Bottom Line up Front: Everything looks different this year. But with this list — straight from the experts — of actionable tips for meeting consumers’ new needs, you’ll be closing new sales and retaining old customers easily.

We’ve been talking a lot about how the pandemic has changed just about everything for our world of retail — because, well, it has. But we’re not just here to paint you a picture of those changes. We’re here to give you the facts and stats that you need to hit the ground running, and we’re here to give you the expert-backed tips you need to meet new needs — and stand out from the competition.

Are you ready?

We’ll start slow. According to this 2020 Consumer Buying Behavior Report, for online shopping to go from making up 5.6% of retail sales to making up 16% of them, it took ten years.

That’s ten years of slow, steady, hard-earned progress.

Within the first few days afterlife as we knew it was put on pause — after businesses and schools were locked down, and people everywhere were asked to stay home — that number grew by over 10%.

That means that what took e-commerce ten years to achieve happened again in the span of days. Eight weeks after quarantine, online shopping comprised 27% of all retail sales.

So that’s the big-picture context — but it’s also something that’s pretty easily explainable. Why? Because people had their ability to go outside, to go into stores, and to make purchases in-person taken away — but their needs still remained.

They still needed to make purchases: for necessities, for adapting to their new normal, and yes — even for staying sane with all of the at-home boredom. And online shopping gave them a way to do that. In fact — it gave them, by and large, their only way to do that.

But it wasn’t just the element of necessity that ramped up the popularity of e-commerce. It was its intrinsic design — how easy it was to use, how customizable it could be, and how much control it allowed consumers over their entire buying process.

For many, being forced into e-commerce by necessity showed them just what was possible. And once they got it, once they bought in, they were sold. So sold, in fact, that 82% of shoppers said that they’ll continue choosing online shopping over in-store shopping — even when stores open up like normal.

The CEO of one global retail analytics company said, “Consumers have never been more complex or had higher expectations… the brands that pay close attention to the changing tide of consumer expectations and embrace the new digital wave will be the ones that win.”

Here’s what that means for your business.

The 3 Ways Your Business Should Appeal to Customers

We promised a list packed with tips, and we always deliver — so here it is.

Given the context of e-commerce today — how external forces brought consumers into its world, and how its user-first features kept them there — the digital experience you’re offering your customers is paramount.

It starts and ends with your digital presence. Why? Because it’s your identity in an online world, and it’s the way you stand out in a crowded marketplace. Here are the tips to implement if you want your business to get it right.

A Killer Buying Experience

Apparel decorators have the two-pronged power of getting to offer customers a stand-out digital buying experience and getting to offer those customers’ end-consumers the same thing. In the pitching phase of your customer relationships, you should be doing everything you can to prove both buying experiences are something special. And the way you do that? By showing — not by telling.

With InkSoft’s Online Stores, you’re able to create ‘Pitch Stores’ that showcase to prospects exactly what you’re proposing — a curated selection of clearly displayed offerings included. Not only do these online Pitch Stores make the pitching process more efficient, and put the reins into your prospects’ hands, but they also give your prospects a taste of what their end-users will be experiencing. Because they’re navigating a similar Online Store — and they’re getting a similarly easy, hands-on, and customizable digital experience.

But the Online Store framework isn’t the only thing your customers and prospects are interested in hearing about — they also want to learn about the capabilities that truly distinguish you in the era of e-commerce. Capabilities like an Online Designer, where they have the power to design their own products in real-time, or Online Fundraisers, where they can run their own fundraising initiative completely online. Now’s the time to double down on your capabilities, shine a spotlight right onto them, and make it clear to your prospects and customers just how excited you are about what they can do. Because the truth is, they can do a whole lot.

An Altruistic Brand Identity

With all of the unfortunate (economic and otherwise) consequences that came out of the pandemic, people are looking for businesses that are doing their part in spreading goodness. In fact, 71% of consumers (between 18-24) said that they were “paying attention” to the businesses that had been actively finding ways to help out with community relief. That’s monumental for you — but it’s also monumental for your customers.

Let’s look at what it means for your business first: as an apparel decorator, you might’ve been involved with a Here for Good (or similar) fundraising effort. You might’ve helped — or are continuing to help — local businesses and organizations that have been hit hard by the closures and new regulations. Your physical and e-commerce capabilities put you in a unique spot where offering assistance, and specifically new streams of revenue, is possible — and because of that, the likelihood is that you’ve already been involved with social good.

That’s something that consumers care about — and it’s something that they want to keep seeing. Whether you’re starting new fundraising initiatives, posting write-ups of your past fundraising successes on social media, or getting your community involved with spreading goodness some other way — make sure you’re giving your acts the recognition they deserve. Because if your prospect is choosing between two decorators, and your reputation for community goodness is out there, they’re going to want to work with you.

Now, when it comes to your customers, the fact that 9 out of 10 Gen Z consumers believe that companies should be addressing social issues is a fact that should bear importance. (And that’s especially true for your customers, like schools and sports organizations, with younger end-consumers.) When you’re pitching them, emphasize the power of an Online Fundraising Store — not only are they easy to set up and browse through, but they add to your customer’s digital presence.

And that means they help your customer build out their brand identity — and become more altruistic in the eyes of their consumers.

Persistent Authenticity

With the status of small businesses throughout the country being a little less than sturdy, consumers are looking for ways to help. They’re looking to take their business to the little guys, to spend their money on fundraising initiatives, and to generally do what they can to keep their communities thriving. In fact, 48% of consumers said that they’re interested in adjusting their buying behaviors to help small businesses.

So what does that mean for you? That your digital presence should be persistently authentic. You don’t just want to be well-known as a small or mid-sized business — you want your audience to see the people behind it. Because the closer your consumers feel to you, and the more they can identify and relate to your business (and your hustle), the higher the likelihood that they’ll buy-in.

And that could be the difference between a prospect putting in an order with you, and going to the bigger competitor down the street.

So don’t overlook what giving your audience a clear picture of your team, your passion, and your determination can do. All business deals are made between two individuals — and once you hook your prospects on the individual level, the sale always comes naturally.

When it comes to your customers, you should be using the same statistic in your pitches — and framing it with Online Stores. Not only do Online Stores give customers the chance to show off what makes their products unique, but they also give them the chance to shout their brand ethos from the (virtual) rooftop. With endless customization potential (for messaging, graphics, and media), your customers will be able to convey their authentic brand selves — and make way for more sales as a result.

The Wrap Up

So there you have it: three actionable tips for leveraging your capabilities, optimizing your sales, and standing out from the competition in the age of e-commerce.

Because we all know the world looks different this year. We all know that consumer needs have changed, that their behaviors are in-flux, and that businesses that refuse to adapt are the businesses that won’t be getting a piece of the pie.

Get familiar with the new normal. Think creatively about what your business, and your capabilities, can add to it. And then get to work on building a digital presence, a technological backbone, and a value-added experience that your customers can’t turn away from.

The sales opportunities are out there. It’s up to you to lock them in.

Looking for Sales Growth? InkSoft can Help.

We’ve been helping apparel decorators and print shops grow their sales for over 10 years. If you are serious about sales growth we can help your business too. Take the next step and connect with our industry experts who can provide a consultation to help you understand the possibility and potential that awaits.