4 Tips for Swimming with Sharks: Successfully Navigate the Post COVID-19 Ecommerce Landscape

Updated 8 months ago
Andrew Guldman
May 11, 2020
3 min read

The stay-at-home orders associated with COVID-19 have prevented people from shopping in brick and mortar stores. As a result, US retailers have seen a 68 percent jump in online revenue. The prevailing wisdom (as corroborated recently by McKinsey) is that this bump in ecommerce will persist even after COVID-19 is under control. Customers who had previously shopped in physical stores are now buying online, and they bring their in-store shopping expectations with them.

In parallel, COVID-19 has decimated a huge number of businesses, especially those historically reliant on in-person interaction such as fashion companies. McKinsey predicts that 80 percent of fashion companies, for example, will be in distress after two months of store closures.

The combination of hungry companies and a larger ecommerce pie points to a hypercompetitive ecommerce playing field. Is your business ready to swim with the sharks? One key to success will be retailers’ ability to offer engaging experiences that deliver value to consumers who are accustomed to in-store service. Below are four tips for doing that. Please reach out to us if we can help you apply these suggestions to your business.

1. Product Visualization

In-store customers expect a tactile interaction with products. They expect to be able see products from all angles, including up close. Modern 3-D technologies like WebGL can provide a similar experience online, allowing customers to rotate and zoom products without constraints. High-quality 3-D solutions provide photorealistic visuals quickly and seamlessly on any desktop, tablet, or mobile browser. Timberland’s boot configurator provides a good example of interactive and engaging photorealistic product imagery.

2. Choice

An online store has the advantage of offering more choices than are available in a physical store. The pinnacle of choice is product customization, where the shopper co-creates the exact product they want with the brand. The consumer is able to select colors, patterns, and materials, and also add selected text or graphics. The Louis Vuitton personalization experience provides a great example of an online product configuration program that gives their shoppers a wide range of choice.

3. Guidance

Consumers expect a sales associate in a physical store to help them find the right product. Online stores have several options to provide a smooth user experience. Online chat is one; personalized product recommendations are another. An intuitive user experience design offers guidance in an organic way, making it easy for people to find what they want. A mechanism that works particularly well with configurable products is the presentation of example designs to inspire customers to either buy or modify those example designs. Below is an example of purchasable inspirations for the Calvin Klein #MYCALVINS Custom configurator.

4. Trust

Retailers earn the trust of their customers through accuracy and transparency. Realistic product imagery that matches the actual physical product will lead to happy and loyal customers who don’t want to return products. Clearly labeled and intelligible pricing (including upcharges) will make customers feel like they are being treated fairly and honestly. The Pandora Reflexions Bracelet customizer shown below illustrates both concepts. The total price is clearly shown next to the ADD TO BAG button, and the incremental charge for each charm is shown with the charm itself. No surprises.


Online retailers should brace themselves for hypercompetition, with significant rewards for the victors. Strategic preparation during the challenging times of the pandemic can position companies to compete effectively in the new landscape when COVID-19 subsides.

The recent jump in the growth of ecommerce is being largely fueled by consumers who had previously purchased items in stores. Retailers can attract these new online consumers by paying attention to four key areas:

The recent jump in the growth of ecommerce is being largely fueled by consumers who had previously purchased items in stores. Retailers can attract these new online consumers by paying attention to four key areas:

  • Product visualization with realistic and interactive imagery
  • A wide variety of choices, ideally including fully configurable products
  • Inspirational designs that speak to your customers
  • Visual accuracy and transparency in pricing to build trust

The Author

Andrew Guldman is the CEO of ConfigureID, the market-leading online product configuration platform. He has been pioneering online product configuration for more than 15 years for brands like Louis Vuitton, Timberland, Reebok, The North Face, Kendra Scott, Pandora, and Michael Kors. Andrew can be reached at a.guldman@configureid.com.

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