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The Evolution of eCommerce and How to Succeed

February 17, 2021
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If brands have learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that having an eCommerce presence is not just an option, but an essential for survival. At Code3, the term “eCommerce” represents the holistic strategy of nurturing shoppers from the discovery phase to the point of purchase and follow-up. For most brands, this involves a variety of channels, including online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart, D2C websites, social commerce, and other B2B and B2C ad platforms, among others.

With 2020 behind us, it’s clear that brands must put their best foot forward with their eCommerce strategy. This means meeting customers where they are, accommodating for their needs, and delivering on expectations. Accomplishing this requires a solid understanding of the current landscape and what’s most likely to come. 

Continue reading to learn more about how eCommerce has evolved over the last year and how your brand can maximize its potential in 2021.

The How and Why of eCommerce Evolution in 2020

Before the pandemic, consumers would shop online for items that weren’t available locally. They enjoyed the convenience and time-saving benefits only online channels could provide. 

Today, we can add personal health and safety to the mix. Eager to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19, shoppers are choosing online channels for both essential and non-essential goods.

According to Digital Commerce 360, eCommerce in the United States grew by more than 40% year over year in 2020, with basic necessities likely at the helm. As local store shelves were wiped clean of toilet paper, food items, and cleaning staples, more people turned to online channels to fill their needs. An Accenture report reveals nearly a 200% uptick in the number of consumers ordering groceries online - a trend that experts say is likely to continue post-pandemic. 

From a business perspective, this seemingly overnight shift in consumer buying behaviors revealed just how important a strong supply network is - and how vulnerable it becomes in times of uncertainty. Shipping delays plagued most of 2020, particularly in the early days of the pandemic and closer to the holidays. These delays created a lack of product availability, which forced even the most loyal in-store customers to seek alternatives.

The result is a greater understanding of how an eCommerce strategy caters to today’s digital-savvy consumers while also serving as a contingency plan when traditional means are interrupted.

Viewing the eCommerce Evolution Through the Lens of Code3

The COVID effect on eCommerce left unique impacts on every channel. Given our all-encompassing definition of commerce, we dialed in on specific features and functions to spot the newest trends:

For Social Media

Despite the hype and previous data about the efficacy of social media selling, eMarketer notes that most U.S. consumers will not make a purchase via social media in 2021. A number of things could be supporting this trend, including a lack of brand trust and security and fraud concerns.  

Instead of simply spurring direct transactions, social media’s role will likely be one of discovery and consideration. eMarketer estimates that brands will continue to shift ad spending. Instead of primarily focusing on social media advertising, brands will increasingly allocate budget toward channels like D2C sites and online marketplaces while adjusting their approach to social.  

For D2C Sites

The direct-to-consumer market remains at a modest 2.6% of the overall eCommerce market as a whole, according to an eMarketer report. This underscores the fact that most retailers struggle to capture significant market share.

For a D2C eCommerce strategy to succeed, there must be a focus on differentiation, exposure, and diversity. Many D2C brands also include social commerce and marketplaces in their strategy to grow and diversify their presence. The inverse is true, too: brands who already have a strong social and marketplace presence may find that including a D2C strategy can fuel their growth.

For Online Marketplaces

eMarketer reveals that Amazon walked away with nearly a third of all retail eCommerce sales in 2020. Other companies that made the Top 10 U.S. Companies in eCommerce Sales list include Target, Walmart, eBay, and Wayfair — all of which share marketplace functionality as a common denominator. 

Clearly, brands that aren’t selling on Amazon or other marketplaces are inevitably losing sales to competitors. Sending traffic from social media and other channels to drive Amazon growth, focusing on peak events, time periods, and product launches, and leveraging Amazon’s Attribution Beta to measure off-Amazon impact traffic and sales will help to set high-performing brands apart throughout 2021.

Considerations for Your Brand’s eCommerce Efforts this Year

It’s tempting to focus on one channel and run with it all the way to the end zone. In fact, experts have been harping for years that it can be better to go deep rather than wide. But 2020 threw normalcy out the window and forced a reinvention of how brands approach eCommerce strategies. Going into 2021, it will be more important to saturate the landscape and maintain consistency across all channels to build brand recognition and trust with shoppers.

As competition and demand continue to increase, it will be imperative for brands to simultaneously explore social commerce and paid media, online marketplaces, and a strong D2C presence. Leveraging the available technology and expertise is a big step in the right direction. For example, Amazon Attribution is built to support cross-channel marketing efforts.

We work with brands to ensure all strategies are aligned to fuel the success and performance of each other across platforms. This includes ensuring the right audiences are targeted regardless of how they interact with a brand, conducting off-marketplace promotions to spur marketplace transactions, providing ongoing data and reporting between teams to influence the overall strategy, and continually optimizing the messaging, keywords, category, and audience targeting based on engagement.

Final Thoughts 

In eCommerce, there’s inevitably a transaction at some point. That’s the end goal. However, commerce encompasses the entire customer journey. It’s up to brands to understand the path this journey takes and how they can impact shoppers at the opportune moments to make a purchase decision. 

Throughout this blog, we have explained eCommerce through three areas of focus: a brand’s social commerce and paid advertising efforts, their D2C website, and their online marketplace presence. To ensure success, it’s essential for a brand’s leadership to evaluate the channels and platforms that matter most. Next, they must discern what they have control of internally and evaluate whether a partner agency could supplement their approach.

Get in touch with us to learn more about how your brand can take its eCommerce strategy to 2021 standards.

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