

Key benefits:

Global Sources main highlight is its reliability guarantee. It may only have 15,000 suppliers compared to Alibaba’s one million, but all of those underwent a strict selection process.

In summary, B2B marketplaces are on the rise. They are good testing grounds for businesses who are just starting with e-commerce or are looking for something to support their web shop. It’s worth noting that each of these top B2B marketplaces has their own unique selling points that may work for some but not for others.

Consumer Behavior Keeps Shifting Due to COVID-19 Pandemic – Part 2

Consumer Behavior Keeps Shifting Due to COVID-19 Pandemic – Part 2

In part one of our series, we looked at new data on emerging consumer habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In part two, we will be looking a little ahead. There have been new developments regarding the virus itself, with many experts fearing the possibility of it returning to the northern hemisphere in the fall. If that occurs, we could see the same trends that we’ve talked about before once again. However, this time we may be able to be proactive if restricted living policies are reestablished in the latter part of the year.

 

Online sales shift based on lockdown status

It’s still too early to tell, but the boost in e-commerce activity caused by lockdowns may be less permanent than initially predicted. Countries that have extended lockdown policies such as the UK or France have continued to maintain high e-commerce sales. In contrast, others like Denmark, where lockdowns have begun to ease, have seen a drop in e-commerce sales1. Even if this is the case, it is still uncertain if this will also occur in every country that is beginning to ease restricted living.

So, what does this mean for brands?

In short, those that benefited from the increase of online sales should not be complacent. After all, gaining customers is one thing, but retaining them is another. There are strategies that brands can use to retain as many shoppers as possible once limitations are lifted, including:
 
/        Engaging customer support

/        Enhanced loyalty programs

/        Increased promotions and discounts

/        Personalized shopping experiences

/        Improved communications

/        Extended returns
 
Take note from Vuori, an athletic apparel brand that used some of the strategies above to improve consumer engagement. Forced to close their stores due to the pandemic, they switched their attention entirely to e-commerce. To boost shop sales, Vuori offered discounts to consumers that shopped at their existing locations, while enabling them to shop for their favorite items online. Vuori also shifted their messaging to improve engagement, making it timely to align with the reality that consumers are facing today. Furthermore, they prioritized their web and mobile experiences2.

 

Preparing for the next COVID-19 wave

As many pandemics have done in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic may resurge in waves3. Whether these waves will be fueled by the lessening of restricted living and social distancing policies, or due to seasonal aspect of the virus, remains to be seen. However, when it comes to consumer behavior, brands may likely see similar trends repeat should there be a resurgence of the virus later in the year.

This means that brands must prepare for potential store closures and another bout of increased e-commerce activities. It would then be wise to follow Vuori’s example and focus on e-commerce and social media to maintain and improve engagement with consumers.

Brands like Vuori, however, had an advantage over other brands when the pandemic hit – they had embraced a D2C strategy early on, making it easier for them to focus on e-commerce and to move away from physical stores when the need arose. This initiative helped them naturally adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, most brands are not yet prepared for e-commerce. A few months ago, only 17% of brand executives believed their organizations were leading competitors in e-commerce, and 71% said their businesses were merely catching up or keeping pace4. With everything that has happened since, more brands have taken a serious look at their e-commerce strategy. For those who don’t have anything in place, time may not be on their side.

 

Looking ahead

If the experts are right, the world may face another COVID-19 wave in the fall or winter on the northern hemisphere. Therefore, brands have a very short time to put a strategy in place and acquire the tools and capabilities needed for them to be ready on time. Furthermore, we must remember that it’s not just about benefiting from the increase in e-commerce activity borne from restricted living policies, brands must also implement ways to build and bolster customer loyalty and engagement if they want to retain them in the long run.

Consumer Behavior Keeps Shifting Due to COVID-19 Pandemic – Part 1

[Blog] Consumer Behavior Keeps Shifting Due to COVID-19 – Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting consumer behavior, specifically shopping habits. We discussed the differences in attitudes across age groups and genders. In this two-part series, we’ll look into the latest data on how consumer behavior is continuously changing, especially in countries that are still under stay at home or shelter in place orders.

