By: Carly Thomas, Senior Director, Digital River
We have entered a new era of ecommerce, catapulted by the pandemic and steered by ever-changing consumer habits. This continued growth is exciting for the ecommerce sector, and brands can certainly reap the benefits, providing they have a robust ecommerce strategy in place that is both future-proof and congruous with the current market trends.
What customers want
This past year has shown us how much consumer behaviour can shift over the course of a year – expectations have changed for the entire shopping experience from browsing and purchasing to shipping and fulfilment. As more brands have started their own direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels during the pandemic, the online marketplace is more crowded, giving consumers more options to choose from. As a result, they are more likely to jump ship if they face a poor shopping experience.
The key to maintaining customer satisfaction is to consistently provide a superior customer journey from pre-purchase, purchase and beyond. Each element goes into how consumers evaluate their overall experience – many consumers believe the experience a company provides is just as important as the products or services themselves.
One way to level up the customer journey is by establishing a line of communication with your customers to hear what they think of the current buying experience and where they want to see changes. Whether this is through social media channels or surveys customers can opt-in to take, having a direct source to your customers’ feedback will let you know if expectations are being met or where to focus efforts on improvement.
This communication can also be indirect. One of the benefits of having a D2C channel is the wealth of data you get from that digital relationship. You can see what items shoppers are looking at, what they put in their cart, at what point the conversion happens, or when they make the decision not to buy. This data is vital for understanding which promotions work and how to best allocate your marketing resources to improve your ROI. One example brands can experiment with is where to introduce Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options on the customer journey. The financing option might drive more conversions if it’s introduced on the product page versus at check-out; data that is easily gleaned from an ecommerce site.
Give them a Shopping Experience to remember
Because today’s consumers have more choices on more devices than ever before, it’s critical for businesses to adopt a customer-centric approach to cultivate brand loyalty and improve customer retention. Implementing a customer-centric approach means being giving customers what they want, where they want. Even B2B customers have begun to demand B2C-like experiences, including personalisation and financing options.
For a growing number of shoppers, mobile is the platform of choice for consuming content and making purchases. T Having mobile commerce capabilities as part of your ecommerce strategy will be essential for making sure you’re meeting your customers where they’re shopping.
Beyond just meeting customers on the right platforms, businesses need to ensure they’re delivering the optimal shopping experience on each platform. This means making sure the customer journey translates properly to mobile devices by having a mobile-responsive website and the payment options customers prefer. Optimising the shopping experience across devices is a proven strategy to lower cart abandonment rates, which can lead to an overall increase in revenue when implemented correctly.
Has your Channel Strategy been tried and tested?
In this era of choice for consumers, the gap continues to widen between businesses with ecommerce capabilities and those who have yet to jump on board. Traditional retail was hit hard by the pandemic, but brands that focused on perfecting their multi-channel ecommerce strategy were able to mitigate some of the challenges. For example, businesses that have brick-and-mortar stores worked across channels to allow people to shop online and pick up their product curb side at the store, a strategy that kept customers from defecting to a competitor.
What was once known as channel conflict – choosing between a D2C strategy versus distributing through third-party/resellers or purely through a brick-and-mortar store – has been completely redefined. The past twelve months have shown the benefits of having a sales strategy that goes beyond a singular channel and expanding to meet the customers wherever and however they want to buy.
True multi-channel systems empower retailers with the flexibility to quickly adapt and scale their systems in response to environmental and consumer factors. This has major implications for how brands allocate inventory – instead of earmarking the bulk of their inventory for retail, or resellers, some brands are re-allocating more inventory to digital based on consumer preference. This strategy allows brands to have a more complete view of the different elements of the business and be more efficient distributing resources to where they are needed.
Despite shops reopening, convenience remains a huge factor amongst consumers when it comes to their purchasing needs and brands must pay close attention to facilitating this online. By optimising mobile capabilities and relying on data to tailor the customer experience as well as develop a more personal relationship with shoppers to build brand loyalty – these essential steps will all contribute to a reimagined, future-proof ecommerce strategy.