In the continually changing and growing digital world, there is an ever-expanding range of issues facing ecommerce managers, many of which are a barrier to growth when looking for new ways to increase revenue. Others issues emerge with the introduction of new technology, such as personalisation and new service offerings.
As an ecommerce manager or merchant, these worries might sound familiar. Fortunately, there are solutions out there.
Competing on price
Shopping online has long had a reputation as the ‘cheaper’ option, and with the addition of competitive marketplaces such as Amazon, consumer demand for rock bottom prices rages on. Consumers increasingly look for and expect a competitive price, and the ability to conduct extensive online research to compare products and prices has given them the power to do so.
Many ecommerce retailers find themselves caught up in price wars, slashing prices and churning out discounts to keep customers from going elsewhere. Even in industries where discounting isn’t as prevalent, many ecommerce managers fall back on price to differentiate from competitors.
Unsurprisingly, the strain of continued discounts and price reductions while also trying to keep an eye on the bottom line is a concern for many ecommerce managers.
With most customers now recognising the convenience value of online shopping, retailers no longer have to focus entirely on offering the lowest price. In fact, ecommerce managers should be actively promoting their USPs to customers such as click & collect and free returns.
While it’s important to remain competitive and be aware of expected price benchmarks in your industry, focus should shift to how your OVP can be used to differentiate your business.
Examine what competitors are offering and how you can deliver something better. For example, if next day delivery is yet to be utilised by your competitors, make it a priority to invest in implementing and promoting this opportunity. While delivery options are steadily becoming a standard for ecommerce, you may find newer techniques such as live chat are still a novelty.
Often there are basic criteria that many ecommerce sites fail to address, such as customer service that goes above and beyond. While these services are nothing new, if the quality standard is falling short in your industry they can easily become your own unique value proposition. Additionally, you may find ways to improve basic services with newer technology that competitors have yet to utilise.
Managing offline and online presence
For retailers with both an offline and online presence, it can be hard to prioritise and manage the two together. While ecommerce has clearly grown substantially in recent years, physical stores continue to be an important part of the consumer shopping experience. Statistics indicate 72% of digital shoppers consider in-store experience as the most important channel when making a purchase, and 71% of in-store shoppers now consider their smartphone has an important part of the shopping experience.
With this in mind, which should take centre stage, and how can ecommerce managers best connect the two?
Neither presence should take priority over the other. Instead, ecommerce managers should look to create and optimise a seamless omnichannel experience. Increasingly the customer journey is taking place over many devices and channels, with ever more demanding expectations for a smooth transition from research to purchase.
Use sales figures and data along with customer feedback to ascertain the role of both your online and offline presence to your customers. Findings may highlight the journey your customers are taking, whether that’s researching and gathering product information online and purchasing in store, or using the physical store as a ‘showroom’ before finally purchasing online for convenient home delivery. Once your online and offline roles have been established you can begin to leverage your resources to reflect the customer journey, creating the right omnichannel strategy.
There is a range of omnichannel fulfilment and delivery options that can be integrated into your strategy to fit your customer’s journeys. More customers than ever are looking to delivery options, rather than just the price, as a determinant for their purchase decision. This includes programs that enable customers to return online purchases in store and a click and collect option, which 49% of shoppers said they were using more in 2016 than in the year before.
If you feel your business isn’t logistically ready to introduce omnichannel delivery options, it can be just as beneficial to introduce visual inventory and ship from store programs. Ship from store can help fulfil online orders with stock straight from your store when warehouse inventory is out, while 82% of shoppers have highlighted the ability to check product availability online before a store visit as their top omnichannel capability.
Not only are these programs essential to managing your offline and online operations, a seamless omnichannel experience is also a preferable value proposition to competitive pricing.
Ecommerce retailers are always on the lookout for the next best technology that could potentially help or disrupt their current operations. Disruptive technologies such as virtual reality have talked a big game in recent years, yet both consumers and retailers have been slow to adopt.