New habits are being formed

Given the current global situation, it’s not surprising that there’s an increase in e-commerce orders. The spike since early March in the US and Canada has been significant—with online orders going up by 80% and buyers converting 8.8% more than the same period last year1. However, this isn’t unique to North America. Europeans are also placing more online orders, with pure-play e-commerce brands seeing an average increase of 40% to 80% year-on-year growth2.

To illustrate, take a look at Emarsys and Good Data’s interactive map tracking how Covid-19 is affecting consumer expenditure across the globe2:

Year-over-year growth rate of online transactions from ccinsight.org

* Year-Over-Year Growth Rate of Online Transactions

Furthermore, recent research indicates that the drastic increase in e-commerce sales may not only be attributed to the shift from offline to online in shopping. For example, there are consumers that have supplementary income or more time in their hands who are picking up new activities or hobbies to keep busy at home. This could become a growing factor contributing to the growth of online sales in the coming months3. If so, it could mean that new and lasting habits outside of shopping are being adopted by consumers due to the restrictions in place. This could be a positive development for some brands as this development may indicate a new or expanded consumer base – one that they will have to engage with if they want to transition them into long-term customers.

Contrasts across age groups

Our previous piece examined how different age groups have reacted to the pandemic, and found a stark contrast between them. However, more recent surveys show that ongoing restrictions are blurring the lines between age groups in some areas, such as how respondents are being financially affected by the pandemic4:

/        24% from the age group 30 to 44 years old

/        28% from the age group 45 to 64 years old

/        21% from 65 and older

That said, millennials continue to be the most cautious and concerned group when it comes to financial matters, with an Elon University4 survey finding that worries over “personal financial situation” still vary per age group:

/        80% from the age group 25 to 44 years old

/        78% from the age group 18 to 24 years old

/        74% from the age group 45 to 64 years old

/        62% of those 65 and older

Another poll found that 59% of millennials have taken or planned to take steps to save cash due to the pandemic’s effects on the economy.

We must remember that most of this research was gathered in mid-March in the US. This  period marked the beginning of the restrictive living phase across the country, and therefore, attitudes regarding financial stability and overall concerns about COVID-19 may have changed in the weeks after. However, it is important for businesses to follow these trends, as they will provide glimpses into the concerns and emerging needs of every age group after the social distancing restrictions end.

That’s it for part one! In part two we’ll look into other trends, including how e-commerce is being affected in countries that have started to ease their lockdown policies.

4 Sectors That Are Surviving or Thriving During the Pandemic

Many industries are helplessly watching their numbers plummet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as tourism, dine-in restaurants and events to name a few. Others, however, especially sectors in the digital industry, are seeing notable spikes in activity and sales:

Streaming services

Streaming services are one of the very few industries that benefit from lockdowns as more people find themselves seeking entertainment:

/         Gaming. Twitch’s global viewership went up 10%, while YouTube Gaming’s increased by 15% since the pandemic1

/         TV. Netflix’s projected year-on-year subscriptions have grown since the outbreak:2

    •   30.9% – International
    •   3.8% – US and Canadian (UCAN)

/         Music. US music streaming dropped by 7.6% during the week of March 13. However, there was an uptick in streams for the following weeks:3

    •   1.5% classical music
    •   2.9% folk music
    •   3.8% children’s music

Virtual events

Virtual exhibition platform V-Ex recently shared that over 50,000 people recently visited its online trade shows, sales environments and conferences.4 Consumers and businesses that were looking forward to attending big physical events, which were later on canceled, have shown great willingness to attend virtual events. This has encouraged many companies to shift their events online:

/         Google rebranded and shifted its Google Cloud Next physical event to Google Cloud Next ’20: Digital Connect virtual5

