The shift from high-street to online shopping is hardly surprising. Online offers shoppers greater convenience, cheaper prices and better offers than high-street stores, where customers have to battle the hassles of traffic jams, parking and long queues. Add to that spiralling overheads, the influx of out-of-town shopping centres and business rates, and it’s clear that high-street businesses need to adapt.
So, why does growth in e-commerce remain so slow?
With the festive season less than 90 days away, retailers need to ensure that they have a robust e-commerce solution in place, which both enriches the customer experience and provides a smooth, simple-to-navigate, fully-integrated customer journey across multiple channels, from online to mobile and in-store. Competition is fierce: with more customers spending more online, customer retention and maximising online sales potential are crucial.
Customers are savvier and shopping around more than they ever have before, so the key is making sure to keep them engaged before they reach the point of buying a product. It’s not just a case of focussing on off-line interactions in-store; you have to make sure that your online experience, be that via mobile, the home desktop computer or laptop, is heavily integrated. It must be as simple as possible for customers to buy from you via the medium that suits them best at the point of decision.
If at any point in this journey one of these elements fails, you risk losing their custom and increase the chances of them deflecting to one of your competitors. It’s unlikely that you will be able to draw them away from comparing prices or visiting your store, and purchasing items online, but you can keep them engaged and ensure that they ultimately buy it from you.
However, simply having a robust e-commerce solution is not enough. Just because people visit your online store, it doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to actually go through and complete the transaction. They may find the products they want to buy and then abandon their shopping cart. Going the extra mile will avoid this, so make sure that you are adding value to your customers at every stage in the lifecycle. To do this you need to establish a strategic framework, which facilitates customer engagement and serves the customer quickly and efficiently in a personalised and targeted manner.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your customer feel valued?
- When they are searching for products, is it easy for them to identify related products?
- Is the shopping experience fast and simple to navigate? and
- Does your site provide real-time feedback or wait for a form to be finished before it red-flags them?
Are you providing customers with any other content that will enhance their experience – a free voucher, a personal shopping experience, a competition? Ideally these should be of low cost to you, but presented as high value to your customers.
Is your email marketing personalised and responsive to your customers’ actions in your online store? If they do abandon their cart, are you sending them an email which offers them some alternative options?
Do you evaluate the customers experience or offer them interesting ways to socially share? A good review shared builds trust, fast.
These are all questions which may sound obvious, but they are often overlooked. However, if you can answer “yes” to these points, you can dramatically influence how customers interact and buy from you.
The high-street may be evolving, but the rise of e-commerce and m-commerce can provide you with an infinite number of opportunities to not only deliver a better experience for your customers, but increase the number of channels through which customers can buy from you and maximise your potential sales volume.
So, what’s next? The rapid growth of smartphones and increasing access to 3G and Wi-Fi in coffee shops, bars, and now even the London Underground, has opened up a whole new opportunity.
Customers are now using their phones purchasing goods on the move when they are travelling to and from work, or even at the pub. If you can encourage customers to interact with you during these interstices (which were previously “retail dead time”), target them personally or at the very least make it as easy as possible for them to buy from you, you will be able to further increase your chances of capturing that sale and the possibility of customers deflecting to one of your competitors.
Myles Davidson is the founder and managing director of e-commerce specialist i-KOS.
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