eCommerce put to the COVID-19 test

Nate Shurilla

Global Director of Commerce & Voice at iProspect

As the world reacts to the impact of COVID-19, eCommerce has not only continued on the upward trajectory it was following before the pandemic, but has also become a basic necessity for many in self-isolation.

We spoke to Nate Shurilla, Global Director of Commerce & Voice at iProspect, on what the impact of this consumer behaviour change means for brands as they rapidly pivot towards new business models.

How big a surge in online commerce are we actually seeing right now?

There are variations depending on which category you’re looking at, but overall, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a large rise in eCommerce. For example, we’re seeing a year-on-year rise of 41% for household goods bought on Amazon in the US and a rise of around 25% for health products and groceries.

When we look at the individual items being bought, there are some massive sales spikes. For example, the sale of gloves has risen 670% year-on-year. We’re seeing similar rises in items that will make working at home easier, including PCs, webcams and microphones. And now that gyms are closed and public gatherings are limited, there are similar rises in the sales of home gym equipment.

We’d already seen eCommerce’s penetration rate grow steadily in recent years, but COVID-19 has forced people to adopt new behaviours almost overnight. 

 What are the immediate implications for brands, particularly for those who don’t have a sophisticated eCommerce strategy already in place?

Things have changed rapidly and it’s been very sudden for many brands, but it’s difficult to change things quickly, especially in so broad an area as commerce.

At iProspect, we try to help brands simplify things. Last year, we released the Commerce Success Framework, which can be used as a lens to think through your business and is made up of four steps:

  • Availability: meeting consumers where they really are
  • Findability: ensuring relevant visibility when it matters
  • Buyability: differentiating products from the competition
  • Repeatability: building a relationship with the consumer beyond the first sale

It’s a great place to start and we use it a lot to get brands thinking through their approach in a very clear way. 

eCommerce is clearly going to be a strategic priority for many brands this year, but what does a shift to eCommerce actually mean?

Brands need to consider new technology platforms, because they can really accelerate growth and make things much more efficient and profitable in the long term.

An example of this is Product Information Management systems (PIMs). They serve as one source of truth for all of your product information and can be directly linked to platforms like Amazon or Walmart for easy syndication.

It may seem trivial but including accurate information that is readily available to a consumer physically picking up your product in store, such as the product’s size, is really important. You need to replicate as much of that information as possible online in order to persuade them to make a purchase.

Are you currently seeing an increased adoption of Voice in a socially distanced and contactless world? 

We’re seeing huge adoption rates of Voice in dynamic markets like China, Indonesia and India. For example, in India 82% of cell phone users were using voice. This is interesting because India and Indonesia are coming online at a quicker rate than anywhere else in the world—thanks to cheaper internet and phones. As a result, we’re seeing almost parallel adoption with the internet and voice.

Social media use is also accelerating and one of the most interesting eCommerce options available here is livestreaming. 

An example of this is the new NBC Checkout. Consumers watching one of NBC’s shows will see a QR code pop up which they can scan. It will show them some of the products people are wearing or using in the show that are available to purchase. It’s really interesting to see how livestreaming and traditional TV are starting to merge together and how entertainment is becoming discovery and purchasing.

  Lastly, what would be your one piece of advice for brands looking to prepare for a post-COVID world?

The most important thing is to really be additive. Do what you can to provide extra value to the world and to your category. We’re always trying to increase our market share, but at the same time, we should also make sure that we’re trying to increase the category in the market itself.

Competition is not to be feared. It gives the consumer more choice, it helps them find the right product and lifts the whole market in general. Think about how you can provide additional value and meet consumers’ needs as best you can. The brands that are able to understand and achieve that will do much better in the long term.

Nate Shurilla is the Global Director of Commerce & Voice for iProspect. For more insights, you can listen to our #OnBrand podcast where we talked about eCommerce put to the COVID-19 test.