/         IBM decided to livestream its IBM Think 2020 developer’s conference6

/         Apple, Microsoft and other tech companies followed suit7

Digital media

According to eMarketer, total worldwide media ad spending is expected to reach $691.70 billion in 2020. That’s up 7% from 2019, but still down from their previous estimate of $121.13 billion.8  However, it’s still quite early in the year, so the numbers might take a turn for the worse—as more and more major events like the Olympics are postponed and advertisers continue to be cautious with their spending. Or perhaps numbers will improve, as China, the second-largest ad market and where a lot of global companies in the world trace their supply chain, is expected to lift its Wuhan lockdown on April 8, 2020.9

eMarketer also reports that they are seeing “early signs of a possible economic turnaround” and are “cautiously optimistic that a potential global economic downturn could also be short-lived, mitigating negative impacts on the worldwide ad market on a full-year basis.”10

E-commerce

Chinese e-commerce giant, JD.com, saw the sales of fresh food such as vegetables and common household staples, such as rice and flour quadruple during the pandemic period of January 24 to February 2, 2020 (the lockdown was imposed on January 23).11  In the US, Gordon Haskett Research Advisory surveyed consumers on March 13 and found out that one-third of them had recently bought food online.12 Among new online grocery shoppers, the retailer of choice was as follows:

/         41% Walmart

/         14% Amazon and Whole Foods

/         10% Target

/         6% Kroger

/         4% Costco

For companies that are not in these four sectors, but that wish to emerge more competitive post-pandemic, KPMG’s Steve Bates had this to say, “You have to avoid the tendency to slash and burn your transformation and revert back to your traditional working model. There is going to be pent-up demand and when this period ends there is going to be a tidal wave of spending and you want to be in position to take advantage of it.”13

COVID-19 is affecting everyone’s shopping behavior differently

With more people staying indoors to curb the spread of COVID-19, it’s no surprise that this new reality might change how and where people shop. Although only time will tell if these changes will be temporary or permanent, we can start to observe how the pandemic is affecting demographic shopping behavior.

Cautious millennials

As a group, millennials are often characterized as careful with their money, meaning they watch how, why, when and where they spend it. For instance, they currently spend $20 less than their age group counterparts did 10 years ago.1 There are several theories that attempt to explain why millennials are this cautious, but the most accepted is that they were shaped by the realities of the 2007 Great Recession. Nonetheless, this group still holds the greatest shopping potential for decades to come, and this is why businesses have been scrambling to understand their shopping behavior to cater to their needs and meet their expectations.

So, how is this pandemic affecting their shopping behavior? In a survey conducted at the start of the outbreak, 54% of millennials said that COVID-19 is significantly or somewhat impacting their purchase decisions – the highest among the generational demographic – compared to 33% of baby boomers, 42% of Gen X, and 49% of Gen Z.2 Furthermore, 39% percent of respondents said they are shopping less frequently in stores with 30% of millennials shopping more often online2.

The millennials’ cautious approach to spending is being reflected by how they have reacted to news about COVID-19 in their communities:3

/        39% say that news about the coronavirus is impacting where and how they shop

/        36% say news about the coronavirus impacts how much they are spending on products

/        40% cut back on spending in preparation for impacts of the coronavirus

/        34% buy more products in anticipation of the spread of the coronavirus

Indifferent boomers

Despite being the age group with the highest risk for COVID-19 complications, boomers show the least concern about contracting the novel coronovirus.5 In fact, only 43% expressed being worried as opposed to 53% of millennials, consequently reflecting how much they will shift their buying behavior in response to the pandemic. For example, only 20% of boomers said they have adopted grocery shopping behavior changes in response to the coronavirus outbreak4.

Typically, older generations tend to be laggards in the adoption of new technologies. This has been the case with boomers and e-commerce, specifically on categories such as groceries or fashion. Despite current increases in adoption of online grocery shopping due to the outbreak, only 22% of boomers are shopping less in-store and just 8% are shopping more frequently online. Even though these numbers are noticeably lower in comparison with other generations, it’s important to note that these changes in behavior may be permanent. Therefore, boomers that try online grocery shopping, for instance, during the pandemic, are likely to continue do so again in the long term.6

Difference across genders

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only affecting consumer behavior across generational lines. Stark contrasts can also be seen between genders, as the coronavirus affects men and women’s shopping habits differently. If women, in general, express higher concerns about the effect of the outbreak, it is men who are more likely to alter their shopping behavior:7

/        33% of men, compared to 25% of women report the pandemic affects how much they spend on products

/        24% percent of men versus 18% of women report higher online shopping

It must be noted that most of the research was conducted at the start of the pandemic. Therefore, it is likely that figures will change as more communities move towards more restrictive quarantine measures.

