This article is brought to you in collaboration with Thrillworks, a collective of thinkers, makers, and technologists here to create meaningful end-to-end digital experiences.
To no one’s surprise, online sales are at an all-time high. And with a prediction that 80,000 stores will close in the U.S. by 2026, that number is sure to grow. As more brands and retailers eagerly jump on the eCommerce train, it’s important to keep user-centricity in mind during every stage of the sales cycle in order to address what the customer wants, how they want it, and when. To help you navigate this uncharted landscape, we’ve put together a few helpful pointers.
Businesses have been forced to make necessary shifts in the wake of the pandemic; the ones doing well have brought their products and services closer to the end-user. They quickly understood that the survival of a business depends on satisfying the needs of price and product options, convenience, speed, and customization.
If you look at the food and beverage industry, it has transformed in a couple of ways:
“We, eCommerce businesses and the end-users they serve, are the ‘D part of D2C’ by taking control versus going through middle people,” says Douglas Riches, Chief Technology Officer of Thrillworks. “The benefits are obvious for both parties.”
In many cases, D2C is less expensive for the manufacturer and the customer. This can increase profits and the flexibility that customers have in accessing the products.
With restaurants across North America (and the world) closed or with limited capacity, companies supplying the food industry got creative. Sysco and US Foods started selling to grocery stores instead – not quite D2C but it enabled Sysco to offload its inventory.
Another example is Regalis Foods, an importer of luxury food items (think truffle oils and rare mushrooms) for high-end restaurants, who drove sales by and selling their goods online, direct-to-consumers.
Wholesale prices, previously meant for restaurants, became available to end-users. Each customer who spent over $250 on the luxury food items was rewarded with an ounce of caviar. Instead of wasting food and bearing sunk costs, these businesses have adapted to survive by going directly to their consumers.
“Nobody’s going to find out about your cuisine without marketing,” Doug says. “Promoting goods and services within a marketplace may cost a business more in the long run, but you don’t just put up a storefront and expect your business to take off.”
Brands like UberEats, Instacart, and DoorDash have created a marketplace for consumers to browse and select what they need for dinner or groceries, without having to leave their house. Since COVID-19, we’ve seen a lot more of this type of behavior across various industries as it satisfies regional guidelines as well as the customer’s needs.
“Once you’ve built your database on platforms like this, it may make sense to keep using it as an additional channel for sales and marketing,” Doug explains. “Even if a cut is going to the platform, it builds customer awareness and trust as they see your brand on a third-party platform they already use and are familiar with.”
It all comes down to being strategic about the marketplace(s) that makes the most sense for your business and investing in them as you would with a physical storefront – all to give consumers more choices with less hassle.
Building a website is easy, but eCommerce can be complicated. If you couldn’t get a refund for your UberEats meal or want to return clothing that doesn’t fit, would you be a repeat buyer?
eCommerce works well for both sellers and buyers when there is a seamless integration of:
"As a business, I need to be able to manage the entire process from pricing, inventory, actual sales, fulfillment, and my growing market share to evaluate and constantly improve my sales strategy,” Doug observes. “And I need all of this automated.”
To pivot to a D2C eCommerce model, businesses, especially those scaling up, should consider an end-to-end solution that includes enablement of physical and digital product sales, inventory management, sales and marketing analyses, payment gateways, and more.
A growing charcuterie brand may be considering expanding its product line to offer more meat or vegan options, or themed boards for special occasions. They may also want to add a subscription model or a rewards system for repeat customers. While the business focuses on providing their customers with a seamless experience and variety to choose from, the eCommerce platform would help take care of the rest to align with their overall vision for the brand.
The short answer is no.
“We only need to look at history to tell us that eCommerce is here to stay,” Doug said. “We’ve gone through traumatic events that have affected how we feel about flying or the need for universal basic healthcare that countries like Canada have ushered in response to pandemics such as the 1918 influenza.”
While some things will revert and others won’t, it's important to keep the convenience of the customer top of mind.
“Being able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant is something I’m so looking forward to, but it is now essential to have both a physical presence and an eCommerce solution that makes the most sense for your business,” Doug concludes.
Connect with Thrillworks to build the perfect eCommerce solution for your business.