Justin Sousa is a Senior Agency Manager at Google, as well as a core member of its UK Retail Taskforce. He’ll be joining us for our eCommerce Q4 2020: Digital Briefing on August 12th at 4pm BST to talk about how businesses can plan for peak in a rapidly changing environment, and the latest eCommerce marketing solutions from Google.

To find out more and attend our webinar, click here >>>

As a member of Google’s UK Retail Taskforce, Justin is uniquely positioned to offer a view of how the 2020 Covid-19 crisis has caused and accelerated change within the eCommerce industry.

With that in mind, we saw our opportunity to fire a few questions over to Justin ahead of his talk and develop a better understanding of what eCommerce looks like in Q4 2020, what it might look like in 2021, and gather a few insider tips about how retailers should be looking to capitalise on the changes in their industry today.

1. In not too many words, please tell us what you do.

I consult for some of the most advanced digital marketing agencies in the UK, such as SearchStar, as well as represent the Agency Industry perspective within our Retail Taskforce at Google.

2. What trends is Google Retail Taskforce seeing in retail and eCommerce as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

At a macro level, eCommerce has experienced record performance. This is largely due to the proportion of consumers who have shifted to online purchasing, with notably large surges in Home & Garden, DIY, and Gifting categories.

According to the ONS, starting in April with data until June, 30% of total UK retail was eCom and climbing. While some stores are reopening across Europe, consumers are still hesitant and footfall has not sprung back to pre-lockdown levels.

As the consumer journey has evolved throughout this period, businesses with a dynamic and integrated strategy have been able to best meet these shifting behavioural patterns.

3. Do you think the current global crisis has altered the course of how we shop, or simply accelerated the process?

Certainly both. More people than ever are buying larger proportions of their goods online, and this has been an extremely accelerated process - in just the first 8 weeks of lockdown, online retail grew more than it had grown in the previous 8 years combined.

However, it’s not just a purchasing frenzy; consumers are also actively looking for ways to experience, consider and engage with potential purchases, which they would normally do in a physical space. Thus the research phase from an online point of view has also become increasingly significant, with 86% of purchases now researched online prior to purchasing.

4. Has Google’s approach to eCommerce and product development direction changed in light of what’s happened this year?

From a product point of view, we’ve continued to develop new formats that appeal to the changing consumer journey. For instance, with the online research phase more significant than ever, we have enhanced our visual ad formats such as Discovery Ads and New Customer Acquisition Shopping Ads to inspire, inform and enhance the online consumer experience to win new customers.

Additionally, since 90% of consumers say that they discover new products on channels such as YouTube, we’re continuing to develop these products with a shopping focus in mind, such as Shoppable YouTube.

5. What tips would you give businesses trying to champion eCommerce in Q4 2020?

Be visible - leverage visual and discovery formats to find new customers and influence the increasingly prominent online research phase.

Be proactive - for many retail businesses, Q4 is paramount. Planning is essential to the success you’ll have at this time. It’s important to show up now and be top of mind for potential customers come this time. Test new products, build audience lists, and develop an integrated omnichannel strategy ahead of time.

Leverage data and automate - there is a wealth of data available in today’s digital world, much of which can be used to inform superior targeting strategies, and automated to deliver more effective performance along the way. Use the time you earn back to keep a pulse on changes in your market and respond rapidly. Dynamic businesses cope best in fast-moving environments.