Key takeaways from Hotwire’s recent roundtable with e-commerce leaders

The global pandemic has resulted in a boom in e-commerce sales, with the ONS reporting that £3 out of every £10 spent by consumers in June went to online. And according to the latest BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor, even in July when nonessential stores were open, online still accounted for over 40% of sales.

Navigating this growth in e-commerce hasn’t been simple for many brands and retailers; customers have experienced lack of product availability and late deliveries, and customer service queries have gone unanswered. On the other hand, some companies like Amazon have thrived and have won new customers during this time by being able to deliver great experiences.

In addition, a lot of small business didn’t have an e-commerce website or didn’t feel confident enough to invest in their own platform. They had to pivot quickly to connect with their customers and the easiest solution was marketplaces. In the UK, more than 85,000 businesses have launched online stores or joined marketplaces between March-June (Growth Intelligence research, July 2020)

This reality inspired Hotwire to host a virtual roundtable bringing together industry leaders from across the retail and technology sectors (including the likes of Besedo, Attraqt, and Alibaba) to discuss the future of e-commerce.

The roundtable focused on the marketing and communications opportunities for e-commerce brands driven by Covid-19, and what the future holds for the industry. As businesses start to rebuild and consumers’ shopping habits change with the ‘new normal’, we asked how will e-commerce fare?

Overall, we were uplifted to hear the experts speak optimistically - and showcase positive outlooks for the buoyancy of the e-commerce market over the next 12 months.

To summarise the virtual discussion, listed below are our key highlights and takeaways from the conversation in August:

  • Sector optimism - The pandemic has created a huge opportunity for e-commerce businesses. Brands and retailers are using e-commerce channels to better manage social distancing and e-commerce is key to supporting economic recovery, offering a smart solution to some of business’ thorniest problems.
  • Listen and empathise - How retailers respond at this time will determine whether more people shop online long term or not. Many customers have not used online services before and to understand these first-time online shoppers brands must provide the online experience they want - listening to them is key.
  • Go where your customers are - Agility was the key attribute needed for success when the pandemic started. The most successful retailers quickly adapted to prioritise the sales channels where their customers wanted to shop
  • Seek customers overseas - Many businesses have also sought to expand their customer base by going global - borders are not barriers with e-commerce. The pandemic has forced brands and retailers to find new customers as their previous customers’ behaviours have changed.
  • Final thought - Previously there was a tendency towards a ‘bricks vs clicks’ mindset in retail. But, this is no more. With the future uncertain, e-commerce brands must continually evolve to meet customer needs and take advantage of platforms that enable them to grow their customer base.

Based on the success of August’s roundtable, we plan to take the discussion further and host a second roundtable in September.

We’d love to invite further experts to join us. If this sounds of interest, please reach out to Brittany Atkins at brittany.atkins@hotwireglobal.com to register interest.