As their market share is challenged by dedicated ecommerce sites, retailers are adopting several digital strategies that enable them to compete in the new omnichannel competitive space.
Ecommerce is conquering retail
Observers have called the fight between ecommerce and traditional retail in favor of the internet giants. Amazon, eBay, and thousands of new ecommerce sites have broken down and conquered the profits of household names like Macy’s and Old Navy, and even beaten down monolithic retail powerhouse Walmart. Most of these brick-and-mortar stores have begun competing directly via ecommerce sites of their own, as retail companies such as Gap experience massive losses everywhere outside of their online platforms.
Challenges in reconciling retail and ecommerce strategies
Despite the stratospheric rise of ecommerce sites, from smaller, less sophisticated niches to vast marketplaces with 100M-plus user bases, there is ample room for innovation within the fundamental online shopping experience. Interestingly, while many of the customer experiences and strategies that have proven so effective for traditional retailers may not be effectively transitioned to modern ecommerce marketing, the application of enterprise analytics to retailers’ online presences might allow these older institutions to leverage their long-standing knowledge to innovate in the digital space.
Retail is being called upon to provide a synthesis of the best strategies of ecommerce, that builds on – and ultimately, with the aid of a data driven methodology, delivers – the trusted, established and comforting presence of the physical experience on which their brand was founded. Just as physical stores lay the groundwork for a consistent, satisfying customer experience, strategic analysis of data is how that same foundation is built digitally.
Data is the difference
Keeping pace with the upward trend of online sales requires retailers to gain a new level of insight into customer behaviors, shopping patterns, and product-level performance. Google’s Enhanced Ecommerce in the Google Analytics 360 Suite is a premier example of how a robust, systemic approach to incorporating data improves the online customer experience and turns mere visitors into purchasers. The site’s online journey is tracked through conversion rates, product metadata, user segments, and a complete analysis of the shopping funnel lifecycle, providing insights into pre-purchasing behavior and how products perform and convert digitally. Through these efforts, additional recommendations and other features such as promotions, product lists, and user segmentation to optimize customer experience and improve conversion rates can be had. The success stories of Analytics 360 and other data driven methods demonstrates how critical it is to leverage these data driven customer experience strategies.
Retail ecommerce: challenges when enhancing customer experience in the retail space
In addressing customer experience gaps in ecommerce omnichannel marketing, retail companies must take a balanced approach that judiciously weighs a variety of insights and considerations of several questions that seasoned ecommerce players are well-accustomed to asking.
Finding lost carts
A central phenomenon that demands explanation is abandoned carts. 65-70% of carts are abandoned at some point during the purchase process, and this leads to a direct loss in revenue. Data analysis looks into funnel reports to pick apart sessions that resulted in abandoned carts, finds salvageable abandoned products, and chases those customers, whether it be through discounts, free shipping, follow-up emails, or other methods. Addressing the myriad ways in which carts can be lost on the way to checkout – it could be as simple as a hardware failure on the consumer’s end – is a straight gain on an already-undertaken customer journey.
Social and ecommerce
Social networks are a dominant, instantaneous portal between consumer and retailer, linked to 18% of online purchases. A commitment to socially driven purchasing demands a balanced approach that keeps watch on the elusive, and sometimes misrepresented, social ROI. Analysis of keywords and other data that flows back from social likewise informs relevant content and messages, guides alignment with affiliated advertising.
True “one-click” purchases
Proprietary devices build on the physical foundation of retail, giving incentives to effortlessly continue or branch out from in-store purchases. Amazon has innovated the Dash, a small, Wi-Fi-connected, branded IoT device with a push-button that orders the product to which the device is specifically branded. By linking a specific repurchase to this device, the user is untethered from the weight of the purchase process while in their own home. Walmart’s take on this concept intends to be smaller and less obtrusive, angling for more pervasive domestic use. The device would simply track item usage, and then place an order when supplies reach a low point placed by the consumer, effectively taking autonomous choice out of the equation. By providing a physical interface that directly affects online purchases, retailers could, from within their customers’ homes, utilize a tool that makes customer experience seamless – that, essentially, makes impulse reality.
Spontaneous purchases are a hallmark of retail that is not easily replicated in the digital space. 30-50% of physical retail sales are impulse purchases, so the advantage of moving every manifestation of the impulse buy into digital marketplaces would be obvious for retailers. But how would the satisfaction of immediate acquisition be effectively transferred into the digital space?
An innovative company might be able to exploit this gap by developing and mapping a clever customer journey that takes a unique approach to ‘digital aisles’. Possible examples could be the following:
- Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have the ability to virtually generate these digital aisles, putting stacks of on-sale products in the customer’s field of vision, even if they are only browsing on their smartphone.
- Better or unique UX design on search pages could allow for customers to be engaged by other products without disrupting their original search criteria.
- A new style of ecommerce store could be created, one which does not simply attempt to replicate the classic Amazon search, filter and display related — but instead replicates the journey of successful big box stores, while removing the irritation, inconvenience and high overheads that initially drove customers away.
Maintaining the lead
It can be particularly difficult to innovate in a cluttered area like ecommerce, especially in a segment with a set of existing ‘best practices’, but room for this sort of innovation could be baked into a company’s digital strategy, because the rewards for success are potentially enormous. To stabilize and maintain primacy in the age of ecommerce, traditional retailers must invest in and diversify their ecommerce positions in the competitive space. These retailers should look to synthesize modern approaches that leverage data with the select physical experiences that consumers enjoyed from their retail stores. Retail is a few millennia ahead of ecommerce, and by leveraging the insights that ecommerce has ushered into the game, it can stay there.