The holiday shopping season is upon us, and with it comes the news: online purchases are projected to make up 59% of consumer spending, according to this year’s Deloitte holiday survey. If this forecast turns out to be accurate, e-commerce will out-perform traditional brick-and-mortar shopping.
This serves as a reminder of the importance of your business’s online presence, and of your ability to unify your sales channels to provide the best customer experience. Omni-channel selling is more competitive than ever, and the retail technology you use to manage your resources will be at its most effective when it’s enhancing the shopping experience with convenience and consistency.
Is your business taking advantage of all the technological solutions available to keep your operations running as smoothly as possible? Here are a few ways to optimize your e-commerce strategy to ensure a positive customer experience.
Customize recommendations based on data
Convenience is one of the reasons why your customers are doing more of their browsing on their mobile devices than in your street-side locations. If you can combine convenience with personalized recommendations, you can ensure a highly memorable experience for your customer that will strengthen their loyalty to your brand. The most valuable component of this customizable recommendation process for the retailer is the gift that keeps on giving: data.
Sure, data analysis as a sales tool might seem more subtle than a great ad campaign or an elaborate decorative product display. However, a thorough analysis of information gathered through customer transactions, using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), can help you decide what kind of marketing you should be focusing on, and which products you should be displaying to whom.
Since your e-commerce storefront can’t exploit some of the benefits of physical merchandising (visually striking product displays, can’t-miss signage, in-person employee suggestions) you need to make sure your customers see the recommendations that are right for them. Use all the solutions at your disposal to create a 360-degree view of your customer with a unified database, then use AI and ML to create relevant product suggestions based on this single vision of their consumer behavior.
When you factor in that the cloud containing these intelligence functionalities can scale to handle the massive spikes in traffic that the holidays bring, the benefits become even more evident. These cloud-based tools can offer suggestions in real-time as the shopper is browsing your site, factoring in not only the consumer’s purchase history, but also items that are currently trending. As user behavior is identified across channels through data mapping, the recommendation algorithms will “learn” from this data and change accordingly to make more precise suggestions.
The more quickly you adopt these tools to help you make sense of your data as shoppers hop from one sales channel to another, the more ground you can gain in the race to provide the most satisfying customer experience.
Prioritize the mobile shopping experience
While Black Friday has long been established as the most infamous holiday shopping day, the last few years have actually seen more shoppers planning their purchases around the online-focused version of this holiday, Cyber Monday. Adobe Analytics reports that last year’s Cyber Monday out-grossed Black Friday by well over $1 billion in the U.S., with a massive 18% projected increase expected this season.
Additionally, the Deloitte holiday survey reports that shopping on smartphones increased by 6% last year, while desktop and tablet orders flatlined. When you consider the ongoing rollout of 5G broadband, which promises exponentially faster speeds and lower latency, this trend toward mobile shopping should continue, and possibly grow even larger.
Add all of these points together and the facts are clear: if you’ve invested in an e-commerce site, you not only need to make sure that it’s prepared to deal with the high traffic coming its way, but also that it is mobile-friendly and shares the same database as your traditional locations, to ensure accurate inventory and consistent pricing. A system like LS Central can give you, and your customers, a single vision of the products you carry.
Imagine how easy the decision to buy becomes when your customer can make a mobile purchase with the security of seeing a consistently accurate inventory that guarantees the product’s delivery. Picture the same scenario, but with the real-time inventory of your local brick-and-mortar location, ensuring an easy pickup in-store or at curbside. Likewise, the customer’s ability to keep the same items on an online wish list or cart no matter the device they’re shopping on, gives them the seamless flexibility to make a purchase whenever they feel like it.
Provide options for receiving purchases
Modern consumers demand options for the products they buy, and the way they receive their purchases is no exception. E-shoppers want their deliveries handled either quickly or, preferably, cheaply, with an overwhelming amount (85%, per Deloitte) preferring a free delivery over a fast one. Most of this percentage are even willing to wait over three days for their delivery to arrive if the shipping is complimentary.
Likewise, click-and-collect has gained traction during the days immediately before Christmas as shoppers seek the security of knowing that what they purchase online can be in the trunk of their car within an hour. Flexible delivery and shipping options are essential to building goodwill and loyalty with your customers. But whether a shopper chooses last-minute shipping to an entirely different third location, or to pay online and pick up in a store or warehouse, to guarantee successful orders and happy customers your e-commerce site needs to have the most up-to-date inventory information possible.
Only a unified commerce platform that unites all your business’s data can give you an end-to-end vision over your various sales channels and a real-time look at what you have in stock at your stores and in your warehouses. Don’t risk losing a sale because your customer has come to pick up an item that was in-stock on your website but can’t be located in your store. Holiday shoppers have no time for such inefficiencies, and they will move on to the next best retailer to find what they need.
This is the future of retail – a seamless shopping experience for your customers, no matter where they are or how they want to browse and buy. Are you able to offer them the convenience and consistency they’re looking for in a brand? Check out our e-book on the benefits of unified commerce technology or contact our experts for more information. The technological solutions you need to ride the wave of unified omni-channel shopping are available, and have never been easier to implement.