It seems that digital is high on the agenda for many with a number of big retailers bolstering up their investment in the online space. This will now become a pivotal time for the industry in Australia as digital will now need to live up to its expectations.
However for organisations embarking on digital a build it and they will come mentality will probably lead to less than effective outcomes. So what is a marketer to do? Start by understanding some of the critical success factors for online retailing – that’s what. Of course whilst critical success factors will differ greatly amongst industries, this article attempts to get you thinking about some of the big issues.
Online Value Proposition
As the online space becomes more saturated, consumers will have a plethora of choice. So what is going to set your online store and experience apart? Many organisations simply decide to replicate their offsite experience without adding value to consumers. Defining an online value proposition/s enables your organisation to determine how you will differentiate your online offering to deliver something of value to your audience/s that they cannot get elsewhere. This is what is going to drive users back again and again to your site. Refer to Dave Chaffey’s article which covers 6 C’s and 7 Ps to help define your online value proposition
Tackle the barriers head on
What are the key factors that will stop consumers from purchasing from you online? That’s the question you need to be asking yourself. For traditional bricks and mortar stores in an industry like clothing or footwear, consumers have the ability to view, touch and try the potential product but online this is simply not possible. So how are you going to reassure consumers that the decision they are making is the right one? Detailed product descriptions and interactive imagery displaying the product from various angles are key as is a strong return policy or product guarantee. All of these elements will help to minimise the obstacles to purchase.
Building consumer trust online is important even if you are a large brand. How many times have you as a consumer been ready to confirm your order only to find that there are added booking fees, delivery costs or some other surcharge? Hiding details such as these are perceived as deceptive and can devalue any positive experience the consumer has had until that point thus it is better to be un-front with your customers from the outset.
Users will come to your site for a variety of reasons but regardless of their purpose, there are some core site functions they will interact with. Search is one of those functions which I would class as a defining moment because if I can’t find what I am looking for, I am out of here, with little chance of return. Defining moments however go beyond search, thus it is important for online retailers to ask – what are our sites defining moments and then invest in them. Invest in research prior to build, test the results and test some more – user behaviour can change overtime as can expectations thus continual optimisation is key. If your site can’t perform its basic core functions, consumers will doubt it’s ability to live up to its promises.
A great online experience can quickly be undone with poor fulfilment, much of which stems from ineffective management of consumer expectations. Amazon.com is an example of a brand who manages its consumer’s expectations, enabling them to choose their delivery timeframes and also to track deliveries. A users experience goes beyond a site and strong fulfilment is what will keep consumers coming back to your site. Therefore organisations must ensure robust processes for product or service delivery have been put in place to deliver on the expectations set within the purchase process.
Online & Offline Integration
Some brands have made the mistake of running their online and offline strategies in complete silo, making it difficult for consumers to switch between channels during the purchase process. If a consumer wishes to reserve the item online to pick it up in store, then consider how you can make this process as seamless as possible. If the consumer purchases an item online and returns it instore allow them to do so. Regardless of your online strategy consumers will see your organisation as 1 brand – not different channels thus integrating the 2 into 1 seamless experience should be the ultimate goal.