The New Rules of eCommerce in the Post-Pandemic Era

Jānis Lanka
May 28, 2020 · 6 min read

Article Highlights:

  • The new normal in eCommerce has already been determined. Now it’s up to merchants whether they’ll play by these new rules or get left on the sidelines.
  • Fee-free local delivery and other alternatives are changing customer expectations permanently.
  • Competing globally means thinking locally- how can businesses strike a balance?
  • Letting customers pay on their own terms is one of the keys to success in the new global marketplace.

To say eCommerce is on an upward trajectory in the wake of COVID-19 is an understatement.

Last week, at its annual ReUnite conference, Shopify boosted standards in eCommerce to an even higher level. As the entire digital product world watched, Shopify announced the introduction of game-changing tools like local delivery and pick-up, global marketplaces with a local feel, and payment options that customers will readily come to expect as the ‘new normal’ in eCommerce.

The Canadian company’s announcement comes amid the rapid roll-out of new marketplace features by other giants including Facebook’s new Shops feature. The rules of the new digital marketplace have already been set- now it’s up to other businesses whether or not they’ll play along or get left on the sidelines. These rules include:

1. Delivery Within Hours

Have you ever noticed that shipping packages from China to North America actually costs less than having things delivered from a few cities away? There are multiple reasons for this counter-intuitive price difference, but in short, it comes down to one thing- the paradox of the ‘last mile’ delivery.

The last mile is the most logistic heavy portion of the journey, and the most expensive, making up 53% of the final shipping costs. In an effort to keep sales up during the lockdown, many big box stores began offering local delivery, setting customers up to expect free shipping moving forward. But for small, independent businesses, covering the final mile puts a big dent in their bottom line.

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Thankfully, there are options available to businesses of every size to meet these needs. Partnering with local delivery companies for same-day package drop-offs is one option. This approach can be enhanced by building a simple package tracker into your digital tools so that your customer can watch an item’s journey as it makes its way to their front door.

As a cost-effective alternative to local delivery, businesses can give customers the flexibility of picking up their product curbside at a time that works for them. It’s as simple as treating retail locations as warehouse pick-up points instead of stop, browse, and buy locations.

2. Become a More Local Business

In this age of borderless commerce, even the most locally-minded merchants need to compete in the global marketplace in order to stay afloat. But- and here’s the twist- to win customers around the globe, merchants must build their digital storefronts to look and feel local to their desired market segments.

Why? Because shoppers prefer buying locally- from local shops, local brands, and local merchants- as supported by surveys of Canadian and European customers.

Giving the impression that you’re local while competing in the global marketplace might seem tricky. But it’s entirely possible to find the right balance using digital tools and marketing strategies.

Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

Take, for example, the website hosting your digital storefront. Using country-specific URLs that link to your general domain is an easy way to help customers feel at home. Using in-language copy, instead of just auto-translating the original version of the website, also goes a long way to providing an authentic shopping experience with a local feel. And, of course, prices should be set in the local currency.

Realistically, running multiple location-specific digital storefronts is too time-intensive for many businesses. Luckily, it is possible to manage the nuances of your global digital storefronts from one central admin portal, as long as you utilize these functionalities inside a modern platform.

Shopify is reinforcing this need for merchants to appear local through its most recent product roll-outs. One new feature is a plug-and-play function which allows sellers to manage multiple storefronts and instantly convert currencies all through one central portal.

3. Let Customers Pay on Their Terms

Here are several basic facts about customer conversion in the eCommerce space.

Fact 1: Every customer has their preferred payment method, the one they know and trust the most. It may be a point-earning credit card, an international PayPal account, or even WeChat. If we don’t let our customers pay the way they want to, we will lose that sale.

Fact 2: Different countries and cultures expect to use different payment methods. For example, in Latvia, where I find myself unexpectedly waiting out the pandemic, it’s the norm for online shoppers to pay for purchases using bank transfers instead of credit cards. This changes as you move from Europe to North America, South America or Asia. If we can’t accommodate the local currency preference, we’re less likely to convert in that demographic.

Fact 3: Post-pandemic customers will expect the option of paying via installments for big-ticket items purchased online- think Affirm or Klarna. This is in part because some experienced the pandemic as a hit to their pocketbook. As well, more customers will be buying large items online than ever before. For example, online furniture purchases have increased by 20% over the past few months. If we can’t make it easier for customers to make larger purchases by offering flexible payment formats, we miss out on additional conversions.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

The New Normal is Here to Stay

With rules like this changing eCommerce for good, there are incredible new opportunities for businesses of any size to connect to their local customers in a more personal way, interact with a much larger global customer base, and -of course- get paid.

Adjusting to the post-pandemic eCommerce playing field means adopting new ways of doing things, but it’s a necessary transition to make- and to do so quickly. Customers are already expecting new and more convenient ways to do their chores and shop online, and now that the entire world is their marketplace, we only get one chance to get and keep their attention.

Evaluate Your Preparedness and Get Started

Before you get started, discuss your eCommerce readiness with your team, review your capabilities, and find out where you can make improvements first.

Examine your current eCommerce platform. Consider which adaptations you need to adopt to thrive in the new eCommerce normal. Evaluate whether your existing tech stack can handle your future vision.

Then, get advice. Making the switch to the new eCommerce normal is going to be a challenge for any company. Everything your team does, they’ll be doing for the very first time. For example, they’ll be migrating their eCommerce platform for the first time, but they’ll still need to get it right on their first go. Save on costs, resources, and time by getting input from experts first.

Agencies like Apply are in a good position to help. We’ve already helped major retailers like Arc’teryx navigate the nuances of transitioning to a digital-first marketplace model- you can read more about our work on that project by exploring the case study.

We’re happy to offer you support with this transition. Reach out to us at hello@applydigital.co for advice or to let us know what you think about the new normal in eCommerce.

Apply Digital

We make and market smart digital products.

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

Jānis Lanka

Written by

Ecommerce, Business, Marketing, and Digital Strategy. Making internet an easier place…

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

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