However, retailers and D2C manufacturers need to continue to monitor these behavioral changes closely. Understanding how consumers change will be critical for them to succeed once things return to normal. It’s highly likely that consumers will emerge from this crisis with  changed perceptions, unusual shopping habits or leveraging different technological tools.

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Influencing Consumer Behavior

COVID-19 Pandemic Is Influencing Consumer Behavior

The reality of this new pandemic took the world by surprise. People worldwide are still trying to adapt to the idea of prolonged indoor stays. So, now that we are all trying to avoid going out to shop in brick and mortar stores, how has this changed our approach in purchasing goods?  Furthermore, will these adjustments establish new and lasting habits?

Behavior in a time of crisis

In countries heavily impacted by COVID-19, consumers are stockpiling food and other essential items, while isolating themselves from crowds. To find out how and when consumers started showing these behavioral changes, Nielsen1 conducted shopper behavior research that started during the beginning of the pandemic in China and extended to other countries that have also been affected. They monitored consumer trends, as COVID-19 news reached the general public and found out that consumers go through six behavioral stages based on their awareness of the COVID-19 spread in their communities:

1. Proactive health-minded buying: Increased interest in the acquisition of products that maintain well-being or health

2. Reactive health management: Prioritization of products for infection containment (e.g. face masks)

3. Pantry preparation: Higher purchases of shelf-safe products and increased store visits

4. Quarantined living preparation: Increased online shopping, decreased store visits and first signs of strain on the supply chain

5. Restricted living: Possible price gouging due to limited supplies and deterred online fulfillment

6. Living a new normal: Increased health awareness even as people return to their typical daily activities

The study also found out that consumers typically moved from one stage to another in a period of two weeks in areas close to the initial outbreak. However, this happened much faster in other countries where the outbreak started later, such as Italy and the US.

Currently, the only country where consumers are starting to transition to the sixth stage is China, while the US has begun to move towards restricted living. So, what kind of possible long-lasting consumer behavior shifts can we expect as a result? It’s still too early to tell, but clear trends can be seen, which, if sustained, could lead to significant shifts in how consumers shop in the future.

Novel ways to shop

When consumers are faced with shopping restrictions, they find and adopt newer ways to shop through technology. This is especially true when it comes to health and essential items. In 2019, the online grocery shopping market generated about $28.68 billion or a 20% increase from 2018.2 Despite this growth, food and beverage were still one of the smallest e-commerce categories. Last year, it was mostly the younger population segment that tried online grocery shopping, with 55% of 25 to 34-year-olds considering themselves likely to purchase groceries online, in contrast to only 35% of 45 to 54-year-olds expressing the same sentiment.3

US Retail Ecommerce Sales Share, by Product Category, 2019

However, due to the pandemic, older generations are starting to see online shopping as a valid and safe option to obtain groceries. For example, Alibaba reported that in China, online grocery orders placed by people born in the 1960s were four times higher than normal during the Spring Festival or the period were China was still discovering new cases of COVID-19 each day.4

But what about other product categories? With so many consumers entering restricted living situations, there has been a spike in other categories, especially in entertainment and media. That’s not surprising given that staying home increases the amount of content people watch by 60%.5 Video games and video-game internet traffic have seen a 75% increase since restrictions were imposed in the US.6 Of course, not everyone is seeing increases in traffic or purchases, in fact travel sites are experiencing the opposite.

So, do these changes signal a shift into how consumers will behave in the long term? If the holidays are any indicator, even short-term adjustments in behavior can have long term effects. For example, during holidays, there’s an increase in the number of consumers purchasing online or on their mobile devices. We then see this behavior being sustained as new holiday seasons roll in, which means new habits have been established.

