VAIMO’S RETAIL RESOLUTIONS 2016
As we know, there’s no slow-down seen in eCommerce growth - virtual sales will be worth $327 billion by 2016, compared to $202 billion in 2011 (source: Forrester Research, Inc). Retailers are pulling out all the stops and are constantly sprucing up their online shopping experience to ensure that they’re providing their consumers with the latest and most unique purchasing journey. With the rise of mobile as a major shopping channel, customers hold more power than ever and expect a seamless omnichannel experience across all devices. Thankfully, retailers also have updated ways to research and analyse consumer behaviour. We expect that this year won’t bring any brand-new trends, but what we forecast is added intensity and value to current eCommerce trends. Perhaps 2016 is the year when merchants will up their game and mobile, social, and omnichannel will evolve from interesting concepts to real revenue drivers.
Here are some of our thoughts:
Be the Retailer Your Customers Want
Have you ever heard the age-old adage, “be the one, instead of looking for the one?” We can utilise this same advice in the world of eCommerce by becoming the retailer your customers are looking for. By next year, consumers will be spending more on online shopping as retail sales continue to increase every year. As an online merchant, it’s essential to take advantage of the increase in sales by analysing your consumer data and understanding who your customers are. What are your customers looking for, how are they searching for it, and what drives their shopping choices? If your demographic is mostly millennials, you know that social information drives their purchasing decisions and their social networks travel with them 24/7 on their smartphones. Based on this, we know that a customised purchasing journey that features consumer opinions is an important factor for this specific target group. Millennials are also highly motivated by mindful purchases, and supporting causes they care about through the money they spend. By analysing the unique preferences of your customers, you can better understand how to tailor your shopping experience for them.
Resolve to Use Real-Time Analytics
Older online analytics showed an issue or a lag in conversion rates days or weeks later, when it was too late to do something about it. With modern analytic tools, it’s possible to track sales figures and problems on your site as they are occurring, in real time. For example, if you were shown a statistic that displayed a drastic drop in sales from last weekend, you would need to figure out what went wrong, and guess what - those sales are lost. But if you were viewing the problem in real time, you could spot that, for example, a payment method was not working, and you could actively try to fix the problem and even communicate in real-time with your online customers via live chat.
Engage Your Customers
An important factor that draws shoppers into physical stores instead of shopping online is that extra touch that interacting with store staff adds to the customer experience. When I walk into my favourite clothing store, a sales person usually greets me warmly and is available when I need to ask about different sizes, or advice on whether a certain colour works for me. I can feel the texture of the fabrics and look at colours in different lighting, and I can consult with the same sales person when I have a problem. It’s not a surprise then, that online conversion rates and the number of abandoned carts are much higher then that of in-store sales. That’s why in the upcoming year, online retailers will need to proactively engage customers throughout the customer online journey instead of idly waiting for customers to check out with their purchases. From live chat, to interactive features and relevant content, big brands are gearing up to provide an engaging customer experience that will rival that of an in-store visit.
Level Up Your Personalisation
Last year, one of the hottest trends in eCommerce was personalising your online customer experience, whether this meant showing relevant content to the shopper or having the site remember shopping lists, user data and preferences. So how can retailers level up? While customisation has so far worked based on login or registration, the new customer journey will feature relevant, personalised content without the extra step of logging in. Technology that targets customer behaviour allows retailers to better determine the customer journey and thereby provide buyers with the specific information they need at the right time.
We also see personalisation seeping into the area of deliveries now, with deliveries going straight to the customer, waiting for them to unpack the items, and offering instant returns. Deliveries are also much faster, and flexible, such as River Island's new "click and don't collect" feature that they developed in partnership with Shutl. The new option allows deliveries to customers within 90 minutes of their order or at a time convenient for them, for a small fee.
Do More for Mobile
Commerce on smartphones is expected to skyrocket from $3 billion in 2010 to $31 billion in 2016 (source: Forrester Research, Inc). In the coming year, retailers need to actively engage with their mobile customers, whether it’s via live chat, or implementing features that will mirror an in-store experience. For example, The Home Depot’s consumers are mostly regular home owners that often lack knowledge about exactly what kind of tool they are searching for. The home construction superstore implemented live chat, product reviews, and a scan function that supports the client online and in their store. The mobile experience rivals that of the in-store experience, and that’s what we can expect more of in 2016. We also know that the technologies for developing web and apps are merging and moving towards a multi-platform approach much like video games - this will bring development and maintenance costs down.
“Mobile is a key device in omnichannel and merchants should really view mobile as a supporting channel rather than an isolated one, as it’s there almost throughout the entire customer purchase journey.” - PJ Utsi, CCO at Vaimo
Payments remain an obstacle for first-time buyers, as banks currently still dictate how the process must happen. We predict that innovation will occur in this sector very soon. While credit cards will stick around for the time being, eventually something truly digital will win by making more logical sense. Buyers will wonder why they actually need a plastic card at all, as people barely carry wallets anymore. All that’s really needed to identify yourself is your fingerprint. Again, mobile plays a key role in payments.
We have been stressing the importance of omnichannel for years now, and this will be an active field for us this year as well. It's vital to offer your buyers a seamless omnichannel buying experience that includes brick and mortar stores, which play a key role in deliveries and returns. The experience also needs to include your website, mobile presence and social media. Businesses need to ensure that they offer a flexible solution that meets customer needs and can compete with others on the market.
Realise That Low Prices Are Not Enough
Low prices are no longer the driving force in sales, and especially not in online sales. For example, a consumer might pay more for a coffee in a shop that offers better atmosphere, comfier seats, and friendlier baristas. This same concept applies to your online shop. You need to be able to offer a customer experience and a design that makes your customer feel comfortable, happy and inspired in the virtual atmosphere you have created. Online retailers need to concentrate on the needs of their customers and productively utilise storytelling to create an user experience that will drive sales and make the brand memorable in a positive way.
Make Your Shopping Social
Consumers these days are researching before they buy, and why not - the world is at their fingertips in their smartphone. I personally will even do a quick background check on a brand or a company, if I’m not familiar with the retailer before I make a purchase. The good thing about shopping online is that there are commentators and reviews everywhere. If I want to purchase skin care products, I know there are several beauty blogs I can turn to, or a simple hashtag search in Instagram will do the trick. Shoppers are actively looking for information and making this an essential aspect of their buying process. This means that merchants can’t just sit back and wait for word-of-mouth content to pop up online about their products. By actively placing positive experience stories and marketing campaigns into the purchase journey, merchants can raise awareness about their brands and consequently create long-lasting relationships with their customers. By using social media to your advantage, you can drive sales by communicating with customers when they are first discovering the products online.
Plan Ahead for High Seasons
"In 2015, we made preparations for the holiday season as well as Black Friday. Before Black Friday, we agreed to offer a 30% discount on our B2B site and 20% off on vattensport.nu. We advertised the special offers via email in our newsletter and on social media. For the holiday season, we decided to hold a giveaway on Instagram, as well as send out a newsletter, hold a Christmas campaign via Google Adwords, and also promote offers on social media. Our Black Friday discounts yielded good results and we received a large amount of traffic. What we would do differently in 2016 is extend the time period for the offer. For example, we could have kept the special discount from Black Friday all the way to Cyber Monday. Our Christmas campaign didn't produce the results we were hoping for, and we believe the reason is that this year, we offered specific products for a discounted price instead of offering a discount for all products, as we did on Black Friday. As it seems like Christmas sales have started earlier every year, our goal now for next year is to plan the Christmas campaign earlier.”