What is Driving E-Commerce Sales Right Now?

What drives e-commerce sales has changed quickly in just 6 months. In January, we looked back at what worked the previous year, added upcoming opportunities and potential trends and wrapped up with a “here’s what is driving e-commerce sales in 2020!”

But that was 6 months ago. So much has already happened this year that has had major impacts on e-commerce. These changes are going to last for years. 

Companies have had to adapt quickly to the changes in the economy and consumer behavior and the most important thing to continue driving e-commerce sales is to understand how to turn these adaptations into long-term strategies.

With half of the year already behind us, let’s take a look at some strategies driving e-commerce sales right now and what we can expect to finish out the year.

Leaning into Ecommerce

I recently heard from a client, “I don’t know if I should feel happy or guilty. I think we need to invent another emotion that describes what it feels like to benefit during a pandemic.”

I’m sure the success of Ecommerce year-to-date has many advertisers feeling like this online retailer. 

In many cases, online channels are the only bright spot in an otherwise very dismal 2020. eMarketer’s latest forecast sees Ecommerce rising by 18% while brick-and-mortar and total retail fall 14% and 10.5% respectively, by the end of 2020. 

Quarter 1 and 2 has advertisers moving more budget, manpower, and resources into their Ecommerce channels and the next 6 months will see more of the same.

Consumer Behavior

As more businesses lean into driving e-commerce sales, they’re finding consumers don’t care so much about the brand, they care more about what the brand can do for them and (now more than ever) the causes they find important. 

Consumers have two questions:

  1. What can your product do for me? 
  2. What are you doing to support the social causes that are important to me?

What can your product do for me?

Do not just describe the features of the product. Communicate with the consumer what the product or service you are selling can do for them.

This will increase conversion, leading to quicker sales because it takes a step out of the customer journey. 

Show the consumer exactly how they can use your service or product in their daily lives and suddenly, they don’t have to interpret how they might use your brand in the future. 

If you have a product that can be used while working from home, display that in your creative and on your site to plant the use-case in the customer’s mind.

How does your brand support the social causes important to me?

E-commerce brands that are communicating social cause support create a loyal customer base and bring in new traffic. 

If you’re not championing causes that are important to your target demographic, odds are there’s a competing brand that is and shoppers today will choose the competitor most of the time.  

Brands with clear and simple messaging who support social values and environmental efforts will see more of an uptick in driving Ecommerce sales in 2020.

Social Awareness and Goodwill

Marketing campaigns are becoming less about selling products and more about engaging within the community and embracing goodwill.

We’ve seen a number of examples of this on display in recent months.

Visible, a digital-only wireless provider, took a marketing budget of $250K and gave it away in the form of 1,000 $250 Amazon gift cards in their #VisibleActsofKindness campaign. 

By encouraging people on social media to help each other and share examples, the brand created an emotional attachment and spread social awareness.

Freshly, a meal subscription delivery service, donated $500K to Meals On Wheels to deliver food to senior citizens across the country that were quarantined at home. 

As Marcel Marcondes, CMO of Anheuser-Bush said, “We’re not in advertising mode right now. “That’s the most important thing. We’re acting on a relevance and action kind of mode.”

Customers are so saturated by traditional advertising online, the only way to stand out is to engage on an emotional level. Something that’s going to make their time worth interacting with your brand. 

Again, what can your (the brand) do for me (the customer) and the causes I care about?

Direct-to-Consumer Strategies to Compete with Amazon

With the increase of e-commerce over recent months, Amazon has taken the majority of that share. eMarketer forecasts Amazon will move to 38% in total e-commerce sales by the end of 2020.

Brands that do sell on Amazon are realizing they’re completely at the mercy of the platform. Brands deemed non-essential during this pandemic have been hit very hard by this reality and are needing to find alternate channels to make up for lost Amazon revenue due to shipping delays and product shortages. 

To combat this, brands are implementing all kinds of strategies to come out ahead of Amazon’s offerings. 

  • Many are going back to their past customer lists in hopes of earning repeat business. 
  • Free shipping offerings, which have been on the rise for a while, are now prevalent. 
  • Gifts with Purchase are also common as brands try to add value to purchasing direct over Amazon.
  • Increased discounts with longer run times than in previous years are being promoted more widely.
  • JEBCommerce is helping brands pour more attention and marketing dollars into their affiliate channels because of its traffic generation and return-on-investment. 

Customer acquisition will continue to drive e-commerce sales throughout 2020 and 2021. Instead of sending customers to Amazon, brands are building out their internal database of customer data in order to remarket to these shoppers.

User Generated Content vs Influencer Marketing

As advertisers are forced to reallocate marketing spends to channels with a proven ROAS, influencers will be hard hit. 

Of course, influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but I do think many influencers will need to find solutions to the “ever elusive” incremental value add of an influencer spend. 

It’s still difficult to truly track conversions from social media platforms and attribution gets “muddy” very fast. 

If influencers want to continue to charge flat fees for partnerships, they’re going to need to prove their ROAS otherwise, they’ll have to work on a different payment model.

In light of this, User-Generated-Content will be on the rise. Platforms like Indi and Soreto will be sought after in an effort to gain an organic social media presence without the price tag of a high end influencer.

Key Takeaways: What is driving E-Commerce Sales Right Now?

The biggest takeaway from 2020 is to help people. 

Whether that’s consumers working together to hold advertisers accountable, advertisers partnering together in B2B partnerships to offer solutions to modern day problems, or advertisers genuinely wanting to help their customer base through these difficult times. 

The brands that look past the bottom line in search of compassion are the ones going to win big in 2020.

2020 Ecommerce Strategies

  • Move budget, manpower, and resources into e-commerce channels.
  • Communicate: What can your product do for me? 
  • Communicate: How does your brand support the social causes important to me?
  • Embrace Social Awareness and Goodwill.
  • Direct-to-consumer strategies.
  • Pay attention to affiliate channels.
  • User generated content that can prove ROAS.

Now, run your affiliate program through this 15 point checklist to see how well prepared your affiliate channel is to weather turbulent economies. Check all that apply and share your score.