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3 E-Commerce Executives Discuss Planning for the Unexpected in 2021

E-commerce, executives, unexpected.

This year, many brands have faced seemingly endless and unexpected challenges—from handling inventory shortages and store closures to completely pivoting away from previously planned strategies.

Three e-commerce marketing executives—Beatrice Dixon, Founder and CEO of The Honey Pot Company; Kelly Cook, CMO of David’s Bridal; and McKenzie Bauer, Co-Founder and CMO of Thread Wallets—spoke with us about the challenges they’ve encountered in 2020 and their plans to tackle the uncertainties of 2021. 

Communication is key

After facing unexpected delays in inventory due to the global pandemic, The Honey Pot Company understood that their customers deserved transparency.

We were doing our best to be efficient and get orders out the door as quickly as possible. We made sure that we communicated this to our audience as quickly and clearly as we could. We implemented changes to our marketing strategies, like leaning into SMS marketing, beefing up our email marketing, and implementing effective ways we could communicate more with our customers—all of which really helped us during a time of uncertainty.

Beatrice Dixon, Founder & CEO of The Honey Pot Company

Often, customers aren’t aware of the inner workings of their favorite brands. By communicating any changes your brand is implementing or updating your audience on how their shopping experience may be affected, you’re ensuring that they’ll be taken care of throughout the entire customer lifecycle.     

Necessity is the mother of invention

Brands have introduced new digital innovations to adapt to the new norm, many of which they’d never considered before, or maybe felt were too lofty to pursue.

For example, David’s Bridal, which specializes in special occasion dresses and accessories, is known for in-person styling and fittings. With statewide closures and social distancing restrictions, in-store offerings were no longer possible. In just 10 days, the team was able to create a digital fitting platform, offering potential customers the option to try on dresses using AR technology and video conferencing. 

We knew we had to create a new experience. We needed a virtual stylist program, one that allows our shopper to access us virtually—whether through FaceTime, augmented reality, 3D technology, or Zoom calls. Within 10 days, we went from a piece of paper to issuing a press release on virtual stylists. We had never done something this before, so we were all excited to meet our customer’s needs with these new means.

– Kelly Cook, CMO of David’s Bridal

With closures being lifted, many brands like David’s Bridal have been able to open their doors for shoppers again. However, by introducing new technology, they now have an effective platform that allows them to continue to serve those who aren’t able to visit their stores in-person. This creates a better experience for every customer, prompting an increase in brand engagement. Not to mention, this ensures the brand is better prepared with restrictions being re-implemented if they have to return to a digital-only model.

Pivoting your entire strategy and investing in new digital infrastructure can be a scary thing. But by trusting your customers and meeting their needs, your brand will come out stronger. “We completely changed how we were running the company. We’re a lot faster now, a lot scrappier. A year ago, we probably would not have been able to launch something like this virtual platform in just 10 days,” shared Cook. 

2021: The year of optimization

While 2020 certainly tested many brands, it also created an opportunity to try new strategies that may not have been a priority before. You’ve seen what works and what doesn’t; what continues to drive shoppers to your site and what customers need from your brands.

Now, as we’ve kicked off 2021, it’s time to optimize your learnings and continue to deliver experiences that your audience expects from you.  

One of Thread Wallets’ 2020 goals was to increase their presence in stores across the country. With COVID-19, Thread Wallets shifted their focus to prioritize a smaller set of stores during the summer. 

“A lot of retailers were excited to try out our products in 2020,” said McKenzie Bauer, Co-Founder and CMO of Thread Wallets. “Even with COVID-19 impacting physical retail, we were able to introduce our product into about 600 store locations, whereas we closed out 2019 with about 250 locations. Even though we had to pivot our strategy slightly when we didn’t know if retail would be a big part of our year, we still invested in it. We still believed it would come back.”

Moving into 2021, our focus is on optimization and efficiency. We’re continuing to build on what we implemented in 2020: making our loyalty program more robust, going deeper with our email and SMS marketing, and honing in on what we currently have. If there’s anything 2020 taught us, it’s that there are a lot of things we’re not in control of. So our goal moving forward is to control what we can and what we know is working well for our brand.

McKenzie Bauer, Co-Founder and CMO of Thread Wallets

And it’s not just brands who have adapted. Consumers have shown that they’re still willing to support and engage with their favorite brands.

“Even through the many challenges of 2020, our brand has come out of this stronger than ever,” said Dixon. “If your brand has survived, it’s a good indication that your business is strong, your team is strong, and your relationship with your customers is even stronger.”

Special thanks to our friends at Attentive for their insights on this topic.
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