Event: Online Retailer 5 takeaways: Are you keeping up?
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Event: Online Retailer 5 takeaways: Are you keeping up?


The face of retail is changing rapidly. Customers are expecting more from their shopping experiences, both on and offline. Technology is also transforming the way we shop. Through deeper insights and new tools, businesses are able to enhance the shoppers’ journey, intuitively cater to customers’ needs and directly impact basket spend and brand loyalty. Are you keeping up with the evolving landscape? Are you taking advantage of the tools available in this fiercely competitive market?

Last week I attended the Online Retailer eCommerce Expo and thought I would share some of my takeaways. With many an ecommerce technology company demonstrating their wares, I have to say I love walking away from an event inspired by new technology, hearing online success stories and full of ideas.

My top takeaways

  1. When the world changes, retail changes

Tech is changing the way we live, with over 70% of consumers using multiple channels to shop. The consumer is adapting and the split between consumers who like to shop online vs. in-store is balancing. The role of the bricks and mortar store has changed dramatically. Some customers like to visit a store to experience the product, to then purchase online later. 82% of millennials research on mobile however prefers the in-store experience. The mobile shopper can also search, compare and shop with another retailer, while in your store.

As social media continues to play a huge part in influencing purchase decisions, social commerce strategy is fundamental. 39% of digital shoppers use social media in their path to purchase. Social scrapbooking is also quickly becoming a key step to the purchasing funnel. Businesses need to ensure they create content and encourage customers to share it.

Businesses should also recognise that investing in technology is essential. This year the investment focus for companies is estimated to be 67% on websites, 47% on physical stores, 46% in social media and 40% on mobile.

With growing expectations to use technology in-store, businesses need to look at how technology can enhance the in-store experience both for their customers and from their employees’ perspective.

Emerging technologies that facilitate virtual shopping should also be watched. Companies are creating prototypes, Westfield and Tesco are already getting involved, using technologies such as the Oculus Rift, to test possibilities and augmenting user experiences, potentially changing the future store forever.

The consumer wants to be able to interact with your brand on their terms, across any channel, whatever their need. So make sure you are always making it a pleasurable experience, utilising relevant technology, now matter what the channel.

Tip 1: Technology can help you improve your customers’ journey, assist with greater insights and decrease both operational and retention costs. Make sure you invest in giving yourself the advantage.

  1. Mobile leader or laggard

The rise of the multi-channel shopper is directly linked to the growth of the smartphone and tablet. Armed with these tools in hand, shoppers can easily review, research and shop on the go, 24/7.

79% of smartphone owners use their phones to help them shop. Search is the most common starting point for mobile, 48% start on search engines, 33% directly on branded sites and 26% on branded apps. Have you optimised your presence on mobile?

We also know the buyers’ journey is complicated and people are time poor. By keeping your messaging short and succinct you will improve the experience, be more mobile friendly and also rank favourably with Google, which has a raft of additional benefits.

Do you have a deep understanding of the role mobile has in your customer’s path to purchase? Is mobile appropriately reflected in your digital strategy? Have you committed to understanding your target’s behaviour at every retail touchpoint? Are you investing in future-proofing your business with ongoing mobile innovation?

Tip 2: Shift your mobile mindset and make sure you have a mobile-first approach.

  1. Relevance

Customers expect to be informed. Customers also see value in personalisation and transparency along the customer purchase journey. Telstra discovered that;

  • 71% want the ability to return products through any channel
  • 50% value the ability to track order status at the store or online
  • 46% want to receive notification of delivery delays
  • 43% want to know when favourite products are on sale, regardless of whether in store or online
  • 42% want the ability to check stock levels at stores and online.

Are you making the most of your direct access to your customers? Are you personalising your campaigns through time of day, imagery, preferences, products, recommendations and incentives? Are you keeping your customers informed? Your website needs to be like a salesperson in your store and offer a unique, valuable and friendly experience.

Wellington Fonseca from Rent the Runway, formerly Gilt Group, presented a glowing example of how the Gilt business used online tools and customer data to personalise the experience, improve customer service online and through their concierge call service; decreasing unsubscribes and increasing online spend.

Tip 3: Personalisation online drives shopping cart spend.

  1. Search and quality scores

You have to be all over SEO and Google Adwords to optimise your visibility, awareness and page rank. Many people have first-page syndrome where your site won’t even get a look-in if it is not on the first page of Google search.

Here are a few things you need to be thinking about;

  • Boost your analytics game – know your stats. Understand where your users are coming from and make the path to purchase easy and relevant.
  • Improve your SEO smarts – a great way to ensure the right people notice your hard work.
  • Google extensions – make sure you are using extensions where relevant.
  • Google shopping – have you set it up?

Tip 4: Be all over your SEO and optimise Google Adworks. If not, your competitor will be.

  1. Force yourself to think of a different approach.

John Winning, CEO, Winning Group, gave us his thoughts on the secrets to becoming more innovative. After a highly entertaining presentation he left us with five tips to make us think differently, remain innovative and help to future-proof our ideas and strategies.

I loved tip four; “even once you have questioned everything, simplified your problem and created your solution, challenge yourself to think of a different path, as it might be better.”

Tip 5: Stay on top of new technologies as there might always be a better way.

For over 15 years I have placed the customer at the centre of every strategy. In retail specifically, over 9 years ago at Sainsburys, we focused on the customer journey, from the car park to cash register, and how we could tailor the message to improve the experience. More recently I worked for a mobile-first company who helped Australia’s largest supermarket chain redefine their mobile experience, enhancing the in-store experience, mobile commerce and use mobile to provide additional, value added resources. I can comfortably say that not much has changed in terms of what the customer wants. They want convenience, customer service and a pleasant shopping experience. The key change is the technology available and how both consumers and businesses are using it.

Retailers who pursue value differentiation simultaneously with cost control will succeed in the coming years. Established retailers must create diversified and innovative retail formats. Profitability will come from retailers’ ability to deliver these innovative formats effectively, both from a cost and operational perspective.

Are you a business who wants to relevantly cater to your customers’ needs? Do you want operational efficiencies, to improve customer retention, loyalty, drive spend and increase margins? Of course you do.

Hope these tips make you think, rethink and potentially question if you are really making the most of what technology has to offer. Don’t be left behind.

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