Retail must fast track ecommerce
by David Jenkins. It is clear to us that COVID-19 has been the biggest driver of digital transformation globally that we’ve ever seen. People are still actively searching for ways to avoid public places, including shopping centres, malls, and supermarkets.Thursday, 11 Jun 2020
by David Jenkins. Across the board we’ve seen economies scramble to adjust to a socially distanced world and what that means for the retail segment. It is clear to us that COVID-19 has been the biggest driver of digital transformation globally that we’ve ever seen. Despite lockdown restrictions being relaxed, people are still actively searching for ways to avoid public places, including shopping centres, malls, and supermarkets.
The most notable distinction between South Africa and the rest of the world has been the impact of the national lockdown on ecommerce. Most other countries allowed online ecommerce – with many actively supporting and driving it – but in South Africa, we experienced a two-month period of systematic prohibition of many types of online retail, including well-known platform-to-consumer delivery apps such as Mr D Food and Uber Eats.
Although other countries are significantly more advanced in their ability to adapt to greater demand on their online retailers, South African delivery apps also adapted quite quickly to the lockdown regulations. By the second week of lockdown, the apps had partnered with grocery stores to deliver essentials such as over-the-counter medicine, hand-sanitiser, and more.
In the early days of lockdown, South African companies were forced into considering the implications of either adopting a hybrid physical and online presence, or risk sinking completely by not having an online presence at all.
Those brands that didn’t have a decent online offering had to upgrade fast to keep up with their competitors, while those that didn’t have an online presence at all were forced to create one in a hurry. This is never ideal, as it’s vital that any online platform is well-considered, carefully planned with mindful content, and places the user at the centre of the experience.
The upshot is that there is a massive opportunity for brands hoping to thrive during the next 12-24 months. With the virus likely to be around for a while, online retail is likely to continue to grow in popularity, whether it is for quick Checkers grocery deliveries for just R35 per order, or for big-ticket items like furniture or even property.
Since the lockdown started, we saw some interesting trends in online traffic. There was a significant increase in people searching for goods and as a result, this has meant much higher traffic volumes – well over 100% increases in many cases.
When it comes to SEO, there has been a dramatic increase in businesses’ awareness of their digital performance. While it has always been a talking point, it is even clearer now that it should be a major priority, and many brands are scrambling to catch up.
Having said that, traffic doesn’t drive bottom line – it’s sales that keep a business alive, and where online retailers haven’t been able to deliver goods, they’ve been smart and allowed people to purchase them with the promise of those goods being delivered post lockdown.
Even though shopping restrictions have mostly been lifted at the time of writing, it’s plausible that they could be reinstated if local infection rates soar. Even if the South African government used the lockdown to prepare for the virus, online retailers would be wise to fast-track their website optimisation now, ahead of likely surges in the future on their product offerings. Retail websites need to be able to deal with increased user demand; including having scalable site-architecture such as their checkout functions, useful FAQs, and an updated contact feature – which could include a live chatbot function for increased visibility, and customer retention.
David Jenkins is founding partner at Mickey Llew, a specialist performance marketing and SEO agency. We’re about measurable ROI and the kind of results that speak for themselves – like seeing your business at the top of the search rankings, increasing site traffic, and delivering quality leads that change the bottom line of your business.
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