Make no mistake: COVID-19 has changed the retail landscape forever. For brick-and-mortar businesses for whom the physical store was long seen as having paramount importance, the digital commerce side of the business has now taken center stage indefinitely. To survive—and eventually thrive—brands and merchants must embrace the future, not flee from it. And the future is ecommerce.
To a real degree, that future is here now. A decade ago, digital commerce drove only 5 percent of all retail sales. Today, ecommerce accounts for 16 percent of total retail. According to Salesforce’s Global Shopping Index, digital sales accounted for 20 percent of revenue growth in Q1 2020, compared to 12 percent in Q1 2019. The number of unique digital shoppers has jumped 40 percent year-over-year, and the graph line is only steepening in its upward climb.
The novel coronavirus is the clear driver behind ecommerce’s recent spike. With sheltering-in-place and social distancing strictures enforced, the purchase of both necessities and discretionary goods has migrated online. This has been a boon for some brands and retailers struggling to cope with the abrupt closure of physical outlets, but it has also presented some significant challenges. Foremost among them: clunky, buggy, or poorly designed ecommerce interfaces that discourage online sales.
Such technology fails don’t simply slash short-term revenues. They drive away customers—permanently. Consumers who experience difficulties on a digital retail site are unlikely to return. It’s thus critical to ensure your ecommerce platform is adequate to demand, that it provides a seamless—indeed, pleasant—shopping experience. You need to coddle your customers today to ensure they’ll be with you once the current situation has passed. In all likelihood, that will require major upgrades to your digital resources.
“Retailers must invest in digital beyond bolting on new platforms/channels,” wrote Brian Solis, global innovation evangelist at Salesforce, in a recent analysis of the current ecommerce realm. “It’s a chance to get closer to the customer, in time of need, to use digital to show them that they’re more than a shopping cart or transaction, a customer ID, an email address or a conversion percentage.”
Lars Feldscher, managing director of Astound Commerce DACH, emphasizes the importance of ramping up digital commerce platform capability and responsiveness as the world negotiates a path through the COVID-19 pandemic. Astound, a global leader in ecommerce technology and solutions and a Salesforce Platinum Partner, has mobilized its more than 200 certified engineers and architects to both jump-start client ecommerce capability during the current situation and identify long-term goals and strategies.
“Our guiding principle has always been customer solidarity,” says Feldscher. “It’s easy to stand with your clients when times are good and revenues are flush. It’s another thing entirely to be fully present and available when conditions turn bleak. We understand that COVID-19 is a grave public health crisis. But public health isn’t the only dimension to it. We also have to think of economic health—how do we get back to baseline and beyond once the pandemic passes. Businesses not only need to plan now—they need to implement now, to upgrade their platforms today to capture customers and build consumer loyalty for tomorrow. Shoppers are abandoning brands and merchants wholesale because their platforms aren’t up to speed, both literally and figuratively. That’s why Astound Commerce was founded, in order to stand together with excellent platforms and good customers—in good times and in bad times.”
Both the numbers and client testimony speak to Astound’s success in creating bespoke digital solutions that dominate:
- Dominik Jaeth, the head of digital IT solutions at Orsay, credits Astound with maintaining sales of Orsay’s popular clothing lines throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
“During the weeks after the lockdown of our stores, the only remaining sales channel was our commerce cloud platform,” says Jaeth. “Thanks to the scalability of the platform and the high quality of the implementation from Astound, we could handle this unexpected high amount of traffic and orders without any friction.”
- Ken Kralick, global director of ecommerce for Puma, likewise lauds his company’s partnership with Astound.
“You guys have certainly been great partners with us this year in spite of the crazy times from the virus,” says Kralick. “With the collaboration amongst all our teams, we will navigate the COVID situation together and come out very strong indeed.”
- Elvira Hamann, manager of omnichannel operations at the intimate apparel and swimwear house Hunkemöller, shares a similar view, noting that Astound has “...certainly been a very important partner for us. Especially in this uncertain period we have certainly tightened our collaboration and we have a smooth transition into the new normal.”
- Finally, Astound not only backs up its clients; as a Platinum Partner, it’s backed up in turn by Salesforce, the colossus of the ecommerce realm.
As Salesforce Chair and CEO Mark Benioff wrote in a letter to Salesforce customers at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, “Salesforce was built to handle moments like this, and our relentless commitment to your success is stronger than ever.”