The world has changed quite drastically over the first half of 2020. The ongoing pandemic has forever altered the way people work, live, and shop. The eCommerce revolution that was once promised with the dot-com boom of the 90s seems to have finally come to fruition.
People are shopping online more than ever before, and eCommerce is growing and evolving in real-time. Large or small, retailers are being forced to overhaul their entire operations and move towards omnichannel software solutions. Large retailers are building their own platforms and entire teams of web developers to make the shift, while smaller brands are finding themselves hamstrung by the development costs and operational shifts necessary to make the change.
So where does ecommerce go from here?
Everyday more and more platforms are popping up to accommodate the need for eCommerce. For every entry point software like Shopify there are three new companies popping up, even Salesforce has moved quickly into the space with its CommerceCloud suite. So how do these platforms compare, how do they distinguish themselves from one another? What we know is that nothing is certain, this revolution started 30 years ago and is only really being thrown to the forefront due to uncertain social and economic crisis. However, when looking at the last 30 years it becomes quite clear where these trends are taking us. Moreover, by analyzing those trends and insights we can better understand where online retail goes from here.
Your Store lives on Social
People live their lives on social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Tumblr or another burgeoning platform, most people are sharing their lives on some medium of social media. Its only natural for shopping to evolve to be a part of that experience.
Over the last year social media has gained tremendous momentum in the world of ecommerce. According to Forbes, there has been a 146% year-over-year growth in online retail orders alone, and almost all social platforms now have some sort of commerce offering.
Understanding the value of placing product where people shop, Facebook first introduced Marketplace in 2007, and although it may have been a bit ahead of its time as it never really gained traction and was spun off to Oodle, they continued building the platform and re-introduced a new marketplace in 2017 with the idea of engaging shoppers through social interaction. Likewise, in March of 2019 Instagram launched an ecommerce checkout feature to allow brands to meet customers where they live. The feature allows for users to make product purchases without ever leaving the app, while at the same time allows IG to build actionable consumer profiles.
Seamless purchases through social media are essential in today’s marketplace. If consumers are finding your brand in their social feeds, but have to leave the platform to actually purchase it? Chances are, the sale is lost. Whether its email marketing, webpage optimization, or social sales, the less clicks it take to complete an action the better, and conversion rates agree. An impulse buy should never take more than 3 clicks.
If your brand is not utilizing all that social media has to offer, you are quite simply missing
a critical opportunity to connect with your audience (and future audiences) on a far deeper, emotional level. From chasing trends and hashtags to laser focused audience targeting and utilizing influencer marketing, brands should be utilizing every tool they can to access those that directly align with their brand.
Tell your audience what they want
Predictive analytics is nothing new, but its primarily been utilized by the big box stores and those individual brands with billion-dollar budgets. However through the growth of Big Data and machine learning, coupled with the surge of online shopping, platforms such as Branded Online, have been able to leverage their data to deliver solutions to brands at a much more affordable entry price.
Predictive Analytics allow brands to:
- Predict what people are planning to purchase
- Determine a successful pricing strategy
- Improve logistics
- Grant greater insights into promotions
- Minimize fraud
The future of retail is entirely reliant on predictive data, regardless of product or vertical. If your brand isn’t utilizing statistical techniques, data mining, predictive modeling and machine learning to analyze historical data and to make predictions relevant to your business, you are being left behind. Understanding customer behavior is one of the keys to competing with big retail.
Consistent delivery across all of your sales channels is pertinent to a brand’s success. When Amazon can ship almost any item within 24 hours at no cost to the brand, this can seem like a daunting task for small to midmarket brands to keep pace. Brands need to self-reflect on what they can actually deliver and be honest with their customers as to delivery times. That may still leave your brand behind and needing to pay for a logistics solution that can compete, which can shrink profitability.
Finding a solution to handle all three flows of logistics while maintaining competitive SLA’s can be difficult. Therefore, your main focus must start with inventory management; knowing where everything is along your supply chain is critical. Utilizing a system that manages reordering, deliveries, fulfillment, and more is essential. When completed, you will have created that high-level view of your inventory, it becomes time to focus on a delivery service that aligns with your brand’s needs.
Once your brand has determined the necessary services, the next step is to ensure they are clearly presented everywhere they are offered on the web, and ensure that they have been optimized properly for search rendering with quick access to delivery options. Every page should clearly present the offer and a link to the delivery options. This such as shipping rates, delivery time, and should be clear and concise in the buyer’s journey. Then repeat it. And repeat it again at checkout. Managing customer expectations can be a brands greatest promotional tool.
Talk to your customers
To put it into terms that Visa gave us:
Getting a customer to your website: $10 in SEO. Getting direct one on one conversation with your potential buyer: Priceless.
However, hiring the staff necessary to handle direct inquiries does have a price. For many brands it wouldn’t be financially feasible to hire an entire call center in-house to deal with direct customer interactions. Therefor many brands have created AI chatbots, loaded with answers to common questions to limit the need for human customer relations. Over the years these chatbots have become unbelievably proficient in solving customer’s needs, and in the future may be impossible to distinguish between a real human interaction.
As brands continue to fight to improve their customer service with chatbots and various instant messaging applications, outsourcing to a call center is always an option as well. Either way, ensuring that the potential customer has productive, useful, and timely information in response to their inquiries is once again critical to the success of competing with larger retailers.
Nobody can say for certain what is next for the eCommerce industry, but it is becoming very apparent that many of the promises of the dot-com boom of the 90s have come to fruition. Many new tools, techniques and strategies are being thrown against the wall to see what sticks, and unless you start throwing things too, you won’t be able to take advantage of those that work as they come about.
This is nothing new, brands have always relied on market analytics to improve customer experience and to find new ways to improve their bottom line. Those that don’t optimize efficiently, will quickly find themselves on the outpaced by the big-box retailers. With a track record of over 20 years of consumer data, logistics software, call-centers, and digital marketing experts Branded Online is uniquely engineered to help brands compete, survive, and succeed with whatever comes next.