Covid-19 has forced many businesses to pivot to e-commerce in order to survive. But as we face the prospect of 2021 still under the shadow of the pandemic, what comes next? Where do we find opportunities to grow? How can we plan for growth in the context of such an uncertain future?
As part of The Drum’s recent Digital Summit, and in partnership with WP Engine, US editor Kenneth Hein recently hosted an online panel addressing these questions and more. Joining him were Jinal Shah, VP marketing and growth at Feather, a DTC furniture rental company operating in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco; Stacie Boney, president of independent full-service agency Hanson Dodge; and Fabio Torlini, SVP and managing director of international at WP Engine, the managed WordPress hosting platform.
Kicking off the discussion, Shah explained how Feather’s entire business model is based on the idea of human behaviour pivoting to a new relationship with ‘ownership’. She said: “Furniture rental is a relatively new behaviour, for sure, but it's a behaviour that we are betting on. In some ways, Covid has helped us. There’s been a lot of home moving activity because of the pandemic. The data surrounding that activity has accelerated and influenced our expansion plans. We had a set of cities in mind for expansion but the insights we’ve gained throughout the crisis have informed and, in some cases, changed the choice of cities we’ll launch in next.
“Likewise, before the outbreak, we didn't really see the staging market – dressing homes for sale – as a big opportunity for Feather, however there’s been a huge volume of home sales, especially in the suburbs. As a result, we’ve seen a huge uptick in realtors wanting to use us for staging and we're currently building a product specifically for that market. Without the pandemic, it would definitely have taken us longer to get to where our logistical processes are now.”
Hanson Dodge’s Boney spoke of the importance of “true business partnership” between client and agency: “We’ve been pleased at how close we’ve stayed to our clients, so that when they needed help, we had the information we needed to help them be nimble and pivot really quickly. In terms of activity, that means things like taking calls from CEOs on a Sunday evening or helping a medical college create a Covid-related site in seven days. For bricks and mortar retailers with closed stores, they’ve had to double-down on digital and we’ve been able to help them do that.
“Measurement is at the heart of the digital shift for most clients. We made it a priority to work on dashboards for our clients and really get deep in how quickly and how simply our clients could access the data need to inform their decisions around creative and the media mix.”
Torlini of WP Engine explained how many of the ‘pivots’ we’re seeing in the marketplace are not temporary measures, but a whole new era of working that’s here to stay. He said: “We’re a platform with 150,000 customers globally, so we’ve seen how different industries have been impacted and what they've done from an online perspective. There are winners and losers out there for sure. If you had a website which is focused purely on the travel industry, no doubt you've suffered this year. But there have been winners as well. We’ve seen a massive shift towards e-learning, for example. There's also been a fundamental shift, with customers selling from a B2B site realigning to sell B2C, restaurants' suppliers selling meal kits direct to consumers for. We have over 5000 agencies in our partner programme and there's obviously been a massive shift to working online and online collaboration as well.
“I don’t think we should expect things to go back fully to how they were a year ago. In our new ‘remote’ world, the question becomes how do we keep our staff engaged, properly trained and collaborating effectively?”
Other topics discussed during the panel session included:
- The heightened importance of accurate and detailed product information.
- The difference between an online ‘consumer’ and an online ‘shopper’.
- The importance of brand communications in a post-Covid world.
Jinal Shah, VP marketing & growth, Feather, Stacie Boney, president, Hanson Dodge, Fabio Torlini, SVP and managing director of International, WP Engine, talks to Kenneth Hein, US editor of The Drum, in a ‘So, you’ve made the e-commerce pivot, now what?’ session at The Drum’s Digital Summit.