The global e-commerce sector has grown at an exponential speed post-pandemic. Addressing Covid-19’s worldwide push for digitalisation, the sector has seen online orders double, startup revenues skyrocket and high levels of wide demographic engagement.
In fact, just a year into the pandemic, digital commerce had grown by 58% according to Salesforce’s Q1 2021 shopping index, predicting a pattern of mass growth opportunities in the next decade for online retailers.
(Image Source: Salesforce)
On the back of high street closures and a post-lockdown startup boom, the e-commerce landscape has never been so vibrant. While the sector may have become a consumer goldmine, competition is at an all-time high for new vendors hoping to see a return on investment.
As e-commerce authoritarians such as Amazon pave the way forward for post-covid digitalisation, smaller industry sellers are struggling to meet the commerce giant’s 82% sales growth since 2020.
With a new digital native consumer group demanding more and more from online sellers in 2022, the sales strategy of the future consists of hyper-personalisation, social selling and wide scale digital transformation.
In order to keep up with the commerce giants dominating the playing field, small business leaders need to be on top of post-pandemic selling trends for a shot at success. Read on as we delve into the e-commerce scene of tomorrow and divulge some of our best-kept sales secrets that will prepare your sales team for triumph in a competitive arena.
What Does The E-commerce Sector Look Like Post-Pandemic?
The e-commerce sector has become a competitive minefield post-pandemic. As the digital retail demographic constantly expands and the global consumer framework becomes tougher to navigate, shifting to e-commerce may improve your audience reach, but won’t necessarily score you a higher return. As brand giants battle it out to secure niche group engagement, it’s no surprise that many small businesses are falling through the net without large scale capital and a multi-platform marketing strategy at hand.
As experts predict that e-commerce transactions will exceed a global total of $7.5 trillion by 2026, it’s clear that consumers have adapted to a digital future post-covid.
(Image Source: Statista)
In fact, mobile e-commerce has skyrocketed post-pandemic, with 72% of all e-commerce based sales now completed via mobile devices as of 2021. As consumers become more tech-savvy, they expect e-commerce vendors to evolve in line with them.
In response, online giants have now set the bar for startup competitors are introducing new forms of immersive user experience, automated self-checkouts, chatbots and mobile friendly applications.
In order to compete, online entrepreneurs need to be prioritising their UX design and digital transformation budgets if they want to see a peak in user engagement, especially if they are striving to target Gen Z and Millennial consumers. Websites need to be both simplistic and speedy in order to keep bounce rates low and interactivity high.
Another post-pandemic e-commerce trend to watch out for is price matching. While lowering and matching prices falls in the favour of the consumer, many small businesses are struggling to match the low prices of branded giants such as Amazon and a number of high-street fashion retailers.
On the back of online clothing sales rocketing by $2.7 billion in the wake of lockdown, smaller eco-friendly retailers have struggled to match the prices of fast fashion retailers such as H&M and New Look as they continue to churn out low priced garments at a significant speed.
For independent retailers, a spike in fash fashion sales has seen their revenues dipping, especially as inflation pushes manufacturing costs through the roof.
As we step into a digitally dominated future, e-commerce giants continue to take the lead when it comes to attracting large scale consumer retention. With global sales teams, a hefty marketing budget and highstreet credit smoothing out the move to online, small business competitors need to revamp their strategies if they want to compete.
A Post-Covid Push For Automation
One of the most prominent e-commerce trends we are seeing post-pandemic is a push for automation within the sector. From artificial intelligence to fintech infused payment systems, the future is truly digital for the industry.
In fact, a recent study by Salesforce found that the most high-performing e-commerce companies are 4.9 times more likely to be using AI automation than underperforming competitors.
Artificial intelligence and big data have revolutionised the online landscape, automating and hyper-personalising the e-commerce experience for the consumer, while also aiding sales teams to actively predict trends and choose viable prospects with ease.
Shopping apps have also jumped into the spotlight post-pandemic. After the total time spent on retail based Android apps exceeded 100 billion hours in 2021, 2022 is tipped to move away from website based e-commerce and into an automated app based setting instead.
Covid-19’s push for automation continues to save e-commerce retailers significant costs. With less of a need for an in-person sales team, investing in chatbots, predictive analytics and financial technology, has saved business leaders over a quarter of the capital that would be spent on staffing costs pre-pandemic.
However, as new digitally charged trends emerge, experienced sellers must learn to adapt to a hybrid future if they are to compete with industry giants. Let’s have a closer look at some of the most prominent challenges sellers will face in 2022.
Addressing The Challenges Of Selling Post-Covid
Post-Pandemic selling has been a challenge for a number of e-commerce companies. After only 6% of sales reps reported that they found it easier to sell in the wake of Covid-19, the vast majority of global sales teams have struggled to adapt to new digitally driven trends.
