Businesses are still dealing with severe disruptions in the market and challenges brought on by the 2020s. As a critical part of their growth strategy, many brands place a great deal of emphasis on ecommerce technology. By introducing new products and services to replace lost revenue, the right ecommerce platform allows them to adapt to changing markets quickly.
Ecommerce technology also allows companies to expand their sales channels. For example, B2B companies, such as Mission Linen Supply and Unilever’s FoodServiceDirect.com, are now using their upgraded digital commerce platforms to tap into online business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, replacing some B2B web sales lost due to the Coronavirus. This report examines how new or upgraded ecommerce technology is opening new doors for businesses. We prepared the key takeaways from Digital Commerce 360 research, but if you want to read the whole report, just click here.
How commerce platforms progressed in the face of a pandemic
Shoppers switched from walking aisles to navigating e-commerce sites as online shopping became more popular. During the crucial holiday season of November and December, digital sales jumped 45.2% —more than triple the year-over-year rate for the 2019 season, according to Digital Commerce 360. During the period, over $1 out of every $4 spent on retail purchases came from online orders, a staggering jump in digital penetration.
To keep up with the rapid adoption of ecommerce and omnichannel, retailers had to adapt their ecommerce platforms and websites quickly. Then there was marketing to consider. As a result, merchants needed to take a step back and adjust the messaging on their sites. Due to these changes, added virtual appointments, changed site content, migrated to headless software that allows them to be more agile, and added fulfillment options. In addition, some retailers altered their content, which forced virtually all e-commerce operators to adapt and get much more creative with their content.
A surge in e-commerce has affected shipping and delivery times. Companies changed their websites to provide faster shipping options for a minimal fee. The retailer covers the expedited shipping fees at a flat rate for two-day shipping in most cases. As a result, there are fewer calls to customer service related to carrier transit times or delays.
Several retailers have also stepped up their virtual capabilities as stores and live events close, along with the in-person connection of a store representative handpicking or directing shoppers to items they may like. Last year, Jeweler Blue Nile Inc. released an updated version of its virtual appointment service over the long Black Friday weekend. A third to half of Blue Nile’s sales are made over the phone. Still, the company created studios and converted some of its existing Seattle headquarters into virtual showrooms to make the sales process more personalized, says Charlie Severn, chief marketing officer.
In-person shopping goes virtual with technology
In addition to putting an end to in-person events, the virus provided retailers with an opportunity to think outside the box. During the fall months, fashion weeks take place in cities like New York, Paris, and London, where high-end brands showcase their wares. In 2020, however, COVID-19 halted those gatherings, so designers had to adapt. For some, that meant the launch of virtual runways and styling appointments.
Olivela, an online luxury apparel retailer, also adjusted its e-commerce platform at the beginning of the pandemic so that customers would feel more engaged. Consumers had the option of 15-minute one-on-one appointments with Olivela buyers, virtual styling services, and virtual events. The sessions were a huge driver for new customers. Over 80% of consumers who registered for a session had never purchased from the retailer before. The sessions also generated a 20% conversion rate over two days.
Sally Beauty Holdings generated sales growth also. The merchant added several omnichannel features between May and October 2020, including curbside pickup, ship-from-store, BOPIS and same-day delivery for its Cosmo Prof division of professional salon products. The changes helped the retailer generate a 278% increase in ecommerce sales in Q3 2020. In addition, during the pandemic, 26% of consumers used curbside pickup for non-grocery items, according to a Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey of 1,141 consumers. The survey also found:
- 24% had used curbside multiple times since COVID-19.
- 20% planned to use curbside more for the remainder of 2020.
- 17% tried curbside for the first time.
- 14% said they plan to use curbside after shopping in stores returns to normal.
The help of technology in ecommerce tech for B2B and B2C
The post-pandemic era brought new opportunities. Businesses with the right ecommerce platforms and strategies will be well-positioned to grow as more companies shift to shopping online rather than through in-person sales representatives. Through its ecommerce technology platform, some companies were able to develop the new business despite the pandemic. The Coronavirus pandemic knocked out much of their core business early last year. In the past two years, the companies have launched their first B2B and B2C ecommerce sites on a headless commerce platform, forging what it believes will be new long-term revenue streams, selling everything from groceries to household cleaners to pet supplies and personal protective equipment.
FoodServiceDirect Inc., a web-only food service of Unilever Food Solutions, migrated from an old legacy platform to a new Magento Commerce ecommerce platform from Adobe Inc. in 2018. As a result, in the months following the pandemic, FoodServiceDirect’s direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales grew to 45% of its total sales, helping to replace lost B2B sales.
Also, in some cases, B2B companies deployed ecommerce technology for the first time during the pandemic—surprising themselves with what they could do online. Ecommerce was just a distant goal for Bedford Industries, a manufacturer of plastic-coated twist-ties and other bendable components to secure commercial packages. But when the pandemic hit, Bedford quickly saw an opportunity to help fight the Coronavirus and increase sales by pivoting some of its production operations to make face mask components and face shields. Bedford’s customer service staff quickly became overwhelmed with orders. They decided to build their first ecommerce site on the SuiteCommerce platform. They realized they were receiving orders from consumers and businesses, including people who ordered nose wires to make face masks for their families, friends, schools, and other community groups.
The shift to online shopping was shockingly swift. Shoppers across the globe were forced to move from real store aisles to browsing websites as stores shuttered. Businesses had to adapt their ecommerce operations to handle this sudden surge in people and companies wanting to shop online. Ecommerce platforms played a vital role in these adjustments. Many retailers had difficulty implementing much-needed features such as virtual appointments, shipping and fulfillment adjustments, and return services. In contrast, retailers that offer such features have quickly discovered the benefits of headless commerce platforms.