The battle online to win customers and customer loyalty has never been fiercer, and customers have never been more demanding. Every interaction along the shopping journey matters. And every touchpoint is an opportunity to connect and engage with customers in ways that matter to them.
In this highly competitive environment, very few brands and retailers can compete on price and product selection alone – they must develop and execute eCommerce strategies that go above and beyond. At the bare minimum, that means offering seamless, convenient and quick ways to shop and transact, but for most, it means embracing digital marketing, leveraging data to deliver personalized and differentiated shopping experiences and investing in tools to boost online conversions.
How To Prepare For Implementing Your eCommerce Growth Strategy
It all starts with a solid foundation.
From developing the right strategy and securing a high-performing team to building a solid foundation and selecting the right technologies, there are many different moving parts to manage when building and growing an eCommerce business.
Before developing a winning strategic approach, retailers must fully understand their own capabilities, customers and market opportunities. Start with an internal assessment of capabilities and resources, a customer study to understand preferences and behaviours as well as research on the overall market and competitors to outline opportunities and pinpoint differentiators.
Investing in the right technology.
To run a successful eCommerce business, you must have a solid technology foundation. Whether just launching a business or planning for accelerated growth, the options for eCommerce and digital marketing technologies are seemingly endless and overwhelming. No matter what stage you are at, it is always critical to do your homework. You’ll need to perform thorough due diligence to understand your immediate and long-term requirements and consider which deployment or delivery model is the best fit for your business.
- Map out your requirements and prioritise what tools and platforms will best help achieve immediate and long-term objectives.
- Determine the optimal ROI to guide your technology roadmap
- Build a tech foundation that is fully integrated and stable but also agile and flexible, allowing you to adjust to sudden market changes as well as support accelerated growth.
- Be smart – a new and shiny tech tool may earn you a few cool factor points, but if it only leads to a small improvement in sales, it probably is not worth the investment.
Investing in People.
Investing in people and developing a high-performing team is the most valuable asset for your business. An organisational structure of cross-functional teams with the right skills and shared values and goals that work collaboratively and in alignment to plan, manage and execute all functions is essential to running a successful eCommerce business.
How To Increase eCommerce Sales and Delight Customers with Our Proven Strategies
With the right people, technology and processes in place, it is time to focus on some of the proven strategies and tactics that will help you run a successful eCommerce business.
- Deliver Exceptional User Experiences
Every interaction a shopper has with you is critical. A great user experience can win a customer forever, but a poor experience can have a detrimental impact – the customer may never return and, even worse, share their negative experiences with families, friends and on social media. An experience that exceeds expectations, on the other hand, will likely result in a satisfied and loyal customer who will not only come back but will also send new customers your way.
Here are some best practices to consider when developing a winning eCommerce user experience strategy:
- Every touchpoint matters: the user experience includes every interaction a shopper has with your digital touchpoints – including eCommerce sites, mobile apps and even in-store kiosks. And it includes every aspect of the experience – from site design and navigation, to features and functionality, checkout, all the way through to delivery and even post-purchase.
- Design for mobile: for many retailers, the majority of traffic now comes from mobile devices. Whether the shopping journey starts, ends, or happens somewhere in between on mobile, it is imperative to optimize the user experiences for mobile discovery and shopping.
- Personalization is key: every step along the shopping journey is an opportunity to connect and engage to strengthen the user experience and build a strong, personal relationship that drives sales and loyalty.
- Let “Personas” set the direction: create user personas to identify similar customer types. Understanding the demographics, motivations, goals, task flows, and desired functionality of your customers will help you prioritise and improve the user experience of your eCommerce site.
- A slow-performing site is unacceptable: it only takes a few seconds to drive shoppers away due to a slow site. Evaluate and optimize site speed performance at all times.
- Improve Product Discoverability, Engagement And Conversions
When developing your eCommerce strategy, prioritise investments that will help shoppers easily find what they are looking for, encourage them to engage with your site and give them the confidence to make a purchase. Here are some key areas to consider:
- Optimize search functionality: great onsite search is table stakes in eCommerce today and includes capabilities such as rich and customisable auto-complete featuring products, brands, categories, etc., fully-addressed user typos, semantic search and search results that include dynamically generated filtering facets. More advanced search solutions deliver contextual search results by layering behavioral, situational, and historical data.
- Elevate product recommendations: basic product recommendations are typically generated at the product level, more sophisticated recommendation engines leverage customer data to deliver more relevant recommendations. Social Proof Product Recommendations bring it one step up by delivering recommendations that are powered by data points based on the wisdom of the crowd.
- Encourage sales via ratings and reviews: providing customers with trusted feedback that helps them make informed purchase decisions has become table stakes. More advanced solutions include social media integration and social proof messaging integration.
- Leverage social proof messaging: help shoppers make more informed shopping decisions by displaying trends and behaviors of other shoppers throughout the shopping journey to inspire, engage and boost conversions.
- Improve discoverability with guided selling: highly engaging, guided selling tools help shoppers explore and find what they are looking for through tools such as interactive quizzes.
- Level up merchandising: virtual and augmented reality tools, such as “virtual try-ons” or apps that place a product in a room, can help shoppers better visualize products to make more informed decisions.
- Sell more with cross-selling and upselling techniques: outfitting, bundling and threshold messaging are great ways to encourage shoppers to add more to cart and increase AOV.
- Make Great Content a Priority
Engaging, high-quality content can be one of the most powerful assets for brands and retailers. Content is a key differentiator in digital marketing, onsite, and throughout the overall shopping experience. Creating a good eCommerce content strategy requires diligent evaluation of how customers navigate through the decision-making process and identification of the interaction points where relevant content will inspire and drive conversions. Consider these best practices when developing your eCommerce content strategy:
- Kick it up a notch: Product descriptions and catchy headings are no longer enough. Retailers need to create more engaging, visual, and personalized content in order to capture the attention of an ever-fleeting audience.
