Over the past five months, COVID-19 has significantly changed lives. While majority of the world was gravely impacted by the first wave of the pandemic, countries like Australia and New Zealand were quick to impose restrictions to help contain the virus. Nonetheless, the crisis completely changed the face of the global economy, presenting unprecedented challenges and an uncertain future for all sectors, including retail.

The first wave forced businesses to temporarily shut doors to their physical stores, and extreme lockdown measures rules saw a significant shift in shopping behaviours overnight. We saw people panic buying necessities and a large number of first-time online shoppers contributed to a surge in Australian ecommerce, thus accelerating a major marketing shift.

As restrictions eased in May, businesses were able to reopen stores for customers hoping for a way to recovery. However, the current second wave of COVID-19 has once again impacted Australian businesses. But how has the second wave impacted the Australian ecommerce industry?

Increased focus on online abilities

The first wave was a learning curve for marketers in adapting to the changing dynamics in consumer shopping behaviour. Retailers with multichannel capabilities and an online presence were less strained when compared to businesses with only a physical presence.

Second wave restrictions have put pressure on businesses again, but retailers are continuing to introduce new and innovative approaches to bring the online and offline worlds together. Smaller and agile businesses can think differently, spin up an online presence, and create marketplaces to enable easy search abilities. Lately, more and more businesses are investing in digital infrastructure to maximise customer experience while shopping online.

Many companies have looked to evolve their marketing to keep up with the ever-shifting business landscape. To me, transparent communications is key when it comes to engaging a customer, but crucial in times of uncertainty. Here are some strategies I have seen our clients employ as they have endeavoured to create meaningful experiences for their customers during these unprecedent times.

Transactional transparency

Although it may feel like a given, make sure you highlight the current shipping situation to your customers both pre and post-purchase. Australian shoppers should now be aware of the extra load that couriers are facing with the increase in online purchases, and few customers expect to receive pre-COVID speeds of service. However, with constantly changing logistical considerations, you do still need to communicate this to your customers and keep them informed post-purchase.

Repeat purchases

Make sure you have a plan in place to turn those first-time customers into brand advocates. Give them a great experience first time around, and you’ll give them a reason to come back for more, and to refer their friends. It’s too easy to get lost in a whirlwind of peak sales, but if the follow-up customer experience is lacklustre, the likelihood of them not coming back is high. Carve out time to automate asking for reviews, and use these wherever you can, send product recommendations based on their purchase, and make sure your returns policy is clear on your website.

Stand out

You’ve got a captive market right now, customers are spending more time online, and less time out-and-about thanks to varying levels of social restrictions, but if your content is bland, you risk becoming part of the background. Entertain your creative marketing ideas, demonstrate your brand values, showcase more user-generated content, and provide value above and beyond your products. Make your email subject lines punchy and enticing, get creative with your social competitions, use SMS to drive flash sales, and test out new creative strategies. Consumers want to be entertained, and now is a great time to give something new a try.

We’ve all learned a lot since the first wave, but as it remains unclear on how and when the lockdowns will unwind, the ecommerce space is expected to grow as businesses continue to meet the demands of an ever-growing base of Australians shopping online.

Beatrice Ellefsen is head of customer success for APAC at dotdigital