With some technologies and opportunities taking their fifteen minutes of fame before fading into obscurity and others never fully realising their potential at all, it can be hard to know which ones are worth the time and money.
Most recently, chat bots have been causing a stir in ecommerce. By providing a way for customers to interact with a company through a messenger app, the automated program should be able to ‘converse’ with customers, providing product information and answers to service questions. For customers, it can be a fast and interactive way to get the answers they need and find products quicker. For ecommerce retailers, chat bots can potentially automate otherwise mundane and time-consuming tasks.
Is this latest innovation here to stay and how should ecommerce managers utilise it?
Chat bots look to take advantage of the 75% of internet users worldwide that accessed messaging services as of 2015 as well as the healthy average retention rate that is double other mobile apps. Along with these attractive consumer numbers, early adopters have also shown some success with chat bots. By all indications, this is one ecommerce trend here to stay.
When looking at chat bots, or any new technology, ecommerce managers should look at their own industry and then their own business to evaluate its possible benefits and drawbacks.
Chat bots can help with brand awareness, product questions, cart abandonment, payments, customer questions and ongoing engagement. Look at your data and study customer feedback to see whether any one or more of these are currently a problem for your business, or could become a key USP with some improvement. If so, maybe it’s time to look at chat bots.
It may also be worth installing a live chat on your website. Use the live chat to gauge how your customers initially take to this type of technology. What are they using it for – product queries, service questions? Are they using it at all? Use this to guide your use of the chat bot, or whether you use it at all.
Maintaining business investment
Ecommerce investments can take a long time to come to fruition and without instant results, ecommerce managers worry that senior management may refuse more investment. This can be seen with ecommerce sites that fail to ‘keep up with the times’, are happy to get by on the same site and strategy they’ve had in place for years and see little point in investing in new ecommerce technology.
When it comes to investment, numbers are the key. While ecommerce investment can take a while to begin showing returns, there are still some basic metrics that can be used as early indicators to help convince management that investment is worthwhile.
Use more basic and low-cost ecommerce improvements, such as some CRO techniques, to show the direct impact on revenue. Extrapolate these improvements to show how increased investment could produce similar and potentially better results in the future.
Additionally, use case studies and research to show how investments have worked for others, particularly within your own industry. It can also be worth undertaking your own research to gain customer feedback, for example asking for preference on delivery options to show what your customers want and where you could be missing out.
Revenue continues to be a top concern for all ecommerce managers. It’s what senior management looks at when deciding whether to continue investment and ultimately, it’s what signifies a job well done. As the lifeblood of the business, revenue is often the thing that keeps ecommerce managers and retailer up at night. The question, as always, is how to get more.
While it can be beneficial to focus on the total revenue, such as increasing ad spend to get more traffic and potential sales, it should really be bottom line rather than top line thinking that takes centre stage.
This means looking at ways to increase revenue, but prioritising strategies that focus on ROI. In other words, considering costs and revenue together, not just looking to increase one or even cut the other. Increasing ad spend may get you more traffic and, by default, more sales, but you always run the risk of seeing your ROI drop.
Ecommerce managers should shift focus to techniques such as conversion rate optimisation (CRO), which concentrate on getting more conversions from the traffic that you already have. CRO uses analytics and data to test and implement improvements on your ecommerce site with the direct aim of increasing conversions. This can be anything from streamlining the checkout process to optimising your call to actions. While some of these changes may require some investment, such as purchasing new extensions, CRO is more draining on time than money.
Increasing your revenue without substantially increasing your costs should also involve looking at your key metrics to find weak spots. For example, you may find that your average order value (AOV) could be improved. Simply setting a limit to qualify for free delivery or creating discounts on bundles of items can help to increase your average order value. AOV can have a big impact on your overall revenue and, like CRO, improving AOV focuses on your current traffic with solutions that are more time rather than cost involved.
If one or all of these problems have been keeping you up at night, contact one of our team today to discuss some of the ecommerce solutions we could provide for you.