Consistency, convenience, product availability and price are key drivers luring shoppers out of brick and mortar stores into the world of eCommerce. Lackluster store displays, picked over merchandise and poor customer service, are just a few reasons turning shoppers away. Forbes recently reported that during the 2013 holiday shopping season, U.S. retailers received approximately half the holiday foot traffic they experienced just three years ago. And concern trickles down as large retailers like Best Buy and JCPenney close stores. Many reasons are cited for the closings, but two reasons stand-out as lessons to be learned.
In-store sales dropped dramatically as brick and mortar-dependent sales strategies failed to compete against those of eCommerce giants like Amazon. JCPenney’s reportedly lost its lead because of management missteps and inadequate investment in their website and other technology.
To make matters worse, stores are not closing because shoppers aren’t shopping, but on the contrary, consumer confidence is growing and spending is on the rise. eCommerce growth has already hit double-digits. This news can either be seen as a crisis, or as an opportunity and wake-up call motivating retailers to retool and invest in eCommerce technology enabling them to meet the expectations of digitally savvy customers and compete well against the competition.
Meeting Customer Expectations by Making Shopping Personal
Although it may seem that larger sellers have a financial advantage, smaller sellers have a different – yet significant advantage: their people. eCommerce success is not simply about devices or technology, it’s about the people using them. There is a magic chemistry when you weave digital tools like video, contextual technology, and mobile apps with sales, marketing and customer service – extending the shopping experience from physical storefronts to virtual showrooms. And the most satisfied customers give no thought to the technology, but prize getting exactly what they want, when they want it, and at the right price. Gartner, Inc. stated that “the right mix is good for both customer and brand: better engagement and conversion makes marketers smile, while greater contextual relevance makes customers feel, well, something between less annoyance and utter delight.”
To make this happen for your customers, implement these four strategies that create the perfect blend of technology and personal attention to lure shoppers and have them buy from you.
1. Do eCommerce right – Make sure your eCommerce store offers perks that make the shopping experience convenient and tailored to shoppers’ wishes.
- Free shipping – improves overall transaction amount, reduces shopping cart abandonment and most importantly is a “key perk” for online shoppers
- In-store pickup – online purchasing with in-store pickup, provides opportunity for upselling and flexibility for customers
- Online purchase, in-store return – convenience, flexibility, opportunity for upselling and eliminates hassle and cost with return shipping
- 24/7 Customer service – providing service anytime via phone, email, chat, and virtual assistance
- Payment options – offer widely accepted payment methods such as Authorize.net for VISA,MC,Discover,AX/PayPal/Google Checkout and more
- Personalized context marketing – drop cookies on browsers luring shoppers by interests, locale, and search activity
- Email marketing – promotional & follow-up emails to shoppers who abandon online carts
- Social Media – advertise and promote on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter & Instagram
- eGift cards – offer and redeem gift cards in-store and online without restrictions
- Product videos– short, high quality and informative- giving customers 3D view & insight
- Search engine marketing– metadata tags, AdWords and landing pages help browsers find you
2. Expand your eCommerce reach – Adding additional eCommerce websites and sales channels such as eBay and Amazon automatically increase your brand presence in the marketplace. With every added sales channel, you place product in front of more potential buyers consequently increasing sales to new customers, industries, and vertical markets.
3. Connect to your suppliers – Implement business application software that streamlines and automates role or task-based processes with suppliers of your retail operations. Cloud-based connections help sellers of all sizes easily deploy and take advantage of tools and technology that increase efficiencies, reduce costs and level the competitive playing field. By connecting to your suppliers in this way, you have access to more products, ship customer orders faster and improve shipping notification keeping buyers up to the minute on scheduled deliveries.
4. Connect your channels – Implementing a single eCommerce platform that oversees and manages every transaction for all your sales channels gives increased control, streamlines business operations and provides enhanced visibility. These benefits equip you to quickly make decisions and strategically drive the business, all while reducing costs that eat into profit margins. By connecting your channels through integration, you provide customers with a seamless, consistent experience across all touchpoints resulting in a stronger brand and customer loyalty.
With the time and money your company saves implementing these strategies, you can afford to invest more in customer, value-added benefits and experiences that keep shoppers coming back, keep stores open, and keep you on the competitive edge.
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