The rise of ecommerce: What role can PR play?
One of the busiest shopping periods of the year is upon us: the Christmas season. 2020, however, has different ideas. With the second lockdown and the government asking people to stay at home once again, people will inevitably look to do the bulk of their Christmas shopping online and brands need to make themselves visible in the ever-growing industry.
Ecommerce was already on the rise, and with the UK ecommerce market being the third largest in the world. In fact, the ecommerce market is expected to be worth a staggering $4.2 trillion by the end of 2020, with the pandemic only exacerbating the trend; numerous ecommerce businesses have reaped the benefits of higher online sales, such as Ocado – the online supermarket – who predict their full-year earnings could be 50% higher than last year.
What’s more, the first lockdown saw a surge in online entrepreneurs between March and July, with the creation of 16,000 businesses created within the ecommerce industry, reflecting the fast-changing pace of consumer behaviour in the UK during 2020 and meaning even more businesses competing for consumer attention.
But what’s going to happen at Christmas?
Given the figures we’ve already talked about, it is not surprising that at least a third of Christmas shopping is expected to take place online this season. In fact, for everyone in England, it’s currently the only option, but even back in October the British Retail Consortium (BRC) encouraged online buying earlier so retailers and logistics can cope with the increased demand. Additionally, with Black Friday now fully online this year, the BRC is warning of a ‘nightmare before Christmas’ for retailers having to shut-up shop and cope with this new online demand.
Some companies have definitely made the most of the move to online this year, with ecommerce giant Amazon predicting ‘unprecedented’ peak trading performance, with sales up more than a third and profits up threefold. This is no surprise, considering they had the infrastructure to cope with the changing consumer behaviour and the increasing demand for home delivery. But what can smaller retailers take from this success? And with the dramatic increase in ecommerce sales and opportunities, how do businesses stand out from the crowd?
There is a significant amount of choice online and consumers are able to shop around easily to find the best deal. Customers will inevitably want to know their items will be the best possible quality, delivered to their door when it is convenient for them and at the best price.
It is therefore important to build brand awareness, loyalty and trust to bring consumers to your website. Ecommerce businesses can use PR to make themselves noticeable, comment on the industry issues and connect with their audience to build this brand loyalty and ensure customers shop with them, over their competition.
Brands such as TOMS, for example, are leading the way in engaging their consumers and building their customer base. Their Covid-19 Global Giving Fund gives £1 for every £3 made and has reportedly generated over $2 million in support of global relief efforts, such as testing and treatment for low resource areas. Additionally, they draw attention to the fact that they have taken 47,000 plastic bottles away from landfills and oceans by recycling them to make shoes. They are clearly tackling industry issues and making noise about it, building trust and engagement online.
Ecommerce is a rapidly growing industry and companies need to get on board and adjust their PR strategies accordingly. With more people at home and the pandemic likely to continue into 2021, people are realising the value and ease of online shopping and looking for the best ecommerce brands to offer them the best experience. It is important for brands to stand out from the crowd and get consumer attention, while building trust and loyalty in their products so consumers repeatedly choose them for their online shopping.