It has been a challenging time for retail in the last 6 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted consumer behaviour dramatically, with stores closing in most countries, and for those that have remained open or been allowed to re-open, footfall has dropped significantly. In response, consumer spending has shifted online, with a corresponding shift to lockdown life with increases in grocery, home and garden, and essential spend.
For many retailers, supply chain issues and store closures have resulted in liquidity concerns, with some retailers unfortunately going into administration or making layoffs. However, there has been some positive news. The acceleration of eCommerce has seen decades of change in mere months, with the Salesforce Shopping Index in Q2 finding a 71% increase in digital commerce- and larger basket sizes.
One of the clear winners in this ‘new normal’ has been marketplaces. With Amazon reporting 40% growth in YoY revenue, and doubling of profit, it’s clear that by responding to consumers, marketplaces are doing well. eBay, which serves over half of the UK’s adult population, has published 34% revenue growth year-over-year, adding 16 million active customers to its user base. In our webinar with Draper’s magazine, we talked to Jemma Tadd, Head of Fashion at eBay UK.
How has fashion responded to COVID-19? What’s been the change in consumer behaviour?
As Jemma comments, fashion has always been at the mercy of external events, from unpredictable weather, to the economy and politics. However, lockdown and the last few months have been particularly challenging. ‘Our fashion sales fell off a cliff. We have over 6.5 million eBay Fashion shoppers, and I was worried I wouldn’t have a job.”
However, as Jemma says, the lifestyle and home side of the business proved buoyant, and as people began to become more comfortable with online shopping and the ‘new normal’, sales began to recover. “People were buying treadmills, and then wanted to have something to wear on the treadmill…we were selling a pair of trainers every 20 seconds”.
Wendy expanded: “Our customers told us that footwear sales have increased…flip flops, slippers and trainers!”. Partly a reflection of the nice weather, the panel reflected on the change in what the expected 2020 trends were predicted to be before the COVID-19 pandemic.
What has eBay done to help?
Unfortunately, the pandemic has meant lots of stores were forced to close- and eBay waived all the fees to join the marketplace. Jemma said: ‘eBay onboarded tens of thousands of new businesses in the first 90 days of lockdown, and upskill people who hadn’t really sold online before.
Transparency became more important than speed. At eBay, they have lots of brands and sellers who are coming for support with delivery, fulfillment and inventory. eBay’s stringent ‘fast, free and within three days’ was relaxed to support sellers and buyers and inspire consumer confidence.
eBay has focused on relevance, competitive pricing and responding to consumers increased time to research during lockdown. Reflecting on this changing behaviour, Jemma from eBay mentioned the higher end brands, and winning new shoppers who are only purchasing that brand because it’s on eBay.
The importance of data and what’s the future?
Consumers are more digital than they ever were, and eCommerce has gone from ‘an imperative’ to ‘the imperative’ to win the hearts and minds of customers. Wendy reflected on the importance of contactless, click-and-collect, and different delivery methods. Customers are more digital and connected than ever before, and have expectations for brands to meet them where they are.
Social media is becoming more and more important, and we’ll see shoppers through digital platforms like gaming, streaming and marketplaces. Every touchpoint is a transaction, and so we’re going to see that here to stay. Wendy emphasised the importance of the digital customer, and what a wonderful, game-changing opportunity this could be for a Retailers business model.
Jemma laughed “I’m over the age of 30 and a year ago I’d never heard of TikTok. We’ve seen some amazing innovative, reactive campaigns going to market, and that’s how brands are going to survive.”
She continued “We’ll see physical locations become a showroom, a destination and somewhere people are going to hang out and trust. They’ll have a barbers, a bar, and stay for longer. Online will be where they can go hard with promotions and focusing on that sale”.
Wendy elaborated: “Services are the new product”.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the thought leaders looked to the future, and connecting to their customers on digital channels, or wherever they are will be the way to weather the storm. Wendy also emphasised the importance of using your data to understand your customers, and personalise for them at scale.
Watch the full webinar, including Wendy and Jemma’s take on the trainer trend here.