Tips for running online shops under a stay-at-home economy

The “stay-at-home” economy is a new term that has been heavily talked about recently, with the COVID-19 having impacted Hong Kong’s economy significantly this year. The behaviour of staying at home more changes the consumer consumption journey, and marketers, especially the retail merchants in Hong Kong, are all paying great effort to equip themselves to suit the new trend to survive and grow their businesses.

Hongkongers are all now well-versed with online shopping – from not only purchasing masks online – but ordering food and different consumer goods from different online marketplaces. 

People are staying at home more to complete their whole consumption journeys, starting by receiving online shopping information from marketplaces; doing research and price comparisons online; doing online “window shopping”; and finally, completing their transactions online and receiving their goods purchased. 

The whole journey can be completed on the internet, and people nowadays are quite familiar with the shopping process. This consumer behaviour change does crystallise the demand for eCommerce.

Like professors and businessmen speeding up their usage of internet technology for their teaching and meeting uses, retailers are also speeding up their development on eCommerce to suit the demand from the stay-at-home economy, especially for those traditional retailers with solely physical stores, and new retailer start-ups. 

Here are some common tips and reminders for retailers setting up their online stores.

1. Product USPs and CP 

Under the stay-at-home economy, netizens will do more online research before making their purchasing decisions. They are no longer spending hours in shopping malls and receiving your sales pitch from your store salespersons. Instead, with easier shopping information available online, they will compare products and brands more easily, and more frequently.

Therefore, the unique selling points (USPs) of the products have to be highlighted clearly, otherwise, potential consumers will easily shift their purchasing intentions. 

Online marketplaces actually operate like supermarkets – just imagine a consumer who wishes to buy a packet of chocolate in a supermarket, they will probably look around at the available brands and products, comparing their prices and features as their consideration. Thus, the USPs and CP values (cost-performance) are important.

2. Touch-points

Location, location, location. It is a winning retailing formula, but we need to optimise in the internet world under the stay-at-home economy. It is commonsense that marketers need to “list” and make their products “present” in those places where consumers do online shopping. 

Netizen will browse, search, compare, and purchase online. So our products need to be listed, shown, searchable and comparable online, easily, and frequently. 

More and more brands have set up their online shops and increased their touch-points to reach online customers, for example, being always listed on search engines and marketplaces. Some may even set up more and more online shops as well, which is also a market trend.

3. Internet word-of-mouth

Internet word-of-mouth (iWOM) is one of the key selection criteria. Theoretically, consumers usually buy good products with good USPs and CPs, together with a good presence on the internet and marketplaces. 

However, iWOM is also a key success factor. Netizens nowadays consume more and more YouTube and social content, and they tend to listen to recommendations from opinion leaders as well. 

4. Logistics and CS

Order fulfilment and customer support are playing an important role in the online shopping business. Taking CS as an example, marketplaces nowadays can enable online direct communication between the brands or merchants and customers. Many retailers have set up their digital CS line with chatbot functions as well, such as a business WhatsApp account.

This article was contributed by Wilson Wong, associate marketing director of Price.com.hk.