Imagine telling people ten years ago that in the very near future, we’d be able to easily make purchases from our cell phones, communicate with each other through watches, and have products shipped and delivered to our doorstep in the same day...by drones. You would have sounded crazy. And yet, in 2017, this is our reality.
As the CEO of a digital marketing agency focused heavily on ecommerce web development and digital marketing, I admit that this digital transformation is happening faster than I predicted. More than ever, it’s critical that ecommerce companies shift their mindsets from playing catch-up to proactively re-shaping their organizations to adopt digital best practices. Similar to the early 2000’s - the golden age of social networking - we are at a pivotal point in the ecommerce space and companies that remain passive over the next few years will struggle to stay competitive in the digital age.
Want to remain competitive and successful in the ever-evolving world of ecommerce? Continue reading to learn how your business can thrive online.
Create a Mobile-First Experience
Today, the ecommerce world is driven by customers using their mobile phones to access, browse, and shop the Internet. If I visit a website from my phone and it doesn’t adjust to fit my screen, I don’t stick around. For a business, that’s a potential customer lost. Making sure your website is responsive is just one way to show customers you understand their needs.
Even Google has switched over to mobile-first search results. It’s a huge change for the tech giant, but they understand Internet users better than arguably any other entity on the Web. In other words, if Google is doing it, there’s a good chance your business should follow suit.
Provide Instant Gratification to Demanding Customers
For those of you who remember the band Queen and their infamous song - I Want It All and I Want It Now - it could be the anthem for today’s digital consumer. The average online buyer has a declining attention span and less patience than my 5-year-old son. When thinking through your web and marketing strategy, work hard to offer an online retail buying experience that delivers the information your customer needs, when and how they want it. If they are on your site, allow them to browse by category, sub-category, brand, or include an open ended search to get them to a product page as fast as possible. If you’re not sure what your customers want, A/B testing and collecting user feedback is a great exercise.
Customer expectations and demands are higher than ever, so be sure you’re delivering an online shopping solution that provides instant gratification to an increasingly demanding customer.
Make Shopping Online Engaging
Keeping in mind that customer attention spans are declining, it is critical to design and develop a shopping experience that engages your online audience - but how? Zappos is a great example of a brand which provides an engaging shopping experience. The company developed a video overview for their products. As a buyer, this is pretty engaging. I can watch and listen to someone giving me a review without having to read the specs of the shoe – genius!
MOVE Bumpers, a national truck bumper retailer, built its business around the idea that customers expect to have choices. To better engage customers, MOVE created a Build Your Bumper site feature that allows users to select their truck’s make, model, year, and then customize the light holes, lighting options, and strength based on their truck customization goals. Then, MOVE custom manufactures the bumper and ships it to the customer’s doorstep within 10 days - talk about delivering a highly engaging and rewarding customer experience!
When thinking about how to engage customers through your website, consider all the possible scenarios and know that just about anything is possible when it comes to programing a unique customer experience. Also, push the boundaries of your current digital team or agency to help you envision new and innovative options.
Learn About Your Customers’ Shopping Journeys
How do your customers shop for the types of products offered? Understanding this will allow you to deliver a solution that stands out and increases conversions (sales) over competition. Here are some questions to answer when trying to understand your customer’s shopping journey:
- Are they price shopping?
- Are they looking for reviews and elaborate product descriptions?
- Are they solely focused on sales or looking for discount offers?
- Where do they generally come from before visiting your website?
- Who are your competitors, and what are their strengths/weaknesses online?
Answering these questions will help you design and develop a shopping experience that delivers on what your customers expect, thus enticing purchases. Acknowledging that your customers’ browsing behaviors are more like a connected matrix than a maze is an important idea to understand, and this is why we must understand the customer journey before we look to enhance it.
Integrate Online and Offline Efforts
When creating an ecommerce experience that engages and delivers on customers’ growing expectations, you may also want to consider establishing a solid offline experience. Many online retailers are learning and testing new ways to interact with their customers by joining online and offline strategies.
Pop-up locations, or some form of store existence in malls without the presence of a full-blown retail store, have become a new trend for online retailers. Would your brand benefit from a pop-up shop? Is there a need to have an offline design store, support center, or product experience center? Think about the ways your brand can merge offline and online efforts to create all-encompassing customer experiences. Apple brand does this exceptionally well.
Advertise to Customers Based on Location
Any device that has geolocation features, such as a mobile phone or car navigation system, is a means for advertisers to deliver contextual, location-based ads. Imagine if your GPS could deliver coupons to local restaurants as you drive by, or if New York City retailers could deliver time sensitive product offers to your phone or smartwatch as you walk past their store. That technology is here and companies are using it. Location-based advertising is a growing marketing opportunity for product companies and service businesses to consider.
Shift Fulfillment Options
Customers’ shipping expectations are everchanging. Personally, I prefer 2-day free shipping. Am I being greedy or is this the new norm thanks to Amazon Prime? Shifting the fulfillment options in your business might affect profit margin, sales conversion, and/or customer satisfaction. Think about the future of drone shipping and other technologies when designing a fulfillment solution for your company, and choose with long-term goals in mind.
Offer 24 / 7 Customer Service
With the growing needs and wants of online shoppers, excellent customer service is the standard and expectation. The companies that deliver customer service and support in a timely manner will gain a competitive advantage. Customer service and support can be provided through many means, including phone, live chat and email. A great place to start is with a Live Chat Software solution or a Customer Support System, such as Zendesk, which can be easily integrated with your website.
Consider Future Technology: Wearables/Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
Now that we are able to make product purchases from our mobile devices with a one-click checkout, we need to continue to think about the future of technology. For example, think about how wearables and virtual or augmented reality might play into the ecommerce shopping experience of today.
If your business is looking for a competitive edge, consider allowing customers to make a purchase via smartwatch. Maybe the use of VR goggles is possible by offering customers the ability to purchase products from a virtual reality version of your store. Or what about a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented and displayed to the user?
All of the above are factors your online business needs to consider to stay competitive in the new world of ecommerce. I could write a book about this subject, but as soon as I finish, it will already be outdated. Technology is changing fast and consumer expectations are changing just as quickly.
Where do you stand today? Are you in need of an ecommerce facelift? If so, press your digital team or agency to reevaluate your current ecommerce strategy, or feel free to reach out to us. We can help you determine whether Hudson is the right fit for your business, and if not, we’re happy to point you in the right direction.
Learn how our USER-First Process can help your ecommerce business navigate the challenging digital marketplace.