Despite the rise in e-commerce activities due to the pandemic, most retailers have a bleak outlook for the rest of the year. This is because e-commerce typically represents only about 16%7 of their sales revenue. With many stores shutting their doors, it is in the best interest of businesses to maintain and grow their e-commerce strategy.

Relying on manufacturers

As the population of most countries starts to move from quarantine preparations to restricted living, online fulfillment will be challenging due to strains in the supply chain. This has prompted many consumers to turn to Direct to Consumer (D2C) manufacturers to order and receive goods within a normal timeframe.

These D2C manufactures are a growing segment that caters directly to consumers by bypassing standard distribution channels, effectively gaining direct access to consumers. Several of these manufacturers have seen a significant boost in sales due to the pandemic. For example, Peach, a brand that manufactures high-end bath tissue saw new customers increase by 279% over the last two weeks compared to the two weeks prior.8

Awareness of D2C manufacturers has increased in the last few years, with almost 48% of manufacturers racing to build D2C channels, and 87% seeing these channels being relevant to their products and consumers.9 Initially boosted by younger audiences, D2C manufacturers have found success by focusing on specific target audiences and catering to their needs and identities. This D2C trend is expected to continue, and perhaps accelerate, as manufacturers that are still on the fence might finally see the benefits of D2C and make themselves directly available to consumers

However, even D2C manufactures that have found themselves positively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will be affected by supply chain issues as consumers start living in quarantine. This means they can’t afford to stand idly by and must find a way to maintain their e-commerce growth once the pandemic is over as well.

Trust and loyalty

The task of continuing to entice consumers to shop online, for both retailers and D2C manufacturers, is grounded on trust in order to foster lasting loyalty. However, building trust, especially in these extreme situations, means more than meeting expectations, but exceeding them. To do so, here are some important approaches to keep in mind:

/ Ease the transition. Make it as seamless as possible for consumers to switch to online shopping. For example, by providing flexibility with payment options and making it easy for them to easily find what they need. This is especially true for consumers who are moving to emerging e-commerce categories, such as groceries, for the first time.

/ Manage expectations. Display accurate stock level information especially for sought-after goods. This includes communicating realistic estimates for delivery and even re-evaluating display ads so that consumers don’t feel misled by services you can’t provide.

/ Foster comfort. Ensure that customers feel confident that their goods will be delivered on time. Encourage them to sign up for subscription services, whether through preferential pricing or other promos to help them feel safe that they will receive their products without delays.

/ Leverage promos and loyalty programs. In times of crisis, consumers are not very price sensitive. However, making price discounts and promotions available, like free shipping, helps nurture goodwill. Increasing loyalty points and rewards programs encourages customers to stay long term.

/ Prioritize customer care. Increase communication to foster a relationship with your customers, as they may feel isolated at this time. Set up a hotline to address any questions or concerns, as well as make sure their comments or reviews online are heard, to maintain a lasting positive image with consumers. Remember that consumers are spending more time online and rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions.

Looking ahead

It’s still too early to tell how much consumer behavior will change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll learn more and more about the immediate impact on stores and e-commerce as soon as additional countries move through the different stages and into restrictive living. However, it will be a while until we know if these changes in consumer behavior will be long term. In the meantime, retailers and D2C manufacturers should strive to maintain higher levels of e-commerce sales to mitigate the impact of store closures. Manufacturers that haven’t yet adopted a D2C approach must carefully follow how all this is unfolding. They must decide now whether to jump in and create D2C channels to lessen the impact of the pandemic on their sales before it’s too late.

Check back here as we keep track of any new information regarding consumer behavior as the pandemic continues to affect larger portions of the world’s population. Stay safe, and let’s all continue to do all we can to speed up the end of the pandemic in our communities.

How Can Brand Manufacturers Start to Understand End-Consumers?

