There is no doubt that 2020 has been a very hard year for businesses, many of which with stores that were already struggling across the country due to online buying and decreased footfall.
2019 saw the closure of stores from big chains including Homebase, Mothercare and New Look, as well as brands collapsing entirely (two such examples are Coast and Karen Millen). Add the Coronavirus crisis and the 3-month lockdown into the mix, and it is clear that online buying has never been as popular (or “safe”) as now!
Much as we are keen to encourage our local high streets, many retailers are moving to online offerings only and with the prospect of “circuit breaker” lockdowns looming, it is important that businesses that can or do sell online are capitalising their offerings accordingly.
For any business looking to move to selling online, or expand/push their current offering, there are a number of critical elements they must meet. These include:
• A robust e-commerce platform / shopping cart
• Reliable website hosting, that can handle fluctuating levels of traffic
• A secure server for the website
• Clear pricing and delivery costs, even if various delivery options are available
• A trusted shipping and logistics partner for any physical items that will go in the transit system
• Likewise, appropriate packaging materials to protect goods. These may need to be temperature controlled if shipping perishable goods.
• Compliance to current GDPR regulations (info here: https://gdpr-info.eu/)
• A website that works on all platforms including smart devices, as many people use this in place of laptops or home computers
There are also desirable elements that online retailers should consider, including:
• A review platform, that will encourage new customers to buy
• Regular buying incentives, including discount codes and sales
• Social platforms that are updated regularly (Facebook and Instagram are typically good channels for paid ads and publicising sales)
• A good website developer, who will quickly react to any changes required and suggest improvements
• Likewise, for a good online marketing advisor, who will be able to suggest further ways to encourage both new and returning customers to the website
Whilst we will pass the COVID crisis, many traditional retailers may struggle to weather the storm unless they can offer online purchasing that is reliable and promotes good customer service to the buyer.