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15 Jun 2020

Has Covid-19 provided the impetus to take your store online?

Paul Ince is our Social Media expert and has provided us with some insight into the changes in consumer behaviours with online purchases during lockdown, and a look at the new Facebook feature - Facebook Shops.

Paul Ince

When there are restrictions on where you can go, and what you can do, our long-held retail habits have changed, if not overnight, then over the last few months at least. As a society, most of us were already familiar and well-practised at shopping online.

From March to June, though, we haven't been able to have the choice of popping down to our local high street to browse. Data from IMRG states that UK online retail sales rose by 22% in the first week in April compared to the same time last year. The beauty sector saw a 140% rise while electrical purchases rose by 90%. Delivery company ParcelHero says that home shopping is likely to double from 20% of all retail sales to 40%. 

Family shopping online

Ocado's sales jumped 40 per cent in the second quarter of the year. Jeff Bezos reportedly became a trillionaire as we flocked to buy through Amazon. As we move out of a blanket lockdown, and retail outlets slowly begin to open, we'll soon see whether this change was only temporary, or if we've fallen in love with the convenience of shopping online.

Like those across the UK, businesses in our region have had to adapt swiftly to the change in consumer behaviour. Those that already had online selling capabilities seem to have found it easier to continue to sell and fulfil orders. Those without have either had to make a quick change or stop selling altogether.

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Fortunately, there are many different options for a retail business wishing to take their products to an online audience. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, even Etsy are available. Never has ecommerce been more accessible to businesses.

Facebook, never the one to want to miss out on an opportunity to take a slice of the pie, continues to develop its own set of ecommerce tools to help businesses sell directly through its platforms. Not so long ago, it launched Instagram shopping tags, allowing users of the platform to search, browse and find products from brands they love, and being worn by people they follow, with direct links to the website from which they can be bought.

Family shopping online

Now, Facebook are going further with the introduction of Facebook Shops. Facebook Shops will allow businesses to curate product collections without leaving Facebook or Instagram. Users can find your shop from your Facebook page, Instagram profile or by swiping up from Instagram stories.

Shops will be able to be customised to create a unified experience regardless of platform (another example of how Facebook are starting to integrate their family of platforms). One of the criticisms of the existing setup around Facebook pages, the Shop tab and Instagram shopping is the lack of customisable elements. You're left with a definite sense of being on Facebook. With the new Commerce Manager, a new Facebook Business Manager tool, you'll be able to customise your layout and style to more suitably reflect your company brand. Your customers will feel like they're with you as they browse.

Factor in the posts from your account, and you have a great opportunity to create a unique experience for your customers and build them into a community of loyal fans.

At the time of writing, Facebook Shops are not yet available in the UK. It's likely that we'll see specific requirements relating to payments and tax collection when they are.

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We do know that consumers respond positively to seemless transactions. I'm a sucker for swiping up on an Instagram ad and pressing 'Add to Cart'. Once you can make the transaction within the Facebook ecosystem, who knows how much more I will spend?

Some businesses will be nervous about an organisation such as Facebook being part of their online sales strategy. When times are uncertain, such as these, the question is, can you afford to miss out on those potential customers who don't care how they do the transaction, as long as they can do it quickly?

When Facebook Shops come to the UK, we'll develop a session so that you can learn all about it and start your strategy for implementation. Keep checking the Digital Growth Programme website for when it's released. Until then, join us for our next webinar - Getting started with Instagram Shopping, for any business looking to get a head start. 

To learn more about the digital support available and to view our latest webinar listings check out our events page. 

The Digital Growth Programme is managed by East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire). It is a programme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Chamber and Leicestershire County Council designed to help SMEs located in Leicester and Leicestershire embrace new digital technology to improve productivity to aid growth.

For the latest information and recommendations from East Midlands Chamber in relation to coronavirus – please click here