- Blend product, editorial and lifestyle: good product information and specs are always critical, but also use content to promote products, inspire, educate, and ultimately, move the shopper from discovery to purchase. For instance, blogs, how-to guides, and instructional videos can provide genuine, helpful content to inform and inspire.
- While content is king, context is queen: content is most effective when it is relevant to the shopper. Essentially, that means delivering the right content to the right person at the right time.
- Make it matter: while many brands have invested and adopted content marketing into their overall strategy, many still struggle to properly integrate content into the purchase path. Integrate content into product pages and provide shoppable functionality (add-to-cart or “save for later” lists) in lifestyle and educational content.
- Make your content social-friendly: allow content to be shareable to increase its reach and likelihood for recommendation and provide a way for users to share or upload their own content onto your site when it features your products.
- A picture is worth a thousand words: don’t cut corners around product photography. Be sure to include multiple rich photos, detailed imagery, swatches, and even video when appropriate.
- Make The Most Of Your Marketing Budgets
Setting up your eCommerce site is only half the battle – generating traffic and converting window shoppers to loyal customers comes next. Shoppers move interchangeably between channels, and it is critical that marketing strategies are executed and integrated across both digital and offline touchpoints. The most successful eCommerce marketing strategies leverage data to identify where the individual shopper is in the customer journey and use those insights to create relevant marketing messages to deliver at key moments and touchpoints where they will matter most. Here are some best practices:
- SEO is critical: most shoppers start the shopping process on a search engine (most often Google), and SEO is therefore one of the most important components of the eCommerce marketing acquisition strategy. To improve your search ranking, you must build a strong SEO strategy that includes the keywords you want to rank for, relevant content and product descriptions, backlinks, quality images, increased page load speed etc.
- Drive traffic via paid search: paid search can be one of the best ways to drive new traffic, but it can also be extremely competitive. You must constantly manage the bidding of brand and product terms to ensure competitive ranking, stay within budget, manage the return on ad spend (ROAS) and optimize landing pages.
- Email marketing is still a winner: with a low barrier to entry and a high return on investment, email remains the most popular marketing vehicle. Email provides a way to communicate with customers, build and maintain relationships and increase customer lifetime value.
- Personal touch for the win: email is much more effective when personalized. It can be as simple as messaging for customer segments, personalizing subject lines, or using simple, automated trigger emails (abandoned cart, post- purchase review prompts). More sophisticated personalization includes content based on individual customer behaviors, targeting based on device preferences, weather and geography, and messaging relevant to cross-channel behavior.
- Lean into SMS if relevant: for some target audiences, SMS may be the preferred communication channel. When relevant, include SMS into your communication strategy for both marketing and customer care.
- Level up loyalty: reinventing loyalty programs with rewards beyond the traditional point systems can improve customer engagement and foster long-term loyalty. Loyalty programmes also allow you to leverage insights to offer more relevant and personalized experiences, resulting in higher conversions and loyalty.
- Tap into social media: Social media is the de facto “word-of-mouth” channel today and perhaps one of the most powerful ways to acquire new customers. Beyond advertising on social media networks, building a relevant presence on the social media sites your target customers use is extremely valuable. Besides pushing relevant content, leverage social media channels and tools to encourage your customers to create and share unique content as well.
- Provide Exceptional Customer Service
Customer service is an integral component of the overall shopping experience – before, during, and after the sale. The customer service experience greatly impacts customers’ opinions about your company and their continued loyalty. Customer service is not just a cost centre but rather an important customer retention and upselling tool. Consider these best practices when developing your eCommerce customer service strategy:
- Treat your customers like you would want to be treated: customers who feel treated as individuals and with respect are generally more satisfied with their overall shopping experience and more inclined to remain loyal. Loyal customers buy more, purchase more frequently, cost less to serve, and have higher retention rates.
- Be accessible via various channels: know your customers; communication preferences and provide your customers with multiple ways to contact you – email, live chat, social networks, live chat, support pages, SMS.
- Offer quick resolutions: regardless of whether they are speaking with a store associate, consulting online help on an eCommerce site, chatting via live chat, resolving issues via email, or talking on the phone with a customer service rep, customers expect the experience to be timely, seamless, personal, and highly relevant. And most importantly, they expect a quick resolution to their issue.
- Measure And Optimize For Growth And Improved Productivity
Running an eCommerce business is not a “set and forget it” effort. You should constantly evaluate and adjust strategies for how you reach, interact with and sell to your customers.
- The secret sauce is the data: One of the advantages of digital commerce is the easy access it provides to merchandising data, transactional data, and customer behavior data. The combination is a powerful instrument to optimize your ROI. Don’t let your data go under-utilised.
- Make analytics and reporting a priority: The analytics and reporting platform should be one of your highest priorities – understanding business performance is instrumental in developing your strategy and decision-making for budget planning, spending and timing.
- Data-driven decisions rule: Everyone on your team should be able to access and analyse relevant data to make better decisions based on real insights.
- Always test everything
- Improve your ROI: Tracking ROI for marketing and CX tools will show which initiatives work best and for how long. When calculating ROI, include online sales, returns and post-sale metrics as they affect long-term ROI. Leverage these ROI insights to adjust strategies and optimize investments.
WRAPPING IT UP. As eCommerce sales continue to grow and take a greater share of overall sales, customer expectations for great online shopping experiences continue to rise. To keep pace, you must constantly stay on top of customer behaviors and preferences as well as study best practices and future trends to inform your eCommerce strategy in order to stay relevant, deliver on these elevated expectations and grow your business.