eCommerce - more important than ever before

The stress faced by retailers in the wake of the pandemic is perhaps unrivaled. We asked our partners to share their unique take on what the future of retail holds.

eCommerce is more important than ever before

eCommerce is more important than ever before. (photo: Cottonbro from Pexels)

Build a brand presence across channels.

Miinto is the leading online fashion platform with more than 400 independent stores in its portfolio. Jake Petersen, Partner and Managing Director Norwegian unit of Miinto has shed some light on what retailers should focus on to adapt their business during and after the curve.

What is the significant difference between the lockdown this time and the one imposed in March 2020? Are there several new establishments now or is it just businesses reaping the rewards of their investments made during the first lockdown in March 2020?

- We have the same influx of new partners now as before and it has been incessant throughout the period. What we do see, is that several retailers are opting for a hybrid approach - where they are exploring the benefits of casting a wider net via selling on another sales channel through Miinto, in addition to their pandemic induced online store. To these retailers, we offer extra benefits such as shipping agreements, that can be used for their own webshop as well.

What do you think about retailers who are resistant to the growing trend of online shopping these days? What do you think about the prospects of those selling only in a physical store?

- Undoubtedly, online shopping has been turbocharged by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and this shift is here to stay even after things become relatively normal. I think it is crucial to diversify your sales channels by and large. The traditional retail stores are salient and will always be there, but a growing number of consumers extensively research their product online and compare prices and offers before making a purchase. This is about being accessible, both as a virtual shop window for customers skewed towards in-store shopping, but also just as much to be a part of the battle for customers who steer clear of buying offline.

To reiterate, in a saying that’s perhaps a bit too harsh for some: If you aren’t online, you don’t exist, unless you sell something exclusively unique, completely independent, that "everyone wants".

How long does it take from the time you decide to sell online to selling on Miinto?

- It depends on what data you have in your POS system, or for example in Shopify. But you can be online on Miinto within 24 hours.

How can retailers differentiate themselves from competing retailers in Miinto? How can they position themselves success now that everyone is fighting it out for the same customer?

- This is about coming up with the products primarily, a strategically focused product assortment will help fuel more sales. We have a lot of traffic and high demand. We often experience a lack of styles and sizes, so here are many "low-hanging fruits" for those who have not yet collaborated with us. The competition to get orders through us is not as laborious as being at the top of google or driving traffic to own webshop.

Photo jake petersen

Jake Petersen, Partner and Managing Director Norwegian unit of Miinto

Freedom to choose and overview.

E2 Solutions delivers online stores and consulting services on the Shopify platform to small and large stores. General Manager Einar Moen Styrmoe shares his thoughts on how retailers should venture now and in coming times.

What is the significant difference between the lockdown this time and the one imposed in March 2020? Are there several new establishments now or is it just businesses reaping the rewards of their investments made during the first lockdown in March 2020?

- The biggest difference is probably that we get more requests from customers who have had time to think through. They have looked at and tried several options available in the market. The pressure has been relatively high since March 2020, and it has picked up further after lockdown 2.0. This is quite evident with payment and logistics partners, where waiting time for the setup is more so than usual, and as a consequence, the total establishment time has increased to a degree.

What do you think about retailers who are resistant to the growing trend of online shopping these days? What do you think about the prospects of those selling only in a physical store?

- Despite closures, I certainly think there is scope for selling in bricks-and-mortar stores only, but there is also the risk of losing customers who now have had the taste of easy access to online product information and alternative evaluations. Online stores can function as digital catalogs that allow the customer to get a peek into in-store product assortment before they come by, and the physical store can function as a showroom for the online store.

Say, customer in a store likes a jacket but does not purchase it. Later, the person has second thoughts and if the store in question does not have an active web presence, there is a greater chance of missing a prospective customer looking at your business. If a customer has had a good experience in a physical store, they are most likely to shop in their online store in addition to the physical one.

Front Systems makes it effortless to list your entire inventory to different online solutions - if you have a picture and description in Front, you can easily create a fully updated online catalog – if desired, even without the online store functionality – one can have a real time view of stock levels and locations. «Is this jacket on Amfi Madla? Or in Storgata 3? » It is solved with simple and affordable integrations on the website.

How long does it take from the time you decide to sell online to selling on Shopify?

