Ever wondered how ecommerce leaders such as LVMH, MAC Cosmetics and Kate Spade differentiate their online experience? Times have changed in the ecommerce world, and delighting shoppers is no longer a box-ticking exercise, but rather requires careful engineering of the customer journey. 

 

Coveo Qubit works with top names in the ecommerce space on a monthly basis, and our team knows *exactly* what these brands are doing to differentiate their online shopper experience. In this blog, the second of our series: Must-knows for the 2021 holidays: real-time insights for ecommerce leaders, we aim to share some of the trends we’ve observed in this season. [If you haven’t read the first blog, focused on shopper trends, you can check it out here]. 

 

After reading this, you’ll have a clear understanding of how top retailers are responding to the 2021 holidays, including the main challenges predicted as the year comes to an end, and the investments deployed to make the most of the period. 

 

Increased investment on ecommerce

Our most recent survey, launched in November 2021, revealed a significant increase in the financial investment of brands this year in relation to optimizing shoppers’ online experience. Investment focuses mainly on:

  • the implementation of onsite features (57.1%) like live chats, immersive experiences, product discovery and personalized recommendations, 

  • growing the online team (42.9%)

  • and developing the omnichannel experience (57.1%). 

    What is interesting to note about the investments mentioned above, is that there is not a unique area of the shoppers’ journey which is being prioritized, but rather, a holistic approach is being taken to improve customer satisfaction. This suggests that, for ecommerce leadership, it is not a matter of “where” to invest in the online experience (it requires polishing all throughout), but rather how best to allocate resources to maximize returns. 


    Omnichannel is dominating

    Another retailer trend observed in our last survey, was that increased pressure to blend the in-store and online experiences has resulted in the strategic implementation of a range of omnichannel initiatives. While this does not come as a surprise, what is worth highlighting, is that the projects launched vary immensely, and there has been no shortage of creativity when it comes to tailoring initiatives based on the industry-specific needs and the company objectives. 

    Some of the most common ways of aligning the physical and online worlds include:

  • BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) programmes 

  • using the physical store as a showroom to inspire online purchase

  • pushing in-store appointments on the website

  • and recommending products online based on people’s purchase in-store. 

    While you may be familiar with the above strategies, it is important to highlight that there is not a single “right” way of doing ecommerce. Every business has their own unique challenges and goals, as well as customers with nuanced behaviors; for this reason, we recommend ongoing experimentation and collecting customer feedback to decide what works best for your company. 

    It is also worth noting that each of these initiatives require heavy lifting for integrations and  deployment of new technology (both in the backend and in the user interface) to create a seamless experience.


    Obstacles ahead

    Whilst the 2021 holiday season represents the biggest ecommerce opportunity yet,  there are still plenty of challenges for retailers to address. According to our survey, some of the most common challenges which direct to consumers are currently facing, or expect to face as the end of year approaches include: 

  • Inventory and supply chains issues: Disruptions as a consequence of COVID-19 continue to impact brands and for this reason many retailers have attempted to push the peak trade forwards (by encouraging shoppers to buy earlier) or at least spread it throughout the quarter, to maximise product availability. 

  • Defending market share: Our consumer survey last year proved that 31.4% of consumers are shopping with more brands than ever before. Whilst the online landscape represents an opportunity for increased exposure, it also allows emerging and smaller retailers to get in front of customers, meaning all brands must strive to consistently surpass customer expectations if they are to stay competitive. 

  • Maintaining engagement: Platforms like Netflix and Spotify have truly set high standards for how people interact with brands. No one is willing to compromise for a mediocre, slow or uncustomized experience, and thus, maintaining engagement requires the latest AI technologies which can create truly customised journeys. Brands are aware of this and have started investing heavily on polishing touch points along the customer journey (as seen above). 

  • Driving website traffic: The surge of players in the ecommerce space has made it increasingly difficult for brands to drive traffic to their websites in a cost effective manner ( acquisition costs have risen by 50% since 2018). In a world where everyone has an SEO strategy, is bidding on the same key words, and is incessantly creating commodity content, it takes a unique approach for companies to gain visitors without overspending on ads. This is an area where we see the omnichannel being especially useful, as many brands now leverage in-person interactions to drive online traffic, eg. via QR codes in packaging or in-person events that require sign-up online. 

  • Ineffective promotions: For many retailers, the go-to strategy to ease shoppers back into buying during 2021 was discounts and promotions. While this provided a boost to otherwise stagnant sales, it also means that current holiday offerings are not getting the usual response from shoppers. It seems customers have gotten used to “a good deal”, and brands can no longer rely solely on pricing or promotions to inspire purchase  during this season. 

     

     

    Where do you stand?

    While the aforementioned trends prove that ecommerce leadership requires a creative and unique approach, understanding the general trends in the space is critical for strategic decision-making. What’s more, comparing your current experience and investments to those observed in the wider landscape can help identify why you’ve underperformed or overperformed in certain areas, giving you better insights to inform your 2022 strategy. 

    If you’d like to further explore what other leading ecommerce brands are doing, make sure to check out some of our comprehensive case studies, including MAC Cosmetics, River Island and Kurt Geiger.

Author

Alicia Sanchez

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