We all know that ecommerce has made huge waves in the last year and we’ve seen floods of record-breaking sales stats from the whole scope of ecommerce categories – from groceries and takeaways to sporting goods and homeware items.
What we’ve been light on, however, is in-depth insight into the behaviors of both consumers and brands.
Up steps Salesforce… the heavyweight cloud software solution that spreads from Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud to Sales Cloud and Commerce Cloud. They recently scooped up valuable insight into one billion consumers across 51 countries to make sense of what is happening within this digital transformation, but on a more profound level.
Firstly, Salesforce defines “digital transformation” as “a reimagining of business in the digital first age. It transcends the traditional and upends the possible with a focus on a digital-first experience.” That’s a pretty good definition (despite their outrageous omission of the hyphen in their phrase “digital first age”) because it’s not a static definition but covers the shifting patterns involved.
Within the whirlwinds of this digital transformation, brands and retailers have witnessed an acceleration during the last year, following the drive in consumer shopping behavior.
The Salesforce study found that during 2020 the number of unique visitors exploded by 43%, strong arming digital shops into embracing major changes to their operations. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around (the festive quarter of the holiday season) ecommerce registered a growth of 56%. That was the highest ever holiday season sales.
Running in the background of such headline figures is the truth that whenever we’re all back to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy these digital consumer behaviors are going to stick – piling on cement to set a higher foundation for digital shopping behavior.
With the collected data Salesforce were able to propose answers for some of this year’s pressing general questions. Let’s take a look at some of them.
What does the rise of digital mean for the ecommerce side of brands?
“After a year of rapid digital transformation,” said Salesforce in a statement, “one thing is clear: the need for a unified digital and physical commerce experience is critical. Consumers gravitated toward brands and retailers offering tactics like BOPIS, curbside pickup, and delivery at significant rates.”
This unified experience approach took off for those brands that operate in stores and online. And it has exploded with regards to the box of solutions for all touchpoints of the commerce environment. For example, implement a buy-online-pickup-in-store strategy, which is built on positive in-store stock checks and clear visibility that can be served to customers. Or consider equipping your store sales team with customer data platforms so that they can better assist a customer who comes into a store.
A unified commerce strategy also spreads out into areas to meet their customers where they are; where they’re shopping at the edge; shopping on emerging touchpoints. “Isn’t that too niche, too insignificant to focus on?” Well, the truth is that today, the average shopper uses 9 touchpoints to carry out their shopping, from browsing to purchasing. (Strengthening emerging touchpoints is something that is highlighted by Salesforce Commerce Cloud.)
The key touchpoints to emerge from 2020 were social media platforms – everything from Facebook and Instagram to TikTok and Twitter now provide businesses the ability to set up shop on social media and for users to browse and shop. In fact, during the fourth quarter of 2020, sales emanating from a social media channel reached 50%. Salesforce also found that consumers were spending 45% more time swiping through social media channels.
What do top ecommerce chiefs think of 2021?
“Benchmarking your business performance is critical to your strategy and tactics,” said Salesforce. “But 2021 is going to be especially difficult. In 2020 we experienced massive growth in ecommerce and significant declines in brick and mortar foot traffic (particularly for non-essential categories).
“It’s possible that the further we go into 2021 – as the pandemic comes under control and pent-up demand for shopping in physical stores increases – we are likely to see cooling of digital growth. While the surge in online sales throughout 2020 has created a new baseline, when comparing year-over-year performance, it’s almost certain that digital sales in 2021 will shift back to typical rates seen by the industry in prior years.”
No doubt this is going to affect your strategy – if it already hasn’t. Comparing your performances to 2020 but also 2019 is going to be key in forecasting the road ahead. The comparison of both years is going to be important because 2020 was such an anomaly… unless we take a turn for the worst this year (“stop that negativity!”)
Will website traffic drop as the country begins to fully reopen?
“No,” Salesforce firmly put it – but only for the short term. Looking further ahead, they stated that “Shopping is one of the social activities that people miss. Once stores reopen, consumers will undoubtedly return.
“But don’t let that stop you from investing strategically in your digital roadmap. We know from analyzing the shopping habits of consumers for nearly a decade that habits adopted during peak periods tend to stick around.” The holiday season is always a compressed moment for high ecommerce gains, while it reaches new peaks that inevitably fall, but have always fallen less than before, resting at a greater height than previously.
Courtesy of Salesforce
So there you have it. An in-depth snapshot of consumer behavior and ecommerce performance. This year is going to be uncertain. But compared to 2020 we have the experience of dealing with the most turbulent of times. Now we are more prepared, and more organized.
It’s easy to forget that we’re being hurled into the incredible winds of digital transformation. Those brands and retailers who are doubling down on digital are the ones reaping the higher rewards. So open up multiple pathways for your brand to walk down to meet consumers where they prefer to hang out.