Four e-com managers discuss learnings of 2020 and focus of 2021

2020 was a different year, to say the least. At the beginning of 2020, companies had to make changes quickly to respond to new customer behaviours. And, many experts say that things aren’t likely to go back to the way it was before the Corona outbreak.

What happened to the business landscape in 2020 has been discussed in great detail. In this article, we’re trying to find out what companies learned from the past year, and how this affects their focus in 2021. Basically, how companies can come out of the crisis stronger.

The following three questions came to mind:
1. Which is the most important learning from 2020, which you’ll bring into 2021?
2. What’s the greatest challenge of 2021 going to be?
3. Where will your biggest focus be during 2021?

Curamando had a chat with Andreas Boman, Head of Ecommerce at MatHem and Martin Richardsson, Head of Ecommerce at NetOnNet, to ask about their main learnings of 2020 and their focus in 2021. Furthermore, we talked to Curamando’s two e-com experts Björn Wiman and Andrea Teodorowitz about their view on the matter.

Here is the result.

Martin Richardsson, Head of Ecommerce at NetOnNet
Andreas Boman, Head of Ecommerce at MatHem

Which is the most important learning from 2020 which you’ll bring into 2021?

Andreas Boman, MatHem: Things can happen really quickly. During 2020, we really saw how growth, and other metrics, can change in an incredibly short time. Planning for several different outcomes is vital – and you have to be able to change plans to not get stuck in old goals or strategies.

Martin Richardsson, NetOnNet: That everyone needs a “65-inch teddy bear” during a pandemic. Our industry was quite lucky during this dramatic year. 2020 taught everyone how large macro trends can put all other factors out of play. NetOnNet clearly benefited from the consumers’ changed distribution of their money, as the need for some products and services decreased (like clothes and shoes) or even disappeared (travel).

I would say that we, as a company, have become even better at keeping track of the outside world but also to really seize opportunities when they arise.

Björn Wiman, Curamando: During 2020, we saw many e-com actors accelerate faster than we previously thought was possible, which placed a heavy strain on logistics. More e-tailers started charging for shipping and invoicing, which, for some, likely is a way to relieve their logistics and still maximise their sales while running on +100% of their logistics capacity.

I think this trend of e-commerce businesses charging for various related services, and not being associated with being significantly cheaper than physical stores, might be here to stay. Why? Because e-commerce is increasing its share of commerce and no longer always has to be the cheaper option now that consumers have become used to – and gotten comfortable with – their services and are willing to pay for them.

Andrea Teodorowitz, Curamando: E-com grew by 40% in 2020, meaning that the digital transformation that we thought would take several years pretty much happened overnight. In many ways, 2020 was a true stress test for companies, as they quickly had to improve their online sales channels and e-com offering when physical retail was heavily reduced.

The companies that were able to work across departments, using agile methods, are the true winners. I’ve seen how this year has forced companies to transform in terms of processes, internal cooperation and strategy. I think this will be a winning foundation for many companies in 2021. The lack of it, on the other hand, might be the biggest challenge for others.

What’s the biggest challenge in 2021?

Andreas Boman, MatHem: Bandwidth. Being able to take care of our visitors and customers in the most optimal way possible. MatHem wants to give our customers the best experience when it comes to making everyday life easier. It’s essential that we make the service available to everyone interested in it, in the way that they want it, and then continue to treat them in the best way possible.

Considering the journey of 2020, when more people than ever went online to shop for groceries, it’s important to keep giving people the opportunity to order deliveries and products that they appreciate and want. We expand our supply and product range, but in such an explosive market like this, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up. However, we think we’re keeping up a good pace to meet our customers’ needs.

Martin Richardsson, NetOnNet: Making all new customers into returning ones, and continuing to build on the successes we had in 2020.

Andrea Teodorowitz, Advisor at Curamando

The competition in other industries will re-emerge – not least the travel industry which probably will boom like never before when we start to move again. Even if I think most of us agree that the days of short business trips are over.

Andrea Teodorowitz, Curamando: Competition online increased during 2020, and e-com has matured. Furthermore, Amazon has grown significantly in many categories during the first months of 2021. This will challenge many retailers to gain control over their margin data, availability, assortment and deliveries. With increased competition, retaining your customers becomes more challenging, which is why I believe that creating a good value offer and clearly connecting that to your brand will be a necessity for future growth.

Where will your biggest focus be during 2021?

Andreas Boman, MatHem: Operational efficiency and personalisation. We have both operational and digital challenges ahead of us, just like many others. The competition on the market will increase and because of various directives, user analysis and personalisation will also be different. This is something that we want to become good at since we’re putting a heavy emphasis on understanding the users, their interests and their behaviour. This is to be able to offer the best products in a calculated way, that is in line with the overall strategy and that doesn’t collide with other parts of the organisation.

Martin Richardsson, NetOnNet: We’re placing a heavy focus on customers and customer relationships. In 2020, we gained an extremely large number of new customers. We need to understand their needs and drives and then develop our offer and customer experience so that they choose to return. Our analytics ability is key and we’ve invested heavily in that lately.

We are also looking at how to develop and communicate our range of services to our customers – it must be based on customer and customer benefit. The services that we offer are an important add-on to the hardware business in our industry.

Björn Wiman, Partner at Curamando

Björn Wiman, Curamando: This year is going to be interesting in many different ways. Will the vaccine and (hopefully) declining pandemic mean a more back-to-normal state for e-com and a revived interest in physical commerce, perhaps? Or have we already passed the typical tipping point when a new sales channel takes more than 15% of the market share and continues to accelerate?

I think we’re going towards more sustainable e-commerce, where both companies and consumers realise that having free shipping, free returns and a lowest-price-guarantee might not be sustainable over time. Sustainable e-com is definitely on the agenda at the moment. For example, PostNord chose to spend the entire agenda at Retail Day 2021 talking about it.

Andrea Teodorowitz, Curamando: We’ve noticed an increase in requests from customers on the topic of “direct to consumer”. More and more brands are reviewing the possibility of selling directly to the end consumer, which is an interesting trend within both retail and other industries. The automotive industry, just to mention one example.

Another trend that I’m eager to follow during 2021 is live shopping. During 2020 many companies started to elaborate on both social media and live shopping platforms. Looking at the size of live shopping in China I think that we can expect this sales channel to grow in Europe during the coming years.

Interested in how you can increase the marketing effect? Read this article by Miyako Soeda Thornton.

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