Times of great disruption in the retail industryDigital has changed the way we shop. Online purchases, made via both desktop and mobile computers, are now so widespread that in the past few years nearly all growth in retail has come from this segment, BI Intelligence reports. And the trend shows no sign to stop. It is increasingly necessary for retailers to have a functional e-commerce website, and an effective digital strategy to go with it. But what does a retailer need to do to satisfy today’s demanding shoppers? Here are eight important points to keep in mind when creating your e-commerce website:
1. Make buying easy, across the channelsSingle-channel retail will soon be a thing of the past. In this new world, the key to success is the ability to balance the channels. If you are starting as a pure e-commerce retailer, chances are you are already thinking about opening offline locations, like most smart online retailers have already done. Retailers who can blend their online and in-store experiences, making it simpler for customers to find what they want when they want it, will be the ones who get ahead in the near future. Are you one of them? Can customers use your vouchers both in your digital and physical stores? Do you enable your customers to buy goods online, and then pick up, return or exchange in the store? (If you don’t, think about these stats: 45% of customers who click and collect end up buying extra products while picking up their order in store, and a whopping 70% of shoppers returning products in a physical store location end up purchasing something else.) If you are running an omni-channel retail business, you also need to make sure that your channels are integrated – or you might end up selling an item in your online shop only to realize, too late, that the product is actually out of stock.
2. Personalize, personalizeConsumers are busy: they want to find what they are looking for quickly, without having to browse through endless catalogs. The answer to this demand is personalization. When you know your customers’ purchasing history and preferences, you can give meaningful product suggestions, saving your customers time and needless hassle. But how can you achieve guided discovery and thoughtful, relevant recommendations? The answer is: analytics.
3. Dive deep into the dataTo be able to offer personalization, you must keep track of everything, and learn to read your data so that you can draw conclusions that improve your merchandising and marketing. For example, you could use your sales data to see which customers, who used to be active in the past, have not bought anything from you for the last 6 months. You could then send them coupons or discount offers to entice them to return. You could also use the sales data to create campaigns aimed at increasing cross-selling. See which customers buy your suits, but don’t buy your shoes; or buy phones from you, but not covers. Group them together and create a campaign to encourage them to try different product lines. What is important, though, in personalization is that you target the right consumer with the right product. Be sure to use your knowledge of your customers to send useful and appropriate suggestions: be thoughtful, and don’t be invasive. Treat your customers with respect, and don’t make them regret giving you their personal data.
4. Give good reasons to be loyalIf your goal is to build brand loyalty, have you thought about setting up a loyalty program? Research by Shopify shows that by offering a reward for shopping you can increase repeat annual visits by up to 20%. Not only: Manta’s and BIA/Kelsey’s joint report “Achieving big customer loyalty in a small business world” reveals that repeat customers spends 67 percent more on a given purchase than a new customer. The data is clear: it makes sense to give customers extra reasons to come back to your site and shop more. A loyalty scheme does exactly that. If you want to learn more about how to run a well-designed loyalty scheme, take a look at our articles on loyalty programs do’s and don’ts. Your loyalty program can also be a great source of information on your customers. What product lines do your most loyal customers prefer? Do they like to try new things or do they tend to do repeat purchases? Get an insight into returning customers’ tastes and habits and improve your marketing and merchandising.
5. Go mobileAlthough desktop computers are still the preferred way to shop online, tablets and mobiles are more and more common as purchasing devices. Last Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 49% of traffic came from mobile devices; Gartner predicts that, by 2017, mobile commerce will account for 50% of U.S. total digital commerce revenue. The trend is not limited to the US: worldwide, people love using their mobiles to browse products and buy them. For this reason businesses need to have responsive websites, which guarantee a great shopping experience whatever the device customers use. Although customers are swiftly turning full mobile, retailers are adopting slower than they should. As of 2016, two out of five of the top 100 global retailers still don’t have a dedicated mobile website, The Search Agency reports. That’s a lot of missed opportunities. If your website does not perform well on a mobile, you need to go and fix it - now.
6. Be socialAre you keeping in touch with your customers on social media? Are you promoting your products, answering questions, and sharing content regularly? “Communications is at the heart of e-commerce and community” says Meg Whitman, President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard. And what better place to communicate and be sociable with your customers and fans than social media? Social networks are very powerful – Business Insider reports that social media are now generating more revenue for e-commerce than email. And platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Facebook are increasingly being used by customers to request service and bring up issues and complaints. If you are able to solve your customers’ problems in a rapid and satisfactory way, you can gain the trust and business of not one but many customers: on social media, you’re not just showing a single customer a great experience, but also their friends, and everyone else watching.
7. Deliver on your delivery optionsAre your delivery options fast and inexpensive? Can you deliver at different hours, to adapt to people’s schedules? If you think you are failing in the delivery part of your site, it’s time to make drastic changes. Unsatisfactory deliver options are the top reason why shoppers abandon an online purchase. What can you do to compete with the Amazons of the world? Here are a few ideas:
- Allow people to click & collect in store. People who don’t want to have to wait at home for their packages (or don’t want to risk having them stolen) can come to get their orders in your locations at their convenience.
- Work out the correct threshold and restrictions, and offer free shipping. Free delivery is very effective to push sales, because it plays on consumer psychology. The word “free” is very powerful, plus shipping is a service on which people don’t place an economic value. Research shows that people are more tempted to buy by waived shipping fees than by discounts – even if the discount would bring greater savings. If you don’t want to offer free shipment all the time, think about setting up your next campaign to include free delivery, rather than product discounts.
- Focus on quality rather than competing on price. Would your customers like a personal touch, such as receiving the product in an elegant box with a hand-written thank you card?