However, if there's an upside to this turbulent year, it's that the pandemic may have helped ecommerce businesses to discover innovative and effective new tactics they might not have previously considered. Many brands were even able to come out stronger than ever before, especially those that were able adapt quickly and leverage the crisis to their advantage.
We're not out of the woods just yet, and it looks as though many of the major shifts that we've seen this year could be set to last. So, if you’re currently designing your marketing strategy for next year, it's important to take stock and gather as many insights about our "new normal" as you can. Here, I'll be sharing a few of the most valuable lessons that we can take from this year as we move into 2021.
Ecommerce will become more popular across all sectors
Even before the pandemic hit, the digital sphere was already a rapidly expanding market. But, it looks as though lockdown measures have greatly accelerated the shift to online shopping. When shops closed and consumers stayed at home in the spring, the proportion of retail sales carried out online increased substantially, peaking at an all-time high of 32% in May 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics. And, while this figure fell again during early autumn, it’s still substantially higher than it was before the pandemic, suggesting that many consumers have switched to online shopping for good.
For digital marketers, this presents both an opportunity and a challenge. On one hand, ecommerce businesses may now have access to a huge number of new customers, including some demographics that they may never have attracted before. On the other, it also means that the digital space is likely to become even more competitive.
The crucial lesson that brands should learn from this is that they're now speaking to a much wider audience online, so they need to take care to reach as many potential customers as possible with their campaigns. It also goes to show that no expense can be spared with your digital marketing: if you want to stand out in an increasingly crowded online space, then investment will be key.
Local SEO is becoming more important
Two phrases that we've all heard a lot more this year have been "shop local" and "support small businesses". When physical shops closed, larger companies that already had a major ecommerce component were the first to reap the rewards, but many smaller brands and local business lost out. As a result, there's been a push to try to get consumers to engage with retailers in their local area. And, one of the most effective ways to do this is through local SEO.
If your business has a bricks-and-mortar premises, taking advantage of local SEO will help you to capitalise on this new trend and increase footfall. Targeting local search terms, placing local paid search ads, and verifying your business on search engine listings will all help new customers discover your business.
Customers are valuing honesty, transparency, and connection more
Almost everything about how we work and live has changed this year, so it's not surprising that consumer behaviours and priorities have changed, too. With so much negativity and uncertainty in the world, customers are now seeking reassurance, transparency, and clear communication from the brands they engage with. They don't want overly complicated or attention-grabbing campaigns anymore. Instead, they want to find a brand that can meet their needs as quickly and simply as possible.
Marketing managers can learn a lot from this. When designing campaigns, it's sometimes all too easy to lose sight of what really matters: the customer. So, if you haven't already, it may be time to review your tone of voice across all channels to make sure that it’s appropriate for the current needs of your customer base.
Traditionally, the most successful digital marketing strategies are planned months in advance and informed by careful market research and a close understanding of consumer behaviours. Although these things will always be important, I think this year has certainly reminded marketers how crucial it is to be able to react quickly and change your plans at a moment's notice. In an unpredictable trading climate where demand can rise or fall overnight, brands that can adapt quickly and remain agile will always be in the best position to weather the storm. As such, I would expect that many marketers will now build more flexibility into their long-term plans or even create backup strategies to prepare for every eventuality.
While we're all hoping that this pandemic will be a one-off event, marketers may be able to use the strategies they've developed this year if trading conditions get tough again in the future. With Brexit looming, these skills could be especially useful after we leave the EU. A no-deal scenario could cause a few of the same issues we saw during the pandemic, such as stock shortages, supply chain issues, and general uncertainty and financial instability affecting shopping behaviours. But, if this does happen, at least marketers will now have the valuable skills and experience they gained during the pandemic to fall back on.
Even if the past few months have been a tough trading period for many businesses, there's a lot we can learn from 2020 as we move into a new — and hopefully much brighter — year. Bear the key takeaways that I've shared here in mind, and your ecommerce business should be on track to come back stronger than ever before in 2021.