The pandemic has pushed digitalisation into hyper speed. For many Irish businesses, the move to ecommerce was well overdue. Now, in the wake of a year where so many retailers have been forced to close, there has been no time for hesitation. Businesses needed to adapt just to keep the lights on. Consumers’ behaviour has also drastically evolved. Online shopping is no longer just a young person’s game. While this past year has been rife with unimaginable challenges, it has also spurred incredible creativity and resilience from Irish businesses. This adaptability, and new openness to technology, will greatly serve those putting in the effort now, with the hurdles that still lie ahead.
Earlier this week, Elevate PR was delighted to host the second in their series of trends events this year: The Future of Ecommerce. Founder and MD, Emma Kelly, was joined by entrepreneur and designer, Nicki Hoyne, Commercial Director at Just Eat Ireland, Edel Kinane, CEO and Founder of Siopaella Designer Exchange, Ella de Guzman, and John Kennedy, Editor of Think Business. Together they discussed the impact of COVID and strategies for staying agile in this dynamic realm of ecommerce. A full recording of Tuesday’s webinar is available below.
Here are five of the top headlines from the event:
- No Looking Back
As John Kennedy said, ‘Every business is a digital business now.’ Like it or not, we are all augmenting to this new normal. According to Edel Kinane, Just Eat has seen an emergence in new occasions for food delivery, as well in a rise in families and older customers using the platform. People who had never used online ordering before the pandemic, are now becoming some of their most frequent users. While many consumers are craving a return to the social experience of shopping in store and dining in restaurants, we have also become used to the convenience and immediacy of ecommerce. Technology is rapidly advancing to meet these needs as more online retailers offer augmented reality features like ‘virtual try-ons.’ This week, Just Eat is even set to deliver its first order via drone.
- Battles with the Giants
Amazon is coming. Talks about an official Irish fulfilment centre are already underway, which understandably, has many businesses worried. With low prices and same-day shipping, it will be difficult for many Irish retailers to compete. John predicts that many SMEs will be faced with the difficult choice of joining the Amazon ecosystem to survive. Big tech companies are notorious for looking out for number one. A new Facebook or Instagram algorithm, for example, has been known to send small businesses using their platforms scrambling for visibility. As data privacy continues to be a consumer concern and Apple’s new ultra-private iOS 14 update looms on the horizon, brands may need to be prepared to rethink the current model of targeted ads.
- Giving it Heart
The panel was in unanimous agreement that building a strong community around your brand is the best way to survive (and maybe even thrive!) during these tumultuous times. In fact, it may be the only way independents can fight back against the Amazons of ecommerce. Ella de Guzman has had found great success for Siopaella over lockdown by hosting Instagram Live Shows. Customers have even found a sense of comfort from these communal, virtual experiences. There has been a massive shift ‘from the macro to micro’, Ella says, as the public has rallied behind Irish businesses. Brand storytelling has never been more vital. There is even value in moving away from hyper polished digital content every now and again, in favour of realness and human touch.
- Critical Consumption
Nicki Hoyne believes that people are finally starting to put a ‘marker in the sand’ about ‘mindless consumption.’ This more considered approach to ecommerce was a major driver in starting her new brand, The Nicki Hoyne Collection. With more time to contemplate our shopping choices and to research where our purchases come from, many people are becoming more intentional about what they buy online. ‘People want to buy things that mean something now,’ Nicki says. Sustainability continues to be an ever-present consideration, as well as a challenge for ecommerce brands, especially when it comes to packaging products and managing returns.
- Social Selling
With so many tools available now, it is important businesses do not put all their eggs in one social media basket. While Instagram continues to be the bread and butter of many small businesses’ digital marketing strategy, brands should avoid relying too heavily on it. TikTok is a great place to begin exploring, especially for creative engagement with younger consumers. However, brands must understand the landscape of each platform. Email marketing, a long reliable strategy, continues to be relevant. The hard sell is only one piece of the puzzle. Think of the 360° customer journey. It is crucial to share content that is valuable to your followers and helps build relationships. For brands that provide services, establishing yourself as a thought leader and sharing knowledge is a valuable strategy.
For all the insights, check out a full recording of The Future of Ecommerce here.