The e-commerce landscape has already resulted in many longstanding brick and mortar businesses to close that we wouldn’t have expected to 10 years ago. For example, Toys R Us announced in 2018 it had gone into administration and closed all of its UK stores.
On the other hand, the digital world is an exciting place to be. In this blog, we examine four success factors for businesses looking to make the move to e-commerce.
1. Ensure you’re offering similar online/offline experiences
E-commerce was already growing rapidly but the events of the past 18 months have triggered a major shift in consumer behaviours that look set to stay. A recent report by Alvarez & Marsal and Retail Economics estimates 17.2million British consumers plan to make permanent changes to the way they shop.
So, it’s clear you should be offering an online store. And if you have an online and brick-and-mortar store, it’s important you bridge the gap between the two experiences. For example, when your customers visit your physical store and later decide to visit your website, they should be getting the same exception experience online as they do in-store (and vice versa).
Some ways you can marry your online/offline experiences include:
- Creating a consistent brand across your online/offline experiences so they mimic each other. This includes colour scheme and tone of voice used in your copy
- Offering the same amount of services online as they are in-store (and vice versa). Tools like chatbots can help your customers get answers to their questions quickly online – just as they would be able to get answers from your sales assistants in-store
- Ensuring the customer experience across your online/offline sites is as smooth as possible. You can do this by offering a click and collect service or sending eReceipts to your customers after they’ve bought from you in-store
2. Offer a great customer journey
Today’s consumers are demanding the same quality of personalised experiences they get from the likes of Amazon, Spotify and Netflix. This means you run the risk of getting left behind if you’re not prioritising creating and delivering tailored experiences.
The rapidly evolving digital landscape also makes it harder for you to offer unique selling points (USPs) because online unlocks even more buying opportunities for buyers.
For example, on a high street, you’ll have some options available to you depending on the stores on that high street. However, when you’re online, one search in Google brings back millions of results to your query and allows you to see what businesses have to offer anywhere in the world.
This means consumers can easily find another company somewhere that’s offering the same (if not more) than you. That’s why you need to concentrate on keeping up with customer expectations and continuously improving the customer journey.
You can improve your customer journey by:
- Creating one source of data truth – combining data from both your in-store/online channels will create one complete view of your customers that can be used to enhance their experience. For example, transactional data helps you understand what products your customers are buying, how often they’re buying them and what channels they’re using
- Creating personalised experiences – use insights like the above to create experiences that are difficult for your competitors to copy. This could be product suggestions based on what you already know about your customers (e.g. order history)
3. Implement the right e-commerce tools
Complement your e-commerce tactics by implementing the right tools…
Manage your customer data with an CRM system
You need to be giving your customers answers to their questions quickly and accurately if you want to improve your customer service. Queries that get passed onto your second customer service representatives should have all the information gathered by the first rep. This stops the customer from having to repeat themselves as the second rep can pick up from where the first left off.
A CRM (customer relationship management) system centralises your customer data, giving you a 360-degree view of your customers. This makes it easier to provide increasingly personalised experiences.
Centralise your data with an ERP system
Siloed data can lead to data redundancy, human error and productivity losses (e.g. your employees are having to search multiple locations for the information they need).
By integrating your e-commerce platform with your ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, you can enable data to flow freely between the two systems. This also gives more autonomy to your customers (e.g. view accurate stock levels) which improves their experience and satisfaction.
Manage the products/services on your website with a PIM system
A PIM (product information management) system simplifies your ability to manage the product or service lines on your website, helping you to easily update product descriptions, add/remove photos or videos and so on.
This helps you keep all your product information accurate and up-to-date which enhances your customer experience and boosts customer satisfaction.
Ensure a seamless online experience with a CMS system
To keep your website looking and performing at its best, use a CMS (content management system) to optimise your website content. This helps you:
- Keep up with changing customer trends
- Ensure your brand is relevant
- Outperform the competition
You can also monitor your customers’ online activity by looking at how they navigate around your website. This knowledge helps you optimise your site to make user navigation as convenient as possible. The right CMS solution will not only be user-friendly but also allow you to change content without needing to know code.
Don’t forget your e-commerce platform needs to be integrated with the above systems…
Some requirements for integrations include:
- Full visibility across the board including inventory levels, customer order histories and previous interactions
- Potential to automate low value tasks e.g. re-orders and promotions
- Access for customer-facing teams (e.g. customer service and sales teams) to view every customer’s complete history on-demand
4. Build an attractive e-commerce website
A consumer’s buying decision is usually made after three seconds on your website, so it’s vital you make a good first impression.
Some tips you can use to improve your e-commerce website design include:
- Investing in high-quality product imagery – only use good quality images on your content pages that aren’t massive file sizes. This helps increase your web store page performance and improve customer user experience
- Having a clear conversion path – use colours to guide your customers towards the important pages on your website. If a button should lead to a conversion, make it eye-catching
- Catering for different devices – optimise your website for a range of devices so you’re not alienating some customers by offering a great user experience on one platform but not on another
- Including customer quotes – positive reviews from past customers helps build trust with future customers and entices sales so look for ways to show off your customer feedback
- Creating dynamic page designs with a mixture of content blocks – mix and match content blocks (e.g. image sliders, text blocks) to bring your webpages to life and help customers identify the different products on offer
A short-term fix isn’t enough – the e-commerce landscape is here to stay
The past 18 months have put retailers at a critical juncture where they need to join the e-commerce landscape now to survive in the new era of retail.
In our report produced in association with industry publication Retail Gazette, you can read how over 100 UK retailers navigated the rollercoaster year of 2020. Retail executives are calling it 'five years of change in five weeks'.
Download it below.