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In this episode of the Retail’s New Podcast series, we’ll talk about eCommerce in the time of Covid-19 with our special guest Dominic, who is truly an expert in this topic. We’ll discuss everything about why you as a retailer need to go online to strengthen your retail business during and even after the pandemic.

Let’s check out the episode to see what Dom will share about this topic.

About the Guest

KATE: Hi Dom, thanks for joining us. Can you introduce yourself to the Retail’s New Normal audiences?

DOMINIC: Hi Kate. Hi Keenan. Thank you so much for having me today. I’m Dominic and I’m the Marketing Manager of SimiCart. I’ve been working in the eCommerce field for about 5 years and today I’m thrilled to share with you my insights for online retail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KEENAN: Please tell the audience details about Simicart eCommerce products and services. Who often comes to your business and uses the solution? Who would need your service?

DOMINIC: SimiCart’s main products are mobile shopping app and Progressive Web App (PWA) based on the Magento platform.

We help worldwide merchants make a digital transformation to their retail business. They can be someone who is just starting to build their online presence from scratch or someone who wants to improve and expand their existing online channel.

For example, a business may already have an eCommerce website but since most of their customers are on mobile they often come to SimiCart to build a mobile app to serve these customers.

eCommerce’s turning point and growth

KEENAN: So with your experiences in the eCommerce sector, tell us how COVID-19 has triggered the digital and eCommerce turning point and its growth?

DOMINIC: We all know how COVID-19 affected the whole world when it broke out last year in early 2020. Apart from taking people’s lives, it also totally changed the way we live and do business.

Among many industries being negatively affected by COVID-19, the retail sector was severely hit, so bad that some call it the “retail apocalypse“. According to Forbes, more than 15,000 physical stores had to close down in 2020 due to the pandemic.

However, COVID-19 opened a valuable opportunity for digital retail and eCommerce as consumers’ behavior is changing towards online platforms.

According to the United States Department of Data, in the first half of 2020, consumers had spent nearly $350b for online purchasing, which is 30% higher compared to the same period in the previous year.

This number is expected to grow in 2021 and the upcoming years.

Listening to the podcast on Youtube

eCommerce trends during COVID-19

KATE: I think the audiences might be interested in some eCommerce trends to see if they apply to their business during the COVID-19 time. So, do you have any insights about some eCommerce features or customer shopping experiences? Are there any significant changes compared to when there’s no Covid at all?

DOMINIC: There are 2 trends that we see from our customers during COVID-19.

1. The first trend that we observe is the digital adaptation from traditional retailers. There are more and more retailers who are completely new to eCommerce, shifting to online platforms to continue their retail business.

Previously, most of our customers already have an eCommerce website of their own. They either come to us to improve their existing website or to build a new mobile shopping app as an additional channel. But now, the majority of our new customers have never had an online presence. They all need to build a brand new eCommerce website from scratch.

2. The second trend is the change in delivery options. We see a rise in demand for BOPIS and curbside pickup, which was relatively rare before COVID-19. I think this is understandable as it corresponds to shoppers’ behavior changes.

PCI compliance for merchants

Opportunities for retailers

KEENAN: That is true. If you listen to Episode 1, our guest speaker Riley also mentioned the rising of using BOPIS (Buy online – pick up in-store). So it is true, this is something that retailer has to take a much closer look at since COVID is not going away at least for a while.

But from your experience implementing some projects with Magestore for customers, how is the link between eCommerce (the online website) and point of sales (brick-and-mortar stores) during this COVID time? What is the eCommerce channel’s role vs. the POS channel’s role? Should retailers only focus on eCommerce channels during COVID?

DOMINIC: First of all, I think this is an opportunity for retailers of all sizes to seriously think about digital transformation for their business. Previously, it was an option but now I think it’s a must for any retail business if they want to survive and compete. I think this holds true even if COVID did not happen.

With that being said, I don’t think retailers should only focus on eCommerce channels, but take advantage of both online and offline channels to build a true omnichannel customer experience.

woocommerce vs magento

For this, I think an eCommerce website and a POS system in brick-and-mortar stores work perfectly together. This is especially true from the recent projects that SimiCart and Magestore have done together where SimiCart PWA storefront creates a really fast and smooth online shopping experience while Magestore POS enables self-checkout and in-store pickup.

Biggest challenges for retailers

KATE: So, that means merchants should go for an omnichannel system where the online website and brick-and-mortar stores are connected to each other, right?

If the retailers wanna switch or run a new eCommerce or even an omnichannel system during this unexpected time, what are some biggest challenges that they need to consider and prepare for? Should they go for a short-term solution or a long-term solution?

DOMINIC: The two biggest challenges for retailers when they start a new eCommerce system during this time, I think, are money and time.

Most of the businesses that are hit by the pandemic have a very tight budget to invest in a brand new eCommerce system. Their challenge is to find an investment that fits their budget and gives a beneficial return.

Time is also a challenging factor when the quick shift in consumer behavior forces businesses to act as quickly as possible. Most of them now face a now-or-never situation where they only have a certain amount of time to establish an online presence before they go bankrupt.

Support services by WooCommerce and Magento

KEENAN: You listed those two challenges. How they can overcome it with the help of technology? Do you have any real examples to share with the audiences?

DOMINIC: Yes, sure. Today technology can definitely help them overcome those challenges.

A mobile app doesn’t take as much time to develop as it was ten years ago. It also doesn’t cost as much. All thanks to the advancement in technology that helps to develop a mobile app much easier. Another example is PWA. It is much more affordable and faster to implement a PWA project today compared to 4 years ago because the PWA technology has been widely adopted, which leads to more developers, more documentation, and also more competition among PWA providers.

Two of our most recent PWA projects are Temoorst and Al-Bahar. They are retailers from the Middle East who seek help from SimiCart to build their eCommerce system from scratch, based on the Magento platform and PWA as a storefront. The two projects took only 3 months each, with great results for both businesses.

KEENAN: To sum up, do you have any advice for retailers who want to go online and already go online but still struggling for sales?

DOMINIC: My advice for retailers who want to go online during this time is to think of it as a long-term investment.

Good results might not come right away but with this inevitable change in technology and consumer behavior, they should keep a firm belief that they are making the right decision and think of the COVID pandemic as an opportunity to transform their business.

Closing

KATE: That’s wonderful. I think all the insights that you bring to the Retail’s New Normal today are so helpful. I believe that it will be so beneficial for all retailers out there who are experiencing hardships during the pandemic.
We actually want this episode to be longer but we hope Dom would bring more exciting things in other episodes of the Retail’s New Normal podcast, someday in the future.
And, again thank you so much for joining us today.

DOMINIC: Thanks Kate and Keenan for inviting me. It was my honor to be on the podcast today. I hope we’ll have more chances like this to share our retail insights with the audience.

KEENAN: That is all for the second episode of “Retail’s New Normal” podcast. Thank you all for listening to this episode and don’t forget to follow us in your favorite podcast app that you’re listening to and receive more content from us about retail insights.

If you’re interested in what we’re sharing in this episode and want to build your own retail solution, feel free to schedule a business assessment with our experts.

Irene Luong

Author Irene Luong

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