- The actual setup of a Shopify store with Front Systems integration can be swift, particularly if you do not have too many requirements for custom design and have a prior good cash register system. Simple online stores can be launched within a few days after you have decided to start.

How to get the first sale is very distinct and is a lot about strategy and planning, marketing, and existing prerequisites. Stores that already have a strong online presence, in the form of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or well-visited websites, often get off to a flying start if they build up expectations for a launch date. Other stores that are in the early stages of their digital existence must anticipate that it will take time before there is some activity on the online store. A careful advertising campaign, such as Google Shopping, often helps. Usually, all stores have their first online sale during the first two weeks after launch.

In stores, customers can browse for products, ask for help right away, and see what they are buying. It is imperative to get your online store to mimic that ease. Treat your online store as a physical store; have a member of staff available to help customers and answer any queries.

Have realistic expectations in relation to competence, budget, and resources. Have a plan and a good division of responsibilities. Products don’t sell themselves online either.

How can retailers differentiate themselves from competing retailers? How can they position themselves success now that everyone is fighting it out for the same customer?

- I think it is important to focus on what makes your store special - use the identity to get a following, who resonate with the product selection and "language" of your store - mainly if you sell consumables such as clothes and shoes.

We see that the average annual repurchase rate at our customer stores is around 20%, so keeping customers, whether it is via social media, newsletters, or loyalty discounts will be profitable - not just chasing new ones.

Focus on local affiliation can also be crucial.

If you run marketing campaigns, it can be cost-effective to run campaigns with the surrounding areas as a catchment area. Often people recognize the stores in their immediate neighborhood, and an advertisement may be enough to remind them that they can still shop from local players even if the physical stores are closed, or they would rather shop online.

Give customers the same information about what you sell as you would do in the physical store. Be better than anyone else at describing products, fit, benefits and such. Show the competence and the salesman in you!

Einar Moen Styrmoe E2 Solutions AS1

Einar Moen Styrmoe, General Manager of E2 Solutions.

Many people shop online.

Martin Brekke, Senior Sales Executive at JetShop, believes that the effects of a changed consumer purchasing behavior will be exciting to follow in future.

What is the significant difference between the lockdown this time and the one imposed in March 2020? Are there several new establishments now or is it just businesses reaping the rewards of their investments made during the first lockdown in March 2020?

- During the first lockdown, we noticed that many companies were compelled to either establish or improve their digital strategy. This led to a relatively large wave of knowledge-seeking and committed companies. Now, 11 months later, we see them harness the benefits of these various processes, at the same time we recognize several new businesses as a direct result of social shutdown, with both new online stores and solutions that solve given functions in the ecosystem.

What do you think about retailers who are resistant to the growing trend of online shopping these days? What do you think about the prospects of those selling only in a physical store?

- I think you should have patience and preferably a healthy equity. The situation will normalize, and the growth of e-commerce will flatten out, but the effects of changes in purchasing patterns will outlast the pandemic. The past year has led to several new customer groups – groups that have previously been a bit hesitant are now increasingly using online shopping and related services. If you, as a 65-year-old, first get a taste of agility, one has to offer additional value for the product to retain them. A connection between physical and digital experiences becomes a bare minimum if one is to survive over time.

How long does it take from the time you decide to sell online to selling on JetShop?

- On an average, a project takes 10 weeks from the time we have outlined the project until the online store is launched. As a SaaS platform, all our customers are always on the same code base and platform version, which attests that we can deliver solid, high-quality projects in a relatively short time. We do offer bespoke solutions and build links to various third parties through Jetshop Integration services, so the timeline varies contingent upon the customer's requirements, wishes and ambitions.

How can retailers differentiate themselves from other competing retailers? How can they position themselves success now that everyone is fighting it out for the same customer?

- This list can be relatively long and depends on several factors, including your standpoint, product category, target group and competitive situation. Broadly speaking, it is the sum of all the details that will create an edge, and regardless of growth, size, and experience, one must always look for improvement. Create a solid showroom and differentiated merchandising with personalization, flexible order and return handling. Over and above, it is vital to establish and build a solid customer base, focus on relevant analysis, and collaborate with partners who have ambitions, knowledge, and commitment.

Martin brekke

Martin Brekke, Senior Sales Executive at JetShop.