The growth of online shopping was kicked into high gear over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and signs are pointing to a more permanent shift. With Australia Post telling customers that delivery cutoffs will be on 12 December this year to account for the rise in online orders they have experienced during COVID, the ecommerce boom is gaining steam and competition is heating up. 

But with more retail players entering the online fore and the proliferation of online marketplaces, the fight for consumers’ attention — and dollars — is intensifying. So, how can retailers cut through clutter and seize the online opportunity? 

Using data to meet the new customer

One of the biggest outcomes of the pandemic for retail businesses is the death of the concept of ‘tried and tested’. Where there was once a basic understanding of ‘the consumer’ and how they operate, consumer behaviours have been completely rewritten and continue to shift by the day as uncertainty becomes the new norm. 

This new era of changing consumer behaviour demands a new attitude to developing creative content. This means setting aside historical views and approaching customers as though you are learning about them for the first time. 

For retailers looking to cut through, data is imperative to re-learning about customers and informing all creative content. Every piece of marketing must be driven and supported by deep data insights into customers’ ever-changing needs, motivations, and preferences. Data also holds the key to staying in the moment with consumers, delivering fast insights to quickly turn around responsive, agile, and relevant creative campaigns. 

Adapting creative for the new era 

Compounding the issue of increased competition and the need to cut through, retailers also face the challenge of advertising and creative production being restricted in the COVID-impacted world of social distancing.

Big budget, highly stylised photoshoots have made way for user-generated campaigns and content developed on the go. With production restricted and speed the new aim of the game, retail businesses can lean on stock imagery and footage to produce content quickly and with fewer resources. 

Retail giant Zara is a prime example of approaching creative in an innovative way after photoshoots were rendered unfeasible during COVID-19 lockdowns. In place of its usual stylised photoshoots in exotic locations, the brand sent clothes to models to carry out their own photoshoots at home. The content, which maintained visual consistency with the brand, both saved resources and met consumers in the moment. 

Retailers looking to cut through in ecommerce would do well to adopt these tactics, even post-COVID, as it helps prioritise authenticity and speed in creative content. 

Reaching customers where they are

With significant brand noise and a cluttered ecommerce space, it’s not enough to use creative as a means to cut through. The emphasis for retailers looking to succeed needs to be on personalised creative content that reaches customers where they are. 

Coles is a great example of this. Last quarter, the retail chain revealed profit growth for the first time in four years, with online groceries driving significant sales revenue. With consumer grocery shopping patterns shifting online and the rise of click and collect, Coles announced it was scrapping its two-decade-old printed catalogue in favour of a digital version. The shoppable digital catalogue offers a more personalised experience and caters to new customer preferences. 

As the economy continues to shift online, retailers have their work cut out for them to get noticed. But smart and authentic creative holds the key to cutting through. The difference between those that succeed in the online economy and those that drown in the noise is approaching customers as though you are learning about them for the first time and finding innovative ways to adapt creative content to meeting customers in the moment. 

Garth Williamson is country manager for Shutterstock Australia and New Zealand