Guest Post by Ben Barnes
By mid-April, eCommerce sales in the United States and Canada saw a 129 percent increase in year-over-year growth. A recent report by analysts at global retail insights firm Edge by Ascential anticipates COVID-19 will add £5.3 billion ($7 billion) to UK eCommerce in 2020, taking the yearly prediction from £73.6 billion ($97.8 billion) to £78.9 billion ($104.8 billion).
As well as being a short-term boost for eCommerce retailers, this global upward trend is predicted to continue globally as shoppers experience the convenience and ease of shopping online.
For eCommerce retailers, this serves as a wake-up call to review your existing eCommerce set-up, ensuring it’s fit for purpose as competition intensifies with increased consumer demand.
To help kickstart your review process, we’ve identified six key signs that your enterprise eCommerce website isn’t fit for purpose and won’t meet the demands of consumers who are spending more money online than ever before.
Personalization is extremely important for consumers when engaging with a brand. Because of this, it’s important to personalize the experience as much as possible across every touchpoint. However, this goes beyond simply personalizing emails and personal communications.
One area eCommerce retailers can explore to enhance and personalize the customer experience is their own website. In-house marketers who are personalizing their web experiences and who are able to quantify the improvement see, on average, a 19 percent uplift in sales.
With this in mind, if your brand is stuck on a platform that doesn’t allow personalization of the customer experience, or requires complex coding and bespoke work to do so, it’s a sign you need to make a change. Some of the elements that can and should be personalized on an eCommerce website include:
Given that personalization is a key success factor for online retailers ensuring that you have the right back-end systems in place and that your eCommerce site can connect to them is vital. Systems that enable retailers to deliver personalized experiences include customer relationship management software and email marketing/automation platforms.
eCommerce platforms that connect to these systems usually do so through a patchwork of integrations. While this may work for smaller retailers we’re seeing a big shift in the way core retail systems like these are purchased and integrated into retail operations.
Rather than relying on integrations to connect these systems, new Unified Commerce platforms that incorporate CRM, eCommerce, inventory management, and email marketing run from one central database with no integrations between systems. The result is that all data, from product information to customer purchase history, is available across all channels in real-time so are updated instantly. It helps brands to focus on real-time, data-driven decision making.
From an eCommerce perspective this means that online stock will always be up-to-date, loyalty programs and vouchers can be used across all channels, and that customer data can be used to personalize the online experience without relying on multiple systems which have the potential to go wrong if integrations fail.
We’ve known since a Google algorithm update back in 2015 that the mobile-friendliness of your website is a key ranking factor. If your site isn’t fully optimized for mobile and tablet users, it’s almost certainly having an impact on your rankings and the organic traffic coming to your website.
The reason that Google made this change is because they recognize more consumers are reaching for a mobile device when searching online. Omnichannel shopping habits require your website to be accessible regardless of the device.
According to Think With Google, 6 in 10 internet users start shopping on one device but continue or finish on a different one, and 82 percent of smartphone users say they consult their phones on purchases they're about to make in a store.
Websites that are built on older platforms or that haven’t been refreshed or updated for two to three years may well benefit from an upgrade or even migration to another platform. In early 2020, we saw many eCommerce businesses move away from the Magento 1 platform as it reached "end-of-life."
Loyalty programs are important to consumers and brands need to work harder to develop programs that work across all channels. According to a 2018 report by Bond, over 70 percent of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand if it has a good loyalty program and 77 percent say that a loyalty program is more likely to make them stay with a brand.
With this in mind, a loyalty program that only works in-store and not online, and vice versa, won’t satisfy the needs of your consumers. And, as an increase in online shopping continues to drive customers to your website, retaining your customers is just as important as winning them in the first place. A loyalty increase of 7 percent can boost lifetime profits per customer by as much as 85 percent.
Ensuring that your enterprise eCommerce site allows customers to spend points and vouchers that they have collected across all channels, not just online is crucial. Typically, retailers are using different systems for their online and offline channels which can be a problem. If your eCommerce site can’t provide this cross-channel functionality, it might be time to consider a Unified Commerce platform if you are a multi-channel retailer.
Any retailer that is operating online should be doing so with a data-first mindset. This could be using software to pull data from social media on the latest trends or using tools like Google Analytics to monitor and report on website activity. If you’re not harnessing the power of data you’re missing out on a myriad of opportunities.
Although Google Analytics is the go-to for many eCommerce and digital marketers your eCommerce platform should also have its own built-in reporting suite. Google Analytics is great for telling you where your traffic is coming from, how your campaigns are performing, and other key statistics such as conversion rate, but it doesn’t give you the whole picture.
An enterprise eCommerce platform that will do the job its meant to do and that will support your growth adds an extra layer to your Google Analytics data. For example, you should look for an eCommerce platform that offers a suite of additional reporting metrics including sales by category, brand and collection, best sellers, best customers, low stock, and search history.
For some retailers, selling through third-party channels like ASOS marketplace, Amazon, and Zalando is just as important as selling through their own website. It’s therefore crucial that your own eCommerce website makes the process of uploading and supplying information to sites like these as easy and efficient as possible.
One of the main advantages of having an eCommerce platform that connects to channels like these is that it saves information having to be inputted multiple times into multiple systems. The best eCommerce platforms allow users to list products on Amazon and eBay from within the CMS, without having to manage listings in multiple accounts and platforms.
In addition to listings, consolidating sales data from all of your channels in your eCommerce platform helps to get a quick, clean, and holistic view of your online sales performance. It also means that you can manage shipping in one system saving your team significant amounts of time and effort.
COVID-19 has certainly had a big short-term impact on online shopping. With those effects also predicted to have a longer-term impact as more shoppers reach for their smartphone when feeling the urge to make a purchase, now is the time for retailers to be optimizing and updating their online shopping experience.
The market is full of enterprise eCommerce options, although some of the bigger names may not provide the flexibility you need to get ahead of competitors and provide your customers with the personalized, optimized experience they expect.
Our experience is that many retailers are moving away from "off-the-shelf" eCommerce solutions and looking for bespoke solutions that provide better value for money and that offer the flexibility required to meet changing consumer shopping habits.
Ben Barnes (ACIM) is co-owner at Barnes & Shirley, a digital marketing agency that works with software businesses and manufacturers to generate more business using inbound marketing. Ben is a Diploma qualified CIM practitioner with eight years of practical experience implementing strategy reviews and day-to-day tactical plans. Follow our updates on LinkedIn.