Because of the pandemic‘s shift to online buying, e-retailers have sold to a large number of customers for the first time in the past 20 months. Some businesses are taking advantage of the holiday season to enhance their relationships with these customers. Their strategies change depending on the nature of their business.
During the pandemic, online shopping exploded, resulting in e-retailers receiving far more new consumers than they would have during a typical holiday season. For some businesses, maintaining customer loyalty is a top responsibility.
According to Brian Greenspan, chief operating officer of Inmod, a web-only supplier of modern furniture and home décor, its client base expanded by 105 percent during the pandemic.
“For a tiny firm like ours, gaining that many consumers in that short of time might be difficult,” Greenspan says. “It’s critical to re-engage those clients this holiday season.”
Getting in touch with such customers is especially vital now, because many people are willing to change their purchase habits. According to a recent survey by consumer credit agency Experian, only 73 percent of Americans believe they’re loyal to the brands they used before the epidemic, down from 79 percent the year before.
According to Sharon Gee, vice president of revenue growth and general manager, omnichannel, at ecommerce platform provider BigCommerce, consumers expect more from online businesses because so many of them got experience with digital shopping during the pandemic.
“Shoppers are more digitally mature when it comes to purchasing online since we’ve all had to do it,” she says. “To remain competitive, businesses must mature in order to keep up with their increasingly mature customers.”
What each online store does to boost its game depends on what they sell and the shopping habits of the customers they served during the pandemic. Here’s how three e-retailers are building on their COVID-19 wins and attempting to convert new clients into long-term customers.
Text messaging has been added to Inmod’s marketing mix.
Inmod, ranked No. 1279 in the Digital Commerce 360 Next 1000, a list of North American retailers ranked Nos. 1001-2000 by online sales, saw an increase in web sales as a result of COVID-19. (The Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 includes larger online retailers.) Because many people bought furniture and other stuff to make their homes more comfortable while working from home and huddling at home during the epidemic, this is the case. According to Greenspan, Inmod’s sales doubled in 2020 over 2019 and increased by another 50% in the first half of this year.
While the holiday season approached, he says he focused more on client retention as major competitors like Wayfair Inc. (No. 7 in the Top 1000) and Macy’s Inc. (No. 13) ramped up their online advertising, rising ad pricing and making new customer acquisition more expensive. As a result, Inmod decided to focus its marketing efforts on current consumers, particularly those who made their first purchase during the pandemic.
Inmod does this in part using email drip campaigns, which send a series of tailored emails to past consumers enticing them to make another purchase. “We may send you an email about dining room chairs if you bought a dining room table,” he says. “If you open that one, a new email will be sent to continue the storey.”
Consumers can now be marketed to via text messages sent to their phones, which is a newer method. Inmod began requesting customers who visited its website from a mobile phone for their phone number in July 2020 so that the shop could contact with them via SMS.
While text messages have a lower click-through rate than email, they have a conversion rate that is twice as high. This won’t surprise Greenspan.
“While people may have many email accounts, they often only have one phone number,” he explains. “Someone who is willing to provide their mobile phone number is more likely to be engaged than someone who is willing to share their email address.”
In the face of rising sales, Sweetwater prioritises better service.
Sweetwater (No. 75 in the Top 1000) expanded its online sales by more than 35 percent last year over the previous year, according to Digital Commerce 360’s projections. According to Jeff Ekblad, senior director of performance marketing at Sweetwater, the retailer’s executives were concerned that the sales rise indicated first-time purchasers weren’t getting the kind of expert guidance and personal attention Sweetwater is known for.
“We want to provide musicians actual value, not just ship boxes,” Ekblad explains. “If you have back-ordered product, a sales engineer will call the consumer and say, ‘We failed to make your guitar for a while, what do you want to do?'”
Sweetwater’s salespeople, he claims, are musicians who can offer expert guidance, and we can’t scale up the service overnight to meet a sudden rise in demand. Sweetwater, on the other hand, made the investment in hiring more employees to ensure that it could continue its high level of customer care.
The rising sales increase the job opportunity
The retailer’s sales engineers climbed from 463 in February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, to 581 now. It also nearly quadrupled the number of people working in its distribution centre, from 319 to 612, to ensure that they send orders quickly despite the increased demand. It also added a third shift to its warehouse earlier than usual this holiday season to suit the additional demand, which is up 20% over last year.
“We’ve been betting on ourselves that we can scale,” Ekblad says, “so that the second purchase is a positive experience.”