E-Commerce Shines During The Pandemic

The Customer Experience Becomes More Important Than Ever

If the coronavirus had struck just 15 years ago, the global economy might have ground to a total halt. As it is, a great deal of economic activity ceased, much of it in the service sector of the world’s economy. Retail stores, restaurants, coffee shops, fast-food outlets were all forced to close for an extended period.

Manufacturing slowed dramatically as supply chains shut down but, thanks to technology giving employees the means to work remotely, it didn’t stall completely. The difference between 2005 and 2020 comes down to one thing: technology.

A Digital Savior

For consumers, technology during the pandemic has been a kind of digital savior; without the means to order groceries or takeout food online, shoppers would be forced to venture out into an unsafe environment, risking their own health and that of their families in the process.

It’s no surprise that the virus and ensuing lockdowns around the world have resulted in an enormous spike in e-commerce. According to Bazaarvoice, food, beverage, and tobacco sales on its e-commerce sites soared more than 65% in March on a year-over-year basis; business transactions nearly doubled – up over 90% in the same period.

The most significant indication that e-commerce may be the silver lining in the Covid-19 cloud is the deal struck in mid-June between WalMart and Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce giant that is starting to rival Amazon in online sales and traffic. WalMart, no slouch itself, racks up online sales of $21.5 billion USD annually and its deal with Shopify will add 1,200 Shopify sellers to WalMart’s own third-party sellers, boosting the number of merchants on WalMart’s site to over 46,000.

Online shopping has been punishing bricks and mortal retail businesses for some years. The pandemic is forcing a rising online sales curve to go ballistic and the duration of the outbreak may ensure that retail buying patterns remain changed forever.

Don’t Forget The Customer Experience

Even though the picture is rosy for e-commerce in general, marketers are forced to step up their game even more. By now, nearly all North American consumers have experienced the ease of ordering merchandise on a smartphone while riding the subway to work, for example, and having the merchandise show up on the doorstep within 48 hours. Consumers take this for granted and when the package doesn’t show up or it’s the wrong product, wrong size or wrong color, consumers demand corrective action immediately.

The customer experience is paramount for marketing teams, today. Marketers can’t take the relationship for granted; competition is fierce (go to Amazon and search for patio furniture, for example) and consumers are fickle – with good reason.

Back in 2014, Gartner’s Marketing Spending Survey predicted that the customer experience would be critical for marketers and would lead all business innovation spending in 2015. That was five years ago and customer expectations have only risen since then.

One Platform, Multiple Capabilities

The way to market to consumers, whether B2B or B2C, is often through email but can include other channels like SMS, websites, social media and even direct mail. It becomes vital to have a technology platform that can handle any marketing campaign efficiently, adjust on the fly to any changes and tailor exact messages based on AI-fuelled data analytics.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud provides the means to create unique campaigns, large or small, with custom-tailored email messaging, embedded media, targeted for a small group or a large market share, tracked with precision and the agility to shift messaging on a dime, and being driven by recommendations from AI-enhanced data analytics.

In short, Marketing Cloud becomes a one-stop-shop for marketers, says Brian Brames, Director of Global Cloud Alliances – Marketing Cloud at Salesforce. “What we have [with Marketing Cloud] is a single platform that’s going to allow our partners to really drive engagement with the customer,” Brames explains, “based on how they want to be engaged, whether it’s on a social channel, email channel or a mobile channel.”

When Marketing Cloud is combined with Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, a website or any e-commerce system, massive amounts of customer data is instantly available in real-time to marketing teams. That data can then be massaged and analyzed using Salesforce Einstein Analytics to further define elements like how and when a customer should receive a communication.

“Einstein can also update or make recommendations on subject lines in emails, for example,” says Brames. “Being able to change something from a trivial subject line to something more impactful”, he says, is one of Einstein Analytics’ strengths, along with providing an estimate on opens, clicks, or engagement with the message. Further, Einstein AI will also allow a marketer to determine on what channel a customer or lead is most likely to engage.

This kind of technology platform is vital today; online retail is rapidly becoming the primary method for shopping in the wake of the Covid-19 health crisis. It’s imperative that marketing teams are equipped with the best marketing technology they can access in order to build a strong customer experience and nurture the customer relationship on an ongoing basis.

Gerent has extensive experience with Marketing Cloud; we know the platform, what it can do and how it can drive results for our customers. Give us a call or contact us by email today to learn more.