I know we were all hoping the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic would be behind us by now, or at least things would be tapering off. Yet, it looks like we’re still unfortunately in the thick of it. There are a few bright spots, however: film crews have resumed production in California with state-designated safety protocols, and New York City recently added 40 new streets for outdoor dining.
What hasn’t changed is the continued growth of e-commerce. Once everything shut down, millions of consumers waded far deeper into the waters of e-commerce than ever before, and few, if any, will return to shore. You can bet e-commerce remains robust for many years to come.
Here are four things to look for from now through our first-ever “COVID-Christmas.”
1. End-of-Summer Slowdown
Two factors are going to contribute to a possible end-of-summer slowdown: the end of or reduction in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments and the possibility a lot of school kids will start the 2020–2021 academic year online. The end of PUA means the weekly unemployment benefit most people are receiving would be halved, giving them a lot less to spend online. As for the parents of school-age children, having to supervise their kids at home during business hours means they’ll be able to work fewer hours, if at all, again putting a dent in incomes already under siege. The key word here is uncertainty, which almost always slows consumer spending.
2. It’s Personal — When You’re Using Personalization Tools
According to Salesforce, half of customers will switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them. That number rises to 65 percent in B-to-B markets. I’ve been on the ground floor during the development of some of today’s most commonly used data technology concepts, including opt-in email, e-appending and digital data/media marketing (SEO, Google Ads, and social media management), and I can vouch for the value of personalizing campaigns. Whatever the size of your enterprise, there’s no reason not to personalize your marketing approach. A plethora of tools exist to help you get it done right. Try HubSpot for smart content creation, and video generation sites like Vedia, Vidyard and Vimeo for personalized videos. According to Vedia, the appearance of the word “video” in an email subject line boots open rates by almost 20 percent.
3. Driving With Data
If your organization isn’t using data to quantify customer behavior, you can’t afford to wait any longer to get started. Look no further than Amazon.com for proof you need to use data to shape your marketing and sales strategy. Do you want to gain new customers and build brand loyalty? Step up and spin the wheel.
Amazon has built much of its business with data-driven merchandising and product recommendations, and it’s mastered the art of matching customers with the things they’re most likely to buy (data-driven recommendations in individual Kindle stores are a great example of this highly effective practice). If you can find a way to use the data your organization collects in a similar way over the next few months, you’ll achieve better customer retention over the second half of 2020, which brings us to my final point.
4. A Grinchy Christmas (But Christmas Nonetheless)
This is going to be a tough holiday season, for sure, but it’s still going to look a lot like Christmas, and e-commerce is going to make a lot of it happen. Most of your customers won’t have as much to spend this year as they did last year, but there will be an uptick after Thanksgiving and you need to be ready for it. Just about everything everyone buys this year, other than Douglas Firs (and maybe even them), will be purchased online. It’s not too early to start planning for December, since it might be your best month this year.
You can always find me on LinkedIn. I’m interested to hear what you think about where we’re headed. In the meantime, keep working hard and stay positive!
Scott Hirsch is the CEO of Media Direct, and is an internet marketing pioneer widely recognized as an expert in e-commerce and the online marketplace.
Originally published at https://www.mytotalretail.com on September 22, 2020.