In this guest post, New Republique CEO Nima Yassini (main photo) says COVID has hastened the journey to ecommerce and offers his expert tips if you’re lagging in that department…
It took a global pandemic for the retail sector to accelerate their shift online, but for those businesses that think having a website is enough, the next wave will require more sophisticated optimisation to retain customers.
According to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index, Australians spent $44.18 billion on online retail in 2020, accounting for about an eighth of total retail trade. This represents an increase of 44.4 per cent on the same figures for 2019. What COVID did was accelerate the demand by increasing the adoption of online retail for customers while also proving to businesses that they needed to invest in digital infrastructure to ensure they could service the demand.
It’s now time to focus on strategy. The case for investing in ecommerce is pretty clear, but what should your strategy include?
Strengthen your weak points
Initially, I would start by looking at the common areas of failure, which tend to be product landing pages (PLPs) and product detail pages (PDPs), and cart summary pages where there are high exit rates. Reduce bounce and exits and you’ll already improve conversion.
Email and social media campaigns often point to PLPs and PDPs, which make them some of the most important pages on the site. Optimising these is therefore critical to ensuring a good customer experience, where there’s a clear brand connection from the campaign to the product.
Sign up your shoppers
Web browsers are set to turn off third-party cookies next year which mean brands need to switch to a first-party unique identifier to run retargeting campaigns. As a result, many sites will require users to sign in to buy. This is great for brands building a member database, but can be off-putting for some visitors, so it’s important to make this step as seamless as possible.
Because each brand is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution but you can try simple sign-ups (‘add your email to continue shopping’), incentivised sign-ups (‘receive 10% off your first order’ or ‘bonus gift with first purchase’) or make the sign-up compulsory. Also test different formats and placements to entice users to complete this step.
Without this ability to retarget, brands stand to lose millions in revenue. A client of ours forecast a loss of $20 million without third-party cookies, so capturing this data is crucial.
Start the personalisation journey
Building a profile of your customers takes time and right now the biggest area for growth is in personalisation. But personalisation isn’t just a switch you can turn on – beware of agencies that say it is. Personalisation is a collective layering of different techniques that help connect a customer to your brand for a unique experience.
The more data you can collect about your customer – not just what they look at or what they like but how they behave – the better you can serve them. The only way to confirm behaviour is to test it. In The Pulse Report, compiled from the 2020 Experimentation Maturity Index, we found that around two in every three organisations were using experimentation to improve their personalisation efforts.
Don’t follow best practice
Every brand striving to give their customers a unique brand experience needs to understand that everything about their ecommerce strategy is heavily contextualised. This means that following ‘best practice’ is a misnomer because what’s ‘best’ for one business may not work for another.
The other mistake I see many businesses make is trying to solve problems in a traditional way, working towards an output rather than an outcome. This means they design and build a website without actually figuring out what will work. A major liquor retailer recently spent a year and over a million dollars on a site redesign based on user focus groups. Sales dropped drastically straight after launch. They ended up rolling the whole thing back to the old site. Users can tell you one thing but often their behaviour tells you another, so testing will help guide your process and give you the data to validate a decision to implement a feature or function.
Connect your channels
And finally, if you have a physical store, you don’t need to let ecommerce cannibalise it. A physical store is part of the brand experience, so take an omni-channel approach. People enjoy the convenience of ecommerce but love the physical retail experience. A strategy that connects them, like click and collect, can help enhance the brand experience. Customers can purchase online but then engage in-store: for example trying on clothing and having the option to exchange it or access a refund or purchase additional items.
The recent ecommerce boom has been the catalyst for digital transformation but, to succeed in the future, businesses will need to develop and invest in the digital strategy that best reflects the brand experience their customers want.
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