Even before COVID-19, marketers had to scramble to keep up with the rapidly expanding and evolving e-commerce landscape. Now the pandemic has accelerated e-commerce growth at an astounding rate.
According to data from Adobe, total U.S. online spending in May reached $82.5 billion, up 77% year-over-year – a jump that would have taken four to six years if past growth levels had remained steady. Though online sales slowed somewhat in June, after a monthslong boom, online spending was still $73.2 billion, up 76.2% year-over-year. Compared to Adobe’s prediction for the March to June period, consumers spent $77 billion extra through e-commerce, the equivalent to more than half of the 2019 holiday season spend.
Exceptional circumstances have expedited this surge in online shopping, but its consequences will be long-lasting.
Catalyst recently partnered with Kantar, a data-based insights and consulting company, to develop a comprehensive report on how e-commerce will continue to change in 2020 and beyond. Between March and May 2020, we conducted two quantitative surveys with 500 online purchasers and 200 industry professionals, as well as nearly two dozen qualitative interviews with leaders from large manufacturers and retailers.
E-commerce is projected to have its strongest year to date in 2020, with 22% overall growth. The game has changed for marketers – and is continuing to change quickly. Here are three key takeaways from our research that can help you lead your company through this next phase in e-commerce.
1. Give e-commerce a seat at the planning table.
People are moving much of their shopping online, and your marketing strategy and execution need to reflect that. Strengthen relationships with partners that add value to your e-commerce ecosystem, such as data providers, consultants, agencies and technology companies. Identify the expert knowledge and unique skills each partner brings to your business. Incorporate them into your planning process, and try to avoid information silos that may create bottlenecks, miscommunications or conflicting KPIs.
2. Optimize your product detail pages.
The product detail page (PDP) is one of the most important elements in influencing e-commerce purchase decisions and driving conversions. Among all online purchasers, 45% reported visiting a PDP at the moment of purchase, and 49% scrolled past the first page when researching. Yet only 37% of e-commerce professionals said they use search engine optimization on their PDPs.
Evaluate and refresh the SEO of your PDPs twice a year, or whenever you think a trend or event may alter search or purchasing habits. Keep shoppers’ needs and desires top of mind when optimizing PDPs. Create content using customer-friendly language, highlighting product reviews and Q&As and including images that demonstrate consumer benefits.
3. Zero in on search marketing.
After PDPs, search is the most important touchpoint for online purchasers; 40% reported using search at the time of purchase. Shoppers utilize both search engines and retail sites to seek and discover products, read reviews and compare items before buying.
Develop a full-funnel paid search strategy, integrating tactics such as Google AdWords and retailer sponsored product ads. Shoppers tend to have a general sense of what they’re looking for but not a particular brand in mind; 69% of shopping searches on Amazon don’t use a specific brand name. Invest in highly targeted, non-branded keywords that have lower search volumes to get the most out of your budget.
4. Explore online grocery delivery, no matter what you sell.
Online grocery sales skyrocketed in the last few months, and this trend will open up to encompass a wide range of product categories. Online grocery shoppers often add products to their carts that aren’t traditional food items, such as cosmetics or household products. Consider listing your products with a “last-mile” delivery partner like Instacart that can streamline your e-commerce strategy, shopper marketing and sales.
The most important lesson from this time is that e-commerce will continue to offer novel and exciting opportunities for marketers who are ready to jump in. Don’t wait to try out new ideas or implement small updates. Test, tweak, learn and grow continuously – and invest more in the areas where you experience success.