Most consumers and retailers realized the inevitable potential for growth as soon as eCommerce ramped up in the 90s. Amazon was the catalyst for online shopping–and as one of the top eCommerce platforms for large retailers–continues to be the benchmark. This includes supporting their merchants by providing an excellent customer user experience.

eCommerce for Retailers is the Logical Route

While it is easy to become distracted by the bells and whistles, technology, tools, and variety of marketing and sales tactics, the goal in eCommerce for retailers is the same as in a physical store: to sell products and services in an organized, enticing environment; however, that doesn’t mean the brick-and-mortar establishment should be re-created on the website. The online shopping experience is meant to be different, and most consumers embrace that, enjoying a streamlined style highlighting popular products–and eliminating extraneous items. 

“At one retailer, 80% of online revenue resulted from 25% of product categories vs. 60% in store, even with a significantly smaller online assortment,” states industry research.

No longer considered the wave of the future, eCommerce is simply how most people conduct business these days, and will only continue to do so more frequently:

Even before the pandemic, consumers had begun to embrace the selection and convenience of eCommerce,” states research from McKinsey. “In 2019, eCommerce represented approximately 25 percent of total retail sales. Since the onset of the pandemic, consumer intent to purchase goods through eCommerce channels has increased by 40 to 60 percent compared with pre-pandemic levels across categories from everyday essentials to clothing and accessories.”

“McKinsey research suggests these shifts in consumer behavior will stick over the long term as individuals become more accustomed to purchasing online. More than 50 percent of consumers expect to continue their online shopping habits after the pandemic abates. This pattern will fuel the growth of online sales, which are expected to contribute to 100 percent of the increase in sales of soft goods over the next three years. Forecasts suggest online sales could account for nearly half of all retail revenues by 2024.”

Delving into eCommerce offers new opportunities to:

  • Create a stronger brand and online presence.
  • Increase the targeted customer base and continue to gather helpful data.
  • Build a more tailored consumer experience across channels.

 Merchandising: Market Products Effectively

No matter how many channels a business is engaging with to advertise or perform business transactions, consumers should be able to navigate back to the website easily and quickly. There, the same product inventory is replicated in a streamlined, well-designed format, providing the consistency customers expect through adhering to solid design guidelines. 

For eCommerce, a successful website is well-designed, organized, highlights products effectively, and traffic is driven there with robust marketing targeting the eCommerce customer base. The online site should also be highly adaptable, easily reflecting trends and demands from customers. Successful eCommerce retailers offer an array of unique features that are relevant to their business, from videos to tutorials, interviews with industry experts, product demonstrations, and more. 

Customers should receive the same level of customer service they would expect in person, and shoppers should have access to:

  • Easy product searches for total product inventory
  • Mobile-friendly (as well as desktop) format
  • Previous product reviews, and the ability to post their own comments
  • Secure website backed by an SSL certificate authenticating the website
  • Safe, easy checkout with numerous payment options
  • Remote virtual interaction such as chatbots

The eCommerce site should also be well-managed with updated product inventory matched to the customer base, compelling details, and fine-tuned customer service. Offering online replacement parts is key for supporting the customer’s needs, along with providing the opportunity to purchase warranties.

If sales are waning, or customers reflect issues with the website (such as speed or difficulty in use), it is probably time to redesign and reconfigure.

Offer Subscriptions to Extend the Sales Cycle 

Continuing to trend upward, B2C Subscriptions offer huge potential for retailers in eCommerce. Rather than settling for that one-time purchase, subscription vendors control and manage ongoing sales, with technology streamlining the process. Since the pandemic, there has been a huge increase in subscriptions. Research shows a 115% growth in trial subscriptions, a 79% growth in software, and a 45% acceleration in eCommerce. 

Create a Seamless Experience from Discovery to Checkout

While the benefits of eCommerce for retailers are vast, every feature must be created with the customer in mind.

“Many customers prefer digital and self-service over assisted-service channels because they are always available and eliminate wait time for an agent. Self-service options must be designed for low effort and high success, or customers will abandon and switch to a higher-cost-assisted channel,” states Gartner Research.

Customers should be able to find you easily online, find the products they want with all the features they need, and buy any and all items quickly (as well as return or exchange them, and buy replacements or related parts easily). Encourage customers to create an account and password, but also offer a guest checkout function. Delivery must also be seamless and timely, whether customers want to pick up at a store or receive items at home or business. 

This part of the process also presents an excellent opportunity to collect necessary first-party data. Your sales and marketing team is then able to study and analyze customer behavior, and offer better guidance for customers still involved in the decision-making process for more complex sales.

Don’t Underestimate Omnichannel

Optimizing omnichannel offerings means understanding what your customers want. We already know the average shopper–whether they are perusing your website or walking around a physical location–is sophisticated in terms of technology, researching products. The modern consumer expects personalization, speed, and a positive onboarding experience.

The omnichannel approach is a winning model for discerning, engaged customers and businesses that are eager to present their brand across a wide variety of different advertising mediums–whether on a website or billboard. Channels should work together easily, with customers toggling back and forth as they wish. 

“Frictionless omnichannel experiences need to go beyond just buying online, in-store pickup and curbside pickup, and enable a truly seamless experience for selling, serving, fulfilling, and delivering,” states Gartner Research. This includes highlighting product fulfillment options in great detail, ‘incentivizing channels’ like online shopping, offering better inventory, and choosing marketplace partnerships wisely.

About the Author

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Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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