In the early days of the pandemic, home and garden retailers benefitted from the arrival of a warm spring and the increased availability of shoppers’ time and resources. Customers took the opportunity to conduct home improvements and to embrace outdoor living. Demand for furniture, soft furnishings, garden furniture, home decor, DIY products and kitchen equipment rocketed.
This home and garden boom shows no sign of abating one year on, an experience described by some as the industrial revolution of ecommerce.
To discuss the events of the last twelve months, and to celebrate the launch of our 2021 Home & Garden Top 60 Ecommerce Report, we gathered together representatives of the industry’s leading brands for a virtual roundtable on 29th April.
Co-hosted with Trustpilot and Klevu, we were joined by CEOs and directors from Heals, Cox & Cox, Moda Furnishings, Gastronomy Plus, The French Bedroom Company and The Conran Shop. Read on to discover what retailers have learnt from the events of the last twelve months, and how they will prepare for the future.
Growth is Set to Continue
The 2020 home and garden boom shows no sign of slowing down. As available oversea holiday destinations are still limited, the public will invest in their houses and gardens in preparation for another summer spent with friends and family at home.
The boom will also be driven by those customers who held back from making significant purchases last year who now feel ready to splurge on higher value items, and don’t want to miss out this year.
In addition, retailers should prepare themselves for shopping seasons to start much earlier than usual. Last year customers began buying Christmas decorations in August, and in 2021 the demand for garden furniture started in January. Customers have learnt from last year – their expectations and needs have shifted and so they are planning ahead accordingly.
As such, sustainable growth will be a key consideration for the year ahead. Retailers need to be resourceful and tactical as they scale their logistics, inventory, order management, warehousing, delivery systems and ecommerce channels in a way that will be profitable and successful for the long term.
Balancing Supply and Demand
A recurring theme was the constant juggling of supply and demand. Demand has never been higher, while supply has struggled to keep up due to two key factors:
- The decrease in retail manpower due to shielding, social distancing measures and ill health
As many retailers import and export to the EU, the snap implementation of Brexit at the end of 2020 was disruptive and continues to be challenging. Brands must contend with delays due to supply chain disruption plus increased shipping costs.
One retailer called for greater support and assistance from retail industry bodies to address these issues. Publicity and press coverage showing how Brexit has impacted supply chains would help to manage consumer expectations and – in doing so – support retailers.
Customer Experience is the Priority
Customer’s reactions to supply issues have varied from ‘understanding’ to ‘patience wearing thin’. To tackle this, merchants are prioritising the customer experience, with an emphasis on transparency, proactive communication and managing expectations.
In a poll conducted during the roundtable, 60% said that ‘Customers – improving the online experience’ was their main focus for the next few months.
Adding the personal touch was also mentioned by several retailers as a way to manage expectations, humanise brands and connect with customers. From including handwritten notes in packages to providing personal replies to customer service queries, brands are going above and beyond every day.
Brand is Everything
While it has been a challenging year, one retailer laid it out clearly: brand is everything. If your brand is strong then your customers will remain loyal, sympathetic and advocate for you.
There will always be competitors that can beat you for price or speed, so retailers must deliver a unique shopping experience that can’t be found elsewhere. You don’t have to be the best, but you have to be the best at being your brand. This means ensuring that your brand stands for something, and using these values and USPs to build trust among customers.
Ecommerce Planning for 2021
With summer on its way, now is the time to ensure your ecommerce store is ready. From strategic PPC campaigns to developing a powerful Adobe Commerce platform, Fluid Commerce can help you prepare. Contact our team today.
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