Historically, manufacturers have used a tiered distribution system where they have a B2B relationship with distributors, who have a B2B relationship with retailers, who then have a B2C relationship with end-users. Manufacturers provide advertising and branding/messaging for retailers to use, and retailers, in turn, supply manufacturers with customer feedback.1 This is typically as far as their relationship with end-users goes, which is both distant and impersonal, and one they can’t afford in the “Age of the Customer” or “the transition of power from institutions and organizations to customers.”2

Consumer-brand expectations

Today’s consumers have more choices and higher expectations. According to ThinkWithGoogle:3
/ More than 60% of consumers expect brands to give them the information they need when they need it, but less than half feel that brands deliver
/ 59% research online before buying
/ 46% say they check online inventory before heading to the store

However, the information customers seek can only come from manufacturers. That’s why the middleman or big-box retailers, like Walmart, and e-commerce behemoth, Amazon, require manufacturers to supply detailed and rich product information.

Retailers own what manufacturers need

B2C marketing has always been the domain of retailers, and they rely on data to understand their audience. According to a 2019 Deloitte report in collaboration with Google,4 retailers use data to fulfill these objectives:
/ Improve user experience
/ Enhance core sales activities
/ Engage in emerging monetization opportunities

So, how can manufacturers get the data to get acquainted with consumers? They must establish a direct line to consumers by adopting a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model.

D2C and its benefits

Going direct to consumers means marketing and selling to consumers instead of using a middleman to gain benefits such as:

/ Insight from direct customer data. D2C companies gain access to first-party data, such as identity data (e.g. personal and social media information), quantitative data (e.g. transactional and customer service information), qualitative data (e.g. motivation and opinion)5

/ Brand control and ownership of customer relationships. By going direct, brands have control of their creative output and messaging on digital and social channels.6 They can also lead with their values and build and engage audiences while gathering more data.

/ Upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Based on a consumer’s profile, history and shopping behavior, manufacturers can offer high-end, alternative or complementary choices for shoppers to consider, as well as enable mixing and matching of assortments and other modes of personalization.7

Switching to D2C is not easy

Changing business models is not a simple feat. However, manufacturers can jump start their D2C efforts by:

/ Taking a digital-first approach. Going digital goes beyond moving traditional marketing online. It requires creating a strategy fit for the digital environment a.k.a. producing platform-specific content, optimizing processes and choosing the right tools to execute their vision.

/ Creating a content strategy. It can differ per company and industry, but according to Accenture, focusing on personalization can give manufacturers an edge, as consumers appreciate brands that 1) recognize them 2) offer recommendations and 3) remember them.8

/ Establishing product truth. Manufacturers deal with volumes of complex data – from technical specifications and warranty information to digital assets such as images and videos – which are typically scattered across the organization. Centralizing product data and its management helps improve data quality issues such as inaccurate, incomplete, outdated or lost information. Furthermore, establishing the right processes to optimize operations and promote accountability is also key in the maintenance of data quality in any organization.

/ Enriching content. Rich product content is composed of elements that enhance how shoppers experience a brand. These are a mixture of texts (e.g. attention-grabbing titles, detailed descriptions, etc.), different image types (e.g. 2D, 3D, dynamic, etc.), audio, videos, comparison charts, Q&As and ratings/reviews, etc. By leveraging digital assets, brands can easily produce engaging customer-facing content.

/ Delivering channel-optimized content. Brands must cater to the preferences of the new customers, a.k.a. millennials and Gen Z. They must meet these consumers where they are by delivering content and seamless experience throughout their journey. Today, it’s no longer enough for brands to have just a web shop, but they must be omnipresent,9 in other words everywhere (e.g. on e-commerce sites such as Amazon, manufacturer sites like Google Manufacturing Center, social media platforms, mobile and even on physical shops).

/ Leveraging analytics. Different channels have different KPIs. By optimizing content according to data gathered from each channel’s analytics tools, brands gain insight on the content types and deliveries that resonate with their audience.

In summary, understanding end-consumers starts with data. Brands can only access first-party data by creating a direct line to consumers through D2C. Success in the D2C space requires brands to create exceptional consumer-facing content and efficiently publish it across channels. To do this, they must first get their data in order. Although not simple, many manufacturers have successfully started this journey by using product information management (PIM) solutions. With PIM, organizations can easily manage and deliver rich, accurate, complete and channel-ready product content – anytime, anywhere.