From a peak in remote selling, to capturing the attention span of a new TikTok infused generation that bounces after 30 seconds, here are some of the challenges sales teams may face in a post-pandemic landscape.
Recent stats from McKinsey revealed that a whopping 90% of sales representatives are now working remotely post-Covid-19. After a global lockdown accelerated the WFH movement, sales teams have since had to adapt. No longer are consultants dominating the shop floor or a flock of inbound calls, the future of selling relies on video conferencing, live chat and social selling tactics.
In fact, digitally enabled sales interaction is now twice as important as in-person interaction according to over 66% of respondents in a recent Pipedrive survey.
Embracing the digital shift has called for more training and coaching for both new and existing representatives, while also putting many traditional sellers out of a job. In a remote environment, sales teams find it harder to collaborate and communicate with each other, which could lead to sales lead follow ups being missed and quotas not being met.
A recent remote work survey revealed that 49% of employees are unaware of what is expected of them in a remote environment, and a further half of all respondents lack the training needed to use remote selling tools.
Poor Consumer Attention Spans
The social media scene grew significantly during the pandemic, with more than 4.62 billion users and counting interacting with at least one social media platform post-lockdown.
As popular platforms such as TikTok took centre stage, social selling strategies became vital for e-commerce success. From video ads to influencer based promotion, e-commerce retailers are now having to adapt their selling strategy to accommodate a generation with a declining attention span.
TikTok’s fast-paced format has been linked to the change in consumer behaviour. The video-based social media platform specialising in 15-30 second content snippets is quickly teaching the digital native generation to simply stop interacting with long-form content.
In fact, a recent article from The Independent revealed that those who use the TikTok app for more than 90 minutes a day are more likely to have a narrow attention span over time. In response, sellers will need to spend more time on their social selling strategy if they want to keep engagement levels high.
Working With A Reduced Budget
Did you know that 55% of business leaders have reduced their sales budget in response to Covid-19? In order to address a digital shift, startups are pumping more capital than ever before into technological transformation, marketing and advertising and market research.
For many sales teams, budget cuts also mean staff cuts, placing the reaming team under pressure as online order volumes soar. With a reduced labour force, call waiting times could be longer and consumer satisfaction could suffer as representatives struggle to offer personalised experiences under tight deadlines.
How Are Sales Teams Adapting To The Change?
The sales industry is going digital. Changing in line with evolving consumer attitudes, the sales teams of the future are incorporating technological collaboration within their selling strategy and embracing automation in 2022.
In fact, 77% of sales representatives now use digital selling to their advantage, as e-commerce companies embrace chatbot automation and B2B sellers switch from phone calls to video chat.
A further 75% of B2B sales teams have increased their investment in digital tools post-pandemic according to Get Accept. From improving their CRM systems to investing in sales intelligence that aids prospecting in a digital playing field, B2B representatives have begun to incorporate data-based automation into their strategy.
B2C sales teams have opted for chatbot implementation in the wake of Covid-19, in order to address the sheer volume of orders in an e-commerce boom. According to Global Market Insights, Chatbots will have a market size of over $1 billion by 2024, as they continue to aid customer service within the e-commerce sector.
(Image Source: Business Wire)
Chatbots have become a popular selling tool for a plethora of reasons, however, 24/7 support does stand out as one of the aid’s most significant benefits. While high street stores operate on a 9-5 basis, an e-commerce store is never closed. Open to a global audience and a number of different time zones, e-commerce retailers receive engagement 24/7, rendering it tricky for one physical sales team to handle on their own.
In order to keep conversions flowing, chatbots are able to automate consumer interactions and answer prospect questions digitally when sales representatives are offline. Introducing a 24-hour support system is an easy way to improve conversion rates, reduce physical staff costs and most importantly improve the consumer experience.
A consumer that feels listened to, is a consumer who will return.
5 Ways To Prepare Your Sales Team for Success
If you’re looking to up your sales game post-Covid, you’ve come to the right place. Below we have collated our top five tips for selling success in a digital landscape.
From hyper personalised selling to new forms of immersive staff coaching, read on as we divulge the secrets of a successful sales strategy in a new highly competitive e-commerce sector.
1. Introduce Hyper Personalised Selling
It’s no secret that digital native consumers expect more from brands in an e-commerce environment. With so many competitors to choose from, industry players need to be thinking outside of the box if they want to capture the attention of their demographic.
Introducing personalisation is just one of the ways a sales team can improve their chances of success in an online playing field. After 85% of digital consumers claimed that they expected e-commerce retailers to address their personal needs and pain points when marketing a product to them, brands need to be more purpose-driven in 2022.
(Image Source: Eversheds Sutherland)
As you can see here, Gen Z and Millennial consumers are especially concerned about personalisation when it comes to interacting with a brand. 25% of all consumers surveyed in a recent Eversheds Sutherland study, revealed that personalised styling, selling and product recommendations would make them more likely to re-engage with a brand post-sale.
