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2021: New Year, Similar Challenges

As we kick off 2021, with the pandemic still unfortunately a top-of-mind concern, retailers continue to face increased pressures and competition, particularly given the significant uptick in online shopping. That, coupled with the decrease in in-store visits, is causing retailers to have to shift experiential experiences outside of the store environment and give customers something they wouldn’t necessarily expect -- and something to help keep their brand top of mind.

However, they are facing significant challenges in achieving this.  What are some of those?

1.    Consumer behavior has obviously changed, including an amplified use of mobile and social channels like Instagram and Facebook for engaging with brands and shopping. In fact, up to 20% of shoppers are heading to social media first to seek out trends and inspiration and find products. Retailers need to address this shift to capture these prospects and maintain existing customer loyalty. 

2.    Google is changing its ranking mechanism, bringing more weight to site performance on mobile devices. This means retailers’ mobile websites and content will be indexed above their other sites. And, Google has found that buyers who have a negative experience on mobile are 62% less likely to purchase from a retailer in the future. Google also found that even a one-second delay in mobile page load can result in a fall in conversion of up to 20%. With Statista noting that mobile commerce will account for 73% of all retail e-commerce sales by 2021, retailers will need to perform better on mobile or risk losing business to their competitors who make mobile a priority.

3.    Retailers have been forced to rapidly scale to address escalating online demands, putting intense pressure internally on technology and digital teams. While many retailers had the infrastructure in place to support a 20% year-on-year growth, when they suddenly experienced a five-year growth in just a couple of months their monolithic platforms of old struggled to respond to this rapid increase. Their inflexibility is killing productivity and the chance to keep up with the change.

So, how can retailers address these challenges to stay relevant to consumers now -- and also in the future?

They must be where their audiences are, and that clearly includes mobile and social channels. From a mobile perspective, retailers need to transition the front end of their digital stores to perform better on mobile. 

Retailers also need to deliver mobile and social experiences that include compelling content that engages, brings their brands to life, and differentiates them from competitors. They must provide a high-quality experience online that builds deeper and more valuable long-term relationships with their customers. In today’s challenging e-commerce environment, an effective content management effort is extremely important to produce great quality shopping experiences, and more personalized ones.

Delivering on these types of experiences relies on technology and, importantly, how a retailer shapes and manages all processes and workflows. No matter how proactive and responsive a retailer may want to be, it can be hampered by a lack of agility without the appropriate solutions. Retailers need to invest in technologies and digital platforms that empower this nimbleness.

They should consider technology offerings that include microservices, API, cloud-first and headless commerce functionality. These newer ways of delivering e-commerce experiences are more agile and efficient than older solutions, providing and enabling retailers to deliver more compelling customer engagement opportunities across channels and devices.

This new year has unfortunately brought along many of the challenges of the prior year. How retailers address these will be key to their success. To differentiate and stand out, they’ll need to optimize and deliver the experiences their customers desire and be where they are consistently, across channels, with relevant, personalized content.

James Brooke is the founder and CEO of Amplience.

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