10 Ways a PIM Solution Can Help Your E-Commerce Business Scale to New Heights

10 Ways a PIM Solution Can Help Your E-Commerce Business Scale to New Heights

Brands and retailers must disrupt their existing business models in order to cater to the expectations and demands of today’s consumers – who want everything available in just a couple of clicks. Failure to do so puts their business at risk of going under, fast.

However, self-disruption is a major undertaking involving people, processes and technology, and it’s not cheap. To fast-track processes and mitigate cost, brands must find a solution that ties all these components together.

What is PIM and how it helps?

A PIM (Product Information Management) solution helps brands and retailers collect, clean, enrich and distribute product information across multiple sales channels. It serves as the organization’s central repository for product information as well as a hub where internal collaboration begins.

Why is this important? The more data you have, the more complex its management becomes. A manual and siloed approach usually results in errors, operational inefficiency and a host of other business critical issues, which eventually leads to higher operational costs, revenue loss and worse, customer dissatisfaction.

Implementing a PIM solution not only puts all product data in a central and accessible area, but it streamlines processes needed to go to market faster and improves product experiences. By eliminating the challenges around product information management such as inaccuracy, incompleteness, inconsistency, duplicates, etc., businesses can put the focus on enriching their product content.

How? A PIM solution enables companies to deliver the right information to the right channels, at the right time – and in the right context.

Why PIM?

Ultimately, a PIM solution is foundational to the delivery of compelling product experiences. It is the starting point in developing campaigns and promotions based on personas, locales and preferences – enhancing the ability of brands and retailers to personalize and contextualize product experiences.

Learn more in the “10 Ways a PIM Solution Can Help Your E-Commerce Business Scale to New Heights

The Definitive Guide to Creating a Solid Product Page

Woman looking at Desktop

The Definitive Guide to Creating a Solid Product Page

The product page is where consumers land after a Google search, or clicking on an ad or a link on social media. In a typical customer journey map or marketing funnel, consumers who visit your product page are usually in the final leg of their purchase journey or decision-making stage. This makes the product page your most valuable conversion tool. As Marketing Land’s Andrew Waber puts it, “Product pages are the new packaging.”

The question now is what kind of welcome did you prepare consumers for after their long journey? Have you done enough to persuade them to perform your desired task (e.g. contact, purchase, subscribe, renew, etc.)?

If your marketing and sales goal is to eventually convert visitors into customers and then turn existing ones into advocates, what types of information should your product page have?

Elements of a high-converting product page

Although a universal template for product pages doesn’t exist, you could get an idea from e-marketer as to what elements resonate well with consumers. According to their findings, images, descriptions/specs and reviews are the top three elements consumers are looking for in a product page:

Product Detail Page Features

Let’s look at these elements in detail:

Images/photos

The socialmediatoday compilation “14 Visual Content Marketing Statistics to Know for 2019” reveals that out of all visual materials, marketers use original graphics (37%) and stock photography (40%) the most:

Most Frequently Used Visuals

The same study shows that original graphics (40%) draw the most engagement:

Best Performing Visuals Format

It’s clear that consumers prefer custom and well-thought-out images over stock photography. Content Marketing Institute’s Buddy  Scalera advices, “Don’t use stock images on your branded website. Stock photos are cheap and easy, hence tempting. Do not be tempted by cheap and easy.” This is especially true for product pages that are expected to feature original products.  In order to make your images work harder for you, follow these best practices:

  • Present products from a variety of angles. Recreate the experience of picking up a product in-store and twirling it around for inspection. If you’re selling shoes, for example, remember that your consumers rely on your presentation to help them get a feel for a product. If possible, get a shot of all angles (or five to eight images as per a 2019 Marketing Land survey) and give consumers the feeling of not leaving any stone unturned. Observe how Lacoste did it:  

White LaCoste Sneaker

⦁ Provide a sense of scale. Help consumers gauge the size of the product by displaying it against another or placing it in actual situations. This is especially important if you’re in the furniture business. A first-time bed shopper, for example, might not know the difference between queen and king size beds without illustrations. In terms of giving a sense of scale, take a page out of Casper’s mattress size comparison guide:

How Mattresses measure up

⦁ Transmit scent and taste. Activate the consumers’ memory of what something smells and tastes like using creativity with color psychology (although a digital scent player is in existence). Help consumers smell and taste your product just by using their eyes. In Colors that Influence Food Sales, the color white connotes clean, while green denotes healthy and brown signifies natural. This Campina goat cheese page used all three of those colors to successfully communicate what their goat cheese is all about, which is probably why it’s nominated on awwwards.

