Ecommerce is a rapidly progressing industry and is right at the cutting edge in terms of technology and analytics. There are a few key points that all businesses should be using to maximise the potential of their online shop, expand into new territories, nurture customer loyalty and grow the brand.
Invest in Mobile
Investing in mobile is a clear priority for most businesses. This Forbes article cites how rapidly mcommerce is growing even in relation to the continued growth of ecommerce as a whole. Mcommerce is estimated to grow 68% next year (!) and it already accounts for around 20% of all ecommerce sales. Those figures from eMarketer are enough to look at the benefits of responsive design and adaptive design websites as an investment.
Consider subscription commerce
Subscriptions have been around for a very long time, but more and more we’re seeing this in the digital world. Digital magazines (Apple Newsstand, Google Magazines), film, TV (Netflix, LoveFilm) and music streaming (Spotify and Google Play Music) being just a few. Consumers are becoming used to paying a subscription for products and services, even software manufacturers Adobe have changed their whole business model to a subscription based service.
But what about physical product subscriptions, how do they fit in to digital subscriptions. There have been some very impressive and creative solutions to this. For example Fancy (an online catalog with a social network built directly in to it) offers curated boxes either personalised by you or picked by celebrities, and charges about $40 for a monthly subscription. Customers receive a box full of presents that are a complete surprise to them. There are also specialist services set up for razor blades (One Dollar Shaving Club and SmartShavers.com) and socks (ManPacks). Be creative with your product offers and see if there is a unique opportunity.
Curate a proprietary section
Some websites, and business make this their singular sales model, but it can work just as well as a single category within your more expansive website. It involves picking a selection of products that give the customer a sense of exclusivity, whether it is by the depth of the collection, the difficulty of acquiring them or the creativity that has gone into putting them together. Example of a website that does this well is Covetique.
Expanding into new markets and territories
Targeting a new specific audience
It is tempting to rapidly expand in to new markets and territories with your ecommerce site. Most websites are capable of getting the sales, however businesses need to be ready to meet the changing needs of their customers. Identify a market or segment that has a substantial opportunity for you, without over stretching your resources or budgets, and then start building up a strategy. For most start ups and small businesses, identifying micro-markets which you can rapidly expand to and consume is the key, before expanding into the next one. This Harvard Business Review article details how traditional sales agents used micro-markets to restructure and improves sales, the same principals apply to online growth.
What do your customers want? Are they looking to purchase, or are they looking for information? Maybe they know exactly what they’re looking for, and just want to buy it as quickly as possible, or maybe they are browsing and they have a set budget.
Each of these scenarios could require a different presentation of information and different user journey. More often than not, there is a ~80% rule, where the majority of your customers are looking to perform the same action, you should optimise your SEO and UI for this, whilst not completely ignoring the other percentage. Doing research and using analytics and reporting tools that are available allow you to make educated guesses but it will be a process of continually improving and refining. Once you have a plan of action, try out some different solutions and utilise UX testing.
- What are your KPIs?
- Is your website optimised for your customer groups?
- How important is that group to your business plan?
- Try adapting parts of the website to improve your KPIs.
- Make sure you have a good reference point and use AB testing to refine the results.
Nurturing customer loyalty
Personalisation in ecommerce can lead to increased cross selling, better usability and greater customer loyalty. The great thing about customer personalisation, is the more you encourage interaction with your website through personalisation, the more you can do with the personalisation. The following are some simple examples of personalising the shopping experience:
- Always logged in personalisation.
- Personalised message for first time order in the customer’s shipment.
- “You bought this, maybe you’d like this”.
- Returning customer discounts.
- Abandoned basket reminders (An email to say the price of this item has changed).
- Consumable product reminders.
- Order products based on the customer.
Make sure that your business experience is the same across multiple channels, and however your customer chooses to interact with you. This means mobile, tablet and desktop optimisation, emails and marketing material should all be consistently branded (MarketingWeek interesting article on brand consistency). But this stretches further than online and marketing, if you have bricks and mortar stores, these need to reflect your online presence and it should feel natural for a customer to shop at either channel.
Multi-channel (also referred to as Omni-Channel) requires providing an immersive and superior customer experiences regardless of channel. Multi-channel experiences go hand in hand with personalisation, syncing the feeling of being treated as an individual on the internet, in-store or through marketing material.
Shipping is a huge factor in making customers feel satisfied with their purchases online. The below graph from econsultancy.com shows that 5 out of the 11 top reasons for customers being satisfied overall with their purchase are to do with shipping. These are customers that will keep coming back to you time and again. Also of note is the ‘clear returns policy’ and ‘ease of making returns/exchanges’, these provide customers with confidence in your business and show that you have faith in your products. A customer won’t hold it against you if they are returning an item, as long as it is an easy process and clearly detailed.
Growing your brand
Create content to build a community
User generated content has been around for a long time, but this is set to grow hugely in ecommerce, extending way beyond the usual review systems that are currently in place. Not only does user generated content help give a non-sales perspective of products to other customers browsing, but it can be extended to give individual users a way to promote themselves, whilst indirectly promoting your site. Giving customers a personal page, where they are able to socialise and publish their concepts and ideas is a great solution to generating unique and relevant content.
This is especially effective in the fashion market, where trends and promotion often centres around a few influential individuals. Giving rewards and singling out the best contributors as brand ambassadors, encourages them and advertises the benifits to other customers. This can also work well in a technical industry, where forums and contribution networks allow people to invest in your product or services. Once a customer is invested, they become very loyal. There are already plenty of websites using social and customer data to improve their market awareness, brand image and reach.
Offer a seamless experience across channels
Customers are not tied down to one device, or one type of shopping. Having a consistent experience goes past the branding of your website. Making sure that promotions, availability and data are consistent whether it’s in store, online or mobile. It includes syncing information so that your customers can continue shopping with their full basket, from wherever they left off. Offering a phone ordering option, and being able to see what products the customer had in their basket.