The E-commerce crisis we’re now facing is one of the biggest challenges to date. Stores see shifting customers, growing cyber threats, bored employees, and changes to disposable income.
Nothing that worked yesterday is 100% certain to work tomorrow.
The key to survival is being able to spot trends. Learn from the past to shed light on how to protect yourself now. Study today to discover what must be done quickly.
The E-commerce Covid response is dominating all of our minds. It is easy to ignore the past right now, and many are. But, to be successful, let us do something a little different.
We’re going to look at a couple of existential problems facing E-commerce, a recurring past issue, the obvious pandemic, and your next big threat when things go back to “normal” in the E-commerce world.
1. Platforms Having Too Much Control
Today’s E-commerce experience wouldn’t exist without Amazon and eBay. These platforms made it significantly easier for customers to find and buy the things they wanted and shifted how and where people shopped, including how products moved to customers. There’s been a significant impact in the broader economy, such as an ongoing decline in department store jobs even during recent times of economic strength and expansion.
Individual brands often feel like they’re forced to turn to giants such as Amazon just to acquire the number of customers they need to keep operating.
You’re working against a scale you can’t create on your own, and Amazon’s expansion into fulfillment and other services beyond sales is how it maintains control over brands. Prime, which customers are willing to pay for, gives customers a guarantee that can be difficult for some brands to meet on their own, making FBA feel inevitable for some. By combining products from multiple channels, the system saves money for customers, even if it isn’t good for your brand (or the brands of Amazon partners).
This is a crisis for the small companies that want to create their own offering, control customer data, or develop leading subscription services. It’s a struggle when small businesses need to build their own marketing, fulfillment, packaging, and other business elements.
2. Friends Becoming Competitors
Platforms like Amazon provide another core risk to your business: direct competition. Amazon has used data from third-party sellers to guide how it positions products and develops its own private-label goods, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
There had long been rumors of this and some basic understanding of tactics involved, but the reports uncovered that Amazon executives appeared to have accessed privileged data to build these products. That goes against Amazon’s company policies and what Amazon has told Congress, but there’s noteworthy evidence in the reporting to back up the claim.
Creating private-label products is not new or all that uncommon. However, Amazon’s access to seller data and what it used that data for — promising limits and protections — likely played a role in some companies’ willingness to sell & advertise on Amazon and use Amazon’s fulfillment services.
Now, we can see that Amazon potentially is not only going back on its word but using data from across multiple sellers to create products that directly compete and that may get preferred billing in search and other results.
By not controlling your platform and handing over a wider range of information to sellers like Amazon, E-commerce brands are putting their future at risk.
Respond by trying to meet customers on many different channels. There’s another good reason to do this too: multichannel shoppers spend 3 times more than single-channel shoppers when they shop online. The majority of your audience also looks at multiple channels for reviews and other information.
3. Ongoing Data Breaches
While 2020 has focused on other concerns, there are still ongoing breaches in E-commerce data. Most E-commerce stores are small businesses, putting them at risk of being attacked as well as not noticing breaches quickly.
Plan for this. Ecommerce data breaches now account for 80% of card-related fraud investigations. That harms your sales now and your reputation (future sales).
Ecommerce companies face a constant security threat because your business is lucrative for hackers. Customer data is not only useful for direct theft but also the combination of names, addresses, and passwords can make it part of an identity theft effort. At the same time, you have your own revenue and accounts that are at risk and plenty of access to large partner data.
Data security breaches also cause financial harm by forcing you to shut down operations and hire security specialists. Customers need to be refunded, and you’ll likely experience significant churn. Reputational harm can be increased if the breach is big enough to garner media attention.
Unfortunately, some risks are outside your organization.
Wappalyzer is a common tool that detects a tech stack a site is running, with a focus on E-commerce platforms. In early 2020, it became aware of a data breach of some general customer data, and there’s potential that this could lead to phishing attempts from someone posing as a trusted partner you use.
Your E-commerce business must have some security measures in place. Hire teams designed specifically to keep you safe. Thankfully, your platform will usually manage payment information and limit your need to keep as much information on hand as in the past.
4. Of Course, COVID-19
Now, we’ve arrived at the threat most of you were expecting upon that click: the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s a strange mix of concern and opportunities that has upended traditional E-commerce. From every point in the supply chain downstream to the end customer, nothing is as it seems.
We could go on endlessly about your specific market sector, supply chain, partner list, tech, and other elements that are giving you unprecedented potential and worry. But, to keep things easy, here are five of the biggest trends and opportunities we’ve identified so far during our work fulfilling E-commerce orders in the COVID-19 era:
1. Your customers are buying largely out of panic and boredom
The modern E-commerce shopper feels stuck and is looking for a way to control their lives, either by tackling the panic around the virus or by trying to build back normalcy and excitement during stay-at-home orders. These two driving emotions can seem similar, but impact buying behaviors differently based on your audience.
2. Cash tied to the wrong inventory feels like a lead weight
Do everything you can to start clearing out inventory that is moving slowly, from buy-one-get-one offers and kits to freebies and other chances to win. Promotions can help you move it, making you able to avoid long-term storage and other costs associated with this inventory.
3. Look for diverse suppliers
Supply chains are at risk when you only have a single source for a product or raw materials. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of issues with global supply chains and there’s potential for further disruption if ports, rail lines, or trucking companies experience an outbreak. Mix suppliers from multiple locations, including local providers. You might pay more for manufacturing with a U.S. firm, but you could also save on worry and delays.
4. Your next customer is different
Manufacturers are giving us good insight into how nimble E-commerce companies should be. They’re revamping lines to produce medical and other equipment or even turning beer equipment into hand sanitizer capabilities. Where can you pivot to maintain a flow of orders and revenue? You might be able to address the needs of thousands of students now learning from home, supply hospitals with medically appropriate footwear, or make a variety of other changes.
5. Partners need help, too
There’s a lot of adjusting going on and you might find that your suppliers, sellers, wholesalers, or even fulfillment companies need a hand. To prep, you not only need to know your finances but understand where these partners are coming from in their own operations. Communicate where you are. Listen to what your partners say and need. Work together to find ways to combat shortages or income losses together.
The most important lessons of COVID-19 are about how everyone is experiencing this together. Work together to learn and share information. Try to be accommodating when you can and meet new customers or partners when available. Everyone has to be flexible in this.
5. The Future and Choice
Our final crisis is the one we’re staring down later this year and beyond. There is a looming threat related to choice that every E-commerce company must acknowledge and prepare for, or they risk becoming a name lost to time.
Customer choice is always growing. Tomorrow, there will be more options for just about everything under the Sun in the E-commerce world. New competition, new product lines, and even brand-new product categories are going to compete for your customers’ dollars.
Just about the only thing we can be certain of when we come out on the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic is that customers are going to have solidified many E-commerce behaviors while creating plenty of new ones. These are all choices and buying decisions that may impact things from the color of your products and when you push warm-weather goods to the types of partners you have and where you get raw materials.
The future is choice.
Today’s planning is all about trying to understand what that may look like while being flexible enough to adapt to whatever it becomes.