Goat Cheese

⦁  Capture texture. Convey more information about your product using texture. Show consumers what it’s like to touch and feel your product using zoom and 360-degree view. In this Amazon bath towel page, the image zooms into the details of the product as users mouse over it – effectively communicating its degree of softness.

As an added value, you can also support your product page with videos. Consumers simply love watching videos and they demand brands to produce more.

  • 54% of customers want more videos from brands they support
  • 72% of consumers would rather watch a video to learn about a product or service
  • 74% of consumers who watched an explainer video subsequently bought the product

Vat19 is an example of a brand that relies heavily on video on their product pages to sell. Their goal is to have consumers experience the product on the page – and it’s working!

Mystery Box Video

Descriptions/Specs

With 85% of consumers conducting online research before making a purchase, ensure that they get what they’re looking for – and more – once they land on your product page. What are they looking for? Consumers are looking for accurate information. According to Neustar’s research “What Erodes Trust in Digital Brands”, the top reason why consumers distrust a website is inaccuracy.

Perceptions about trustworthy websites

Consumers are also looking for complete information. According to Episerver’s “Why 92% of shoppers abandon online purchases”, 98% of shoppers don’t transact on a purchase because of incomplete and incorrect content.

Beyond the standard title, description, specs, price and call to action requirement, what should your product page have to get consumers to buy?

According to Meaningful Brands® 2019 study, 77% of brands could disappear today and consumers wouldn’t care. On the flipside, brands (such as Google, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, etc.) who convey meaning and are perceived as making the world a better place:

  •  Outperform the stock market by 134%
  • Multiply their share of wallet by nine
  • Experience greater returns on KPIs

This means that consumers are expecting brands to deliver content with personal and collective benefits. How does this translate into the product page’s description/spec section? Let’s take a look at how Method does it on their page:

The product name “Dryer Sheets” immediately conveys the benefit. Followed by “Are your clothes getting too clingy?”, the copy goes directly to the consumers’ exact pain point. “We hate when that happens, too” is a statement of empathy. Then it goes on to provide the solution to the problem, inform consumers that they’re eco-friendly and then make a play to the imagination by writing, “We tamed the zing of ginger…
If you scroll down, you’ll find that they also provide the ingredients and what those chemicals do.
Ingredient List

For transparency, they also provided information where consumers could go or who to contact should they have more questions – effectively conveying accountability.

Product reviews (from customers)

According to the white paper “The Growing Power of Reviews“, 97% of consumers read product reviews with 85% looking out for negative reviews before making a purchase. Today’s consumers are brand-wary preferring to hear from fellow consumers as to their experience with a product or service.
Depending on your branding and strategy, you can make the review section of your product page fun just like Old Spice:

The brand didn’t need to entice customers with gimmicks and contests to make them leave ratings and comments. It’s the creative and branding concept that carried the page. Not only did Old Spice make it easier for customers to give ratings by using stars (with numeric equivalent), they also made customers feel good by using amusing made-up terms such as “Awesomabilities” and “Smellgoodedness”. On top of that, they actively responded to comments with comical lines such as, “It’s like we were meant to be! From one Oldspicer to another, thanks for being manly with us.

Where to start in creating a solid product page?

It all starts with managing your product data. Putting all the above-mentioned elements together in a page is no small feat especially if you are dealing with volumes of product data and teams scattered across the globe working with disparate systems. If the number one pet peeve of consumers on product pages is inaccuracy, address it by leveraging the right technology, such as a Product Information Management (PIM) solution, to consolidate all your product content, giving people access to it anytime, anywhere. It’s only then that you can start cleansing, enriching and sharing product information that is accurate, complete, consistent and relevant across all channels.