For retailers, the era of designing digital experiences aiming to simply draw traffic is long over. Today’s successful ecommerce retailers have to layer an improved shopping journey on ecommerce initiatives aiming to, among other considerations, fine-tune usability and personalization features.
And, as ecommerce experts explain, future-ready retailers should also deploy more tools to invigorate their digital and offline to online shopping experiences, such as subscription models and flexible shipping options.
Designing for smooth operations
Site usability and user experience (UX) are some of the leading factors for retail success, explains Deanna Traa, Chief Marketing Officer at Bold Commerce.
“Sites can’t be a collection of boxes any longer, but now have to focus on site navigation and searchability, and perceptive ways to make it easier for the customer to access product details,” Traa says.
A widening gap between what should be in place for ecommerce experiences and what is taking place is a challenge for retailers to hurdle. As the Baymard Institute reported in their research on checkout and UX, 36% of sites offer checkouts that are mediocre while 6% of sites have checkouts that are labeled “poor.”
Reducing friction should be at the core of smoothing the buying process, and leveraging the strength of best-in-breed partners for checkout, as an example, can take another responsibility off the shoulders of brands already overwhelmed by ecommerce projects.
“There are fundamental challenges retailers are up against to create an intuitive shopping experience, and they need to ensure the checkout experience is optimized for any device.”
Traa adds how creating a seamless mobile and responsive sites will help retailers brace for the continual surge of mobile shoppers, accelerated even more by 2020: numerous reports found that mobile devices have been by far the most popular device for online shopping during the pandemic, with 72% of consumers using mobile devices to shop.
Recommendations from McKinsey & Company echo Traa: “With more customers now engaging through mobile devices, retailers must ensure that all digital channels are integrated and offer consistent services (such as payment options) and experiences (such as shopping carts updated in real time across devices).”
Personalization in the omnichannel
“Can you recognize me in all channels?” Traa is asking retailers rhetorically. She emphasizes how retailers should build personalized experience for their consumers, no matter where they interact with the brand.
To thrive in an omnichannel environment, successful retailers should make every moment shoppable, Traa notes, and also curate those consumer journeys based on the troves of data brands can accumulate. Now more than ever, Big Data can help cultivate consumer profiles to brands who will take the time to parse through them and better launch evidence-based strategies.
In practical terms, that means having a unified view of the customer from all channels, ranging from website to social to in-store (if applicable).
Part of being effective in driving growth through ecommerce, too, is taking the reins on the opportunity. As a recent RSR report Retail eCommerce In Context: The Next Iteration noted, leading brands “are leaning into the challenge of creating differentiating experiences for consumers, while all others feel they are being pushed by both their competition and their potential shoppers.”
How subscriptions could boost customer retention
There’s a reason why 78% of adults subscribe to at least one service, while several years ago that figure hovered around 50%. When ecommerce brands fold subscriptions into their business model, they are no longer solely reliant on one-off purchases; instead, they can engage with customers on a deeper level and turn infrequent visitors to committed users.
“Retailers want that ultimate goal of predictable recurring revenue that is profitable, and subscriptions help with that goal,” Traa says.
Subscriptions fall under several models to consider depending on what brands are looking to offer consumers including:
- Replenishment subscriptions: The simplest and most popular framework, whereby subscribers receive a steady supply of products periodically
- Curation subscriptions: Allow customers to receive products or services designed for them specifically, often based on data inputted by subscribers
- Access subscriptions: Most popular with brands sharing expertise and education, while also giving subscribers access to exclusive products before they launch to the public
In some retail categories, such as health and wellness, subscriptions are especially attractive for consumers, considering how opting for a healthy lifestyle takes the kind of commitment that lasts years. Those consumers, delivering predictable revenue all brands aim to receive, cherish brand loyalty and the convenience of working with retailers that offer them convenience for products essential to their way of living.
Meeting and exceeding consumer expectations
A telling line from the recent RSR report points to a challenge retailers will need to overcome to succeed: “Retailers are very aware that in a world of product and price ubiquity, consumers are more than willing to abandon a retailer if the shopping journey doesn’t meet expectations.”
Considering how empowered shoppers have become by increasingly competitive ecommerce offerings, meeting them halfway isn’t an option. Their expectations should ideally be surpassed by the shopping journey retailers provide online.
The good news is, not every aspect of the machine has to be repaired or upgraded at once, Traa says. “Take an issue like cart abandonment, which can be as high as 78% by some estimates, and figure out how to solve that problem. Understand where in the shopping experience they tend to bail on their carts,” she says.
Also, how retailers manage the nuances of ecommerce retail, such as shipping will be noticed by consumers, new or loyal. Being clear about shipping services and delivery times, Traa says, and doubling down on more recent trends such as BOPIS will further strengthen the brand-customer relationship.
No one said succeeding in online retail would be easy, especially as many brands emergeout of a pandemic that shifted the commerce landscape immensely. But those brands that invest in innovation, and foster a culture of high-level customer service will be leading the way.
Download “Retail ecommerce in context: the next iteration,” sponsored by Bold Commerce, here.