There are a number of ways a sales team can improve their personalisation. From conducting greater levels of market research to introducing data-driven machine learning into their strategy, sales teams who gather more information about their demographic’s needs and gratifications are more likely to connect with their prospects and offer them a personalised experience.
Automated personalisation is also king in the digital landscape. In an age of pop-up ads, social media selling and 24/7 chatbot support, e-commerce retailers can use AI to hyper-personalise product recommendations based on search history and previous brand engagement. In fact, chatbots alone can also be used to collect important customer data. Making use of machine learning, chatbots are able to retain and store information about each customer interaction, which can be used to predict demographic trends and influence future product recommendations.
2. Prioritise Prospecting
Prospecting has become an essential part of the sales process ever since the e-commerce boom. With a larger demographic than ever before, sales representatives need to be sifting through the crowd and making efforts to identify and connect with their potential sales leads.
The typical sales team loses around 20% of their customer base annually. In order to keep consumer retention high, despite high levels of competition, sales reps need to be actively cold calling, following up on ticketed requests, and using analytic tech to identify and connect with their most likely leads for conversion.
There are a number of benefits associated with prioritising prospecting within the sales funnel. Not only can prospecting efforts catch a larger pool of consumers for a boost in revenue, but this process also enables a sales representative to gather data on a consumer group and make decisions regarding customer qualification for a product or service.
In a post-Covid sales scene, prospecting should be at the foundation of any sales strategy. Knowing a demographic inside and out is vital for an online sales team, as unlike a traditional high street store, where an interested consumer could walk through the doors, digital sales reps need to make informed decisions about which sales leads are most likely to convert, before reaching out to their customer base in either a call or email format.
For sales teams looking to improve their prospecting, studies suggest that reaching out to potential leads is best achieved in an email format. In fact, 8 in 10 decision makers claim that they prefer to be reached via email as a pose to a cold call. Therefore, sales representatives who want to see success need to work on their subject lines if they are to catch future consumers.
3. Start Social Selling
Social selling may still be known as a relatively new phenomenon within the sales world, but it is certainly an effective one in a post-pandemic landscape. With over 4.62 billion people now using social media, utilising popular platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin to poach potential sales leads has become a quick gateway to success.
In fact, a recent study by Linkedin revealed that 78% of sales representatives that use social selling within their strategy outsell their peers year on year.
Social selling consists of using social networks to identify, connect with and nurture a relationship with a sales prospect. In a similar format to both cold call and email based prospecting, connecting with customers on a social platform enables a rep to answer consumer questions in a series of content based interactions within a more informal setting.
Not only does this increase brand visibility amongst popular social platforms, but incorporating social selling into the sales process is a great way to connect with Gen Z consumers who claim that they are 65% more likely to purchase a product that was either promoted or discussed on social media.
4. Improve Immersive Sales Training
Digital selling trends continue to evolve post-pandemic. As sales teams jump onto the e-commerce wave, business leaders must prioritise representative coaching in order to prepare their team for a competitive online playing field. Studies show that coaching sales reps in a digital environment encourages sellers to reach their quotas at a faster pace, achieve personal goals in just half of the time and boost overall company revenue.
While many experienced sellers may have had excellent closing times pre-pandemic, Covid-19’s digital shift has added new levels to the selling game, that sales representatives need to master if they are to tackle a digital demographic.
According to Geoff Perfect, A salesforce startup advisor, “Salespeople need to get much better at picking up cues of body language over videoconference calls, asking great probing questions, active listening, and reconfirming what they heard.”
In order to enhance digital selling skills, Perfect suggests that immersive training could be the answer for e-commerce based sales teams. Utilising the powers of augmented reality and virtual reality, new recruits can be trained to tackle videoconferencing in a virtual simulation that mirrors the workplace, in order to get a true feel for their new position.
In fact, according to researchers at IDC, corporate training has now overtaken commercial investment in VR/AR tech after over $4.1 billion was invested in immersive training in 2021.
The sales training of tomorrow will be immersive. Not only can immersive tech reduce training time, but it also reduces the need for staff intervention, therefore keeping productivity flowing within the team while new recruits learn the ropes.
5. Set Actionable Goals For The Future
Last but certainly not least, a successful sales team should always set actionable goals for the future. Growth is all about strategically planning ahead, setting KPIs and striving to meet them in a number of controlled actionable steps.
The key here is to be realistic. While eager teams may want to push the boat out, it’s important to not pull numbers out of thin air. If a team wants to see a growth rate of 120% in just one year but is currently expanding at under 5% per month, this goal is going to be hard to reach and could discourage the team from even trying.
Instead, it’s time to focus on the facts. Employers should review their historical conversion rates and measure these against the new strategy innovation they plan to introduce, the current team size and their average value production.
Setting realistic actionable goals is a good way to boost team productivity and create a clear plan for a competitive future.