By Mark Lilley, Co-founder and Director of Incubeta Groundswell
One of sectors that has benefitted over course of the pandemic is ecommerce, with Adobe predicting that global ecommerce sales will hit $4.2 trillion this year. In response to this rapid growth, retailers have had to invest heavily in their digital channels. However, they have to make sure that they don’t segregate their ecommerce channels from their other commerce channels – or they could be creating a fragmented customer experience.
Retailers should be taking an omnichannel approach to commerce and focus on delivering a consistent customer experience across all of their commerce channels. By seamlessly connecting physical stores, social media, and websites, retailers can deliver outstanding customer service, while optimising their revenue.
It’s just commerce
The past two years have shifted perceptions about what retail means and having a separate ecommerce strategy from your other commerce channels no longer cuts it. “Ecommerce” needs to simply be viewed as “commerce” and your strategy should reflect this – much like how, for many, the word “digital” has become redundant in “digital marketing”.
The majority of people spend most of their time in digital – or in the “e” world – as it is. We’ve all got multiple online touchpoints. And the businesses that are thinking about that, understanding that, embracing that, and continuing to invest in that customer-centric journey, are going to be the ones that benefit. Any retailer not investing in delivering a seamless experience for consumers across all digital and physical channels is going to find it difficult to trade and be successful in the years to come.
Understanding that we’re all digital, we’re all on mobile, and having that flow through your business model is key. Across digital, we can get bogged down by terminology, labels, and acronyms but, ultimately, the goal for any business is simply growth. A retail business can only grow if it’s acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones, while getting them to spend more.
Serving the customer
Consumer perceptions have also altered when it comes to what they consider “good” customer service. The pandemic has shown just how good certain businesses can be to their customers and all retailers should be aspiring to be that good and better.
For large periods of the last two years, consumers have been unable to visit stores and forced to change their approach to commerce. This approach opened them up to the full range of possibilities that shopping can offer and, if expectations weren’t met by one company, it was easy to find another that would actually fulfil those expectations, making commerce perhaps the most competitive it’s ever been.
Consumers have a number of different channels that they can engage with businesses through. Beyond physical stores, they can visit websites, use WhatsApp, social media, and a range of other channels. As such, your business has to be able to connect with consumers consistently, and seamlessly, across all avenues. And this service is just as important – if not more so – than the product or service you’re selling.
All communications have to be tailored to the customer’s needs – whether that’s an email, a targeted ad, or a direct interaction with the customer in-store. Only one bad instance of customer service at any touchpoint could cost you that customer.
Your strategy and the journey you produce for your customers needs flexibility. Not every customer is going to take the same path toward interacting and making a purchase with your business. And this has to be reflected in the user experience that you provide to each customer.
An improved experience
Personalising your customer journey by using data at all stages of the funnel is one of the key things to do when looking to improve your customer experience. The more relevant and relatable the experience is, the more engaged the audience will be with your business. Finding this relevance can be slightly more difficult with new customers, but can be reached with ads via measures such as context or predefined audiences.
Customer perception also plays an important role in brand awareness. Consumers are more likely to want to interact with and buy from companies that they connect with emotionally, and offer them some incentive to return. Your brand should be recognisable, cut through the noise, be transparent, and communicate your values to the consumer.
In addition, you should take into account that acquiring new customers costs a lot more than retaining and upselling to existing ones. So, it’s wise to introduce initiatives that increase customer loyalty and engagement, such as loyalty points schemes or gifts for your most loyal customers.
Quite simply, a customer-centric approach to shopping right across the online and physical worlds will foster loyalty, build a strong customer base and, ultimately, grow your business.