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We can’t all be Amazon - but with the rapid growth in online sales, it’s prime time for brands to get ahead and level up their eCommerce, get in on the action and take a fair slice of the market - regardless of the products they sell. This article explores the eCommerce opportunity after what was retail’s most challenging year, taking inspiration from Best-In-Class examples across key sectors to understand how to mitigate blockers in the user journey and optimise your platform for online selling.

Read on to discover:


What do Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, Aliexpress, Walmart and Etsy have in common? They are among the top 10 websites for eCommerce and shopping in the world. But the majority (with the exception of Walmart) of these ecommerce behemoths have been built entirely from clicks not bricks. They laid the foundations for the eCommerce experience that consumers have come to know, love - and expect - today.

Unfortunately we can’t all be Amazon. The sheer size and scale of the eCommerce giant is simply far too powerful on every operational level for other brands to compete. But with the right know-how and learning - taking inspiration from other eCommerce leaders, every brand has an opportunity to tap into this $5 trillion market opportunity

There’s no doubt 2020 was a challenging year for retail. Worldwide retail sales on the whole declined by 3% to $23.839 trillion. eCommerce sales, on the other hand, grew 27.6% to $4.280 trillion. That momentum is due to be flipped on its head this year, with overall retail rebounding to 5.1% growth and eCommerce growth downshifting to 14.3% as what has quickly become the “new normal” starts to level out.  

A newfound enthusiasm for digital shopping solutions proves that eCommerce is set to be one of the most effective channels for selling products in 2021 and beyond.  


Recognising blockers in the user journey

With seven years of online growth in just seven weeks, competition in the online shopping space is fierce. Just one small blip in the customer journey and a customer can be gone forever - worse still, straight into the arms of your competitors. Increased competition, meeting customers’ expectations, shipping and returns, brand loyalty and increased acquisition costs are among the biggest challenges facing online retailers today. 

Getting your digital shelf in order means that customers can easily find the products they are looking for; fast-loading pages, mitigating any technical glitches, easy navigation across product ranges and top-notch customer service. It’s about getting your customer from A to B in the quickest, most efficient route possible - and if they do run into any problems, ensuring you are armed with the skills and know-how to fix any issues.

Users want a seamless shopping experience - from the moment of inspiration to the point of purchase. That requires a holistic experience that integrates customer data to provide personalised interactions for a continuous, connected journey - whether a shopper choses to transition from one device to another, one platform to another, or in-store to online. 


Best-in-Class eCommerce: What does good look like?

Online sales across various key sectors experienced massive year-on-year growth between 2019-20 - particularly for Food & Grocery (+91%), Homewares (+44%), Electricals, DIY & Gardening (all +40%), Health & Beauty (+38%) and Clothing & Footwear (+30%). We can look to these sectors to learn a thing or two about Best-in-Class eCommerce.

  • Sephora: A seamless, unified, personalised customer experience

A traditional brick-and-mortar retailer, Sephora is a stand-out example of a brand that takes a clever omnichannel approach to blending in-store experiences with digital platforms across its range of personal care and luxury beauty products, linking the offline and online customer journey into a holistic shopping experience. 

Sephora also goes one step further - turning omnichannel business thinking into action having merged its digital and physical retail teams and adopting data-driven strategies that transform data and insight it gathers from customers into growth. 

  • In The Style: Digital first through a differentiated collaboration model

Born as a pure-play eCommerce fashion brand, In The Style (ITS) was always going to have a headstart over more traditional brands and retailers. Through its differentiated influencer collaboration model, ITS adopts a digital and social-first approach to driving traffic and customer engagement. 

Its eCommerce and digital marketing platform has been designed to scale rapidly and efficiently to process considerable load variances caused by the high frequency of collaboration launches. Plus, its proprietary systems, including the customer app, are designed to improve customer retention and consistently optimise based on purchase frequency - resulting in higher conversion rates and revenue growth. 

  • Kraft Heinz: Driving customer loyalty and lifetime value of customers

You expect to find baked beans only in the grocery aisle of a supermarket or on the digital shelf of an online supermarket or, only as of last year, available to purchase as bundles directly through ‘Heinz to Home’ - the brand’s first ever direct-to-consumer (D2C) eCommerce site. To navigate the challenges of 2020, Heinz adopted an agile business mindset to find a new way to capitalise on the sudden surge in online sales. 

Not only does it provide a new revenue stream - by targeting consumers who are looking for something different - it was able to solve a consumer problem and pivot with purchase. In the long-term, it arms Heinz with the ability to adapt, learn and change in line with direct customer feedback, driving customer loyalty and lifetime value of customers.  


Level up eCommerce: Tips for building Best-In-Class eCommerce

Looking ahead to 2021, retailers’ top priorities are: online/multichannel (69%), customer insight (41%) and supply chain/logistics (35%) - all key ingredients to eCommerce success. 

By 2040, it’s estimated that 95% of all purchases will be made through eCommerce; so there’s no time like the present to improve your learning to create the right strategy for your business, tackle the various challenges and blockers that might crop up along the way and level up your eCommerce. 

  1. Always put the customer first - identify their painpoints, find a niche that addresses that and create a customer journey tailored to their wants and needs.
  2. Think outside the box - to drive alternative customer acquisition strategies and look beyond the norm to discover opportunities with social media and content. For more specific product content, our Product Content for eCommerce Course can help.
  3. Make every touchpoint matter - Use data and automation to make relevant connections with your customers.
  4. Mitigate any potential blockers in the path to purchase - this starts with having a solid understanding, knowing how to recognise issues and adapting accordingly.
  5. Create a customer-centric, omnichannel experience - it’s important to differentiate your offering across channels but ensure that it seamlessly connects. 


Where do I start?

As eCommerce spending increases, so too do customers’ expectations - but keeping up doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think. Circus Street offers a range of tailored lessons dedicated to the world of eCommerce. To find out how Circus Street can help your business learn how to build the right strategy and provide a best-in-class agile, flexible, omnichannel experience, sign up for a free trial and level up your eCommerce today. 

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