Covid-19 and eCommerce – Keeping Retail Going

Here at Intelligent Retail we are lucky to work with hundreds of dedicated, hard-working independent retailers who utilise our Multichannel EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) and eCommerce systems to trade across many different channels, both online and offline.

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, it was quite clear that eCommerce sales via multiple online selling channels had been increasing for many of our retailers as more and more people wake up to the convenience, speed and increased choice afforded by shopping online.  eCommerce is now more important than ever in these troubling times if retailers are to survive.

Following Monday night’s announcement by the Prime Minister, specific advice on eCommerce has been posted by the Government which can be read here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

From the text, the Government states:

“Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.”

It’s easy to see why our Government have taken this stance. If all retail were to cease for a protracted period then the country as a whole would be affected by an almost total loss of income, there would be no money to fund essential services like the NHS and people would be forced to ignore the social distancing mandates being issued.

eCommerce has social distancing ‘built in’, so it’s the perfect way to ensure the population adheres to the current ‘work from home’ rules whilst still receiving the goods they need.

I have contacted the BBC to hopefully highlight this strategy, the word needs to spread that eCommerce in the UK is still thriving and is a vital part of retail strategy at this difficult period in our nation’s history.

Covering the drop-off in ‘Bricks and Mortar’

There can be no doubt that independent retailers are facing difficulties presently, especially those in the ‘non-essential’ category.

With the ordered closure of ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, retailers must rely on eCommerce to keep sales and revenue going.  This is almost business as usual for those retailers who have embraced eCommerce and online trading, but what about those who have traditionally focussed on high street footfall for lion’s share of business revenue?  It’s here where immediate online marketing methods come in.

The Government has stated that eCommerce is encouraged, so if your business has stock, you are able to access that stock and you are able to continually support both a supply and delivery chain then now is the time to ramp up your eCommerce efforts to fill the hole left by enforced ‘self isolation’ and drops in footfall.

 

eCommerce – A Separate Business Strategy

For some retailers, eCommerce is traditionally seen as perhaps a bit of ‘salt and pepper’ to the real meat of retail, physical store footfall.

In reality, eCommerce requires its own business strategy, budget and thought processes to be successful. Part of these is utilising a solid long-term marketing strategy (Search Engine Optimisation, Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing) as well as a well thought out short-term strategy to bring in recurring revenue.  This short-term strategy needs to employ advertising mediums which will bring in an almost immediate return for any spend made, in order to keep cashflow and stock moving.  This is where Google Shopping, Facebook ads and Email Marketing come in.

Now is the time to invest in Google Shopping

If your retail store’s eCommerce sales are below par, then Google Shopping can give a useful boost to your marketing and sales efforts in this difficult time.

Google Shopping is part of the Google Ads platform and relies on a data feed or crawl of your eCommerce store.

The product information sent through to Google via Google Merchant Center can then be used to set up Google Shopping ads, which are displayed alongside organic search results whenever anyone does a search for a particular product.

Google use various triggers to determine which retailer gets the best display spots in search results, with ads working under several different ‘cost per click’ schemes. Google’s ‘Smart Shopping’ scheme can allow fast setup and full automation of the process, with Google determining what the cost of each click should be to get the best result.

Google Shopping can offer almost immediate returns if set up correctly and can be a very cost-effective way of getting additional sales.  There are costs involved to use Google Shopping and a fair bit of setup to do, but if you have the time and can cover the short-term costs then sales should follow if your products are something that shoppers really want or need.

Email Marketing

For those retailers who have managed to keep hold of a good portion of their customer’s email data following the disastrous roll-out of the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), email marketing is still a very valid and successful way to generate almost immediate additional sales.

Emails need to be structured in a certain way with enticing offers, be time sensitive and offer real value as well as making purchase easy for the potential client but if all this is done, success rates for a good email marketing campaign can rival that of any other marketing method.

Email marketing is also low cost – companies like Email Blaster, Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor offer low send-out rates and can help with GDPR compliance for data and campaigns that are sent out, meaning that you don’t need to worry about this.

Facebook Ads

Does your business have a good following on Facebook? Do you wish it had? Perhaps now is the time to invest in some Facebook ads!

Facebook ads allow any business to promote either a Facebook business page or external website and have been shown to give a good return for eCommerce businesses. This is because Facebook allows profiling of Facebook users, which in turn means those paying for ads can closely key in on the demographics of users likely to purchase a product.  This close targeting of potential purchasers means a higher conversion rate from these sorts of ads.

As with email marketing, ad content and any offers made needs to be compelling and there need to be no blockers to purchase, so having a guest checkout facility, clear and honest product descriptions and top quality product imagery is a must – a well thought-out checkout process and clear supporting text for delivery and returns is also a very good idea.

David Fairhurst

Head of eCommerce

Intelligent Retail

David has been involved with Search Engine Optimisation and web development since 1999 and has spoken at many different retail and SEO conferences including Spring Fair and SES London

 

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