Small Steps Can Equal Big Gains in Ecommerce Marketing

Small Steps Can Equal Big Gains in Ecommerce Marketing

By Brian Gallagher

2014 is here and it’s slated to be a very big year for the eCommerce industry.

Customers will continue to demand more from the retailers they shop with and eCommerce businesses will race to not only provide a streamlined user experience, but also one that is personalized and intuitive. With well-defined strategies and a full understanding of best practices for 2014, eCommerce retailers can provide world-class customer service, personalization and avoid getting stuck in the past.

Here is a list of best practices every eCommerce company should apply to their store in 2014:

Get small wins or fail quickly: One of my favorite business books is Little Bets by @PeterSims.  This book helps the reader better understand that true innovation comes from a series of small discoveries and that failure is not a dirty word when the risk you take is small and the ability to learn is seen as an opportunity to take you one step closer to something great. For the Internet retailer, this approach can be used to test new pricing strategies, enter into new channels, apply customer segmentation or even launch new website features.  Use your data to identify problems or opportunities and then take small steps towards improvement or breakthroughs.  Analyze your data and take the next step.  Don’t try and plan 10 steps in advance. Too many ‘go big or go home’ ideas take time, cost more dollars and crash hard when those ideas fail.

Big data = less action?: Many eCommerce retailers don’t know what to do with all the data available to them and often find themselves struggling on how to interpret the data or how to put the information to work. This leads to those retailers trying to focus on too many KPIs at once, resulting in a drain on resources. Worse still, some retailers use web analytics tools that are complicated to use and provide no call-to-action. In today’s super competitive landscape, retailers need to quickly understand their data and take action! Finding eCommerce tools (like @Springbot) that collects AND analyzes your data will help you tackle today’s ‘eCommerce challenge’ and avoid marketing action paralysis.

Don’t get stuck in the past: Retailers are like everyone else; they want to stick with what they think works or what has worked in the past. But what eCommerce marketing experts continue to see is that what worked in 2004, or 2008, didn’t work as well in 2012 and are completely obsolete in today’s market.

In an Amazon world where everything is free and fast, and Zappos offers ‘buy without risk’ with a 365-day return policy; do you have an everyday free shipping and free returns policy?  Or do you still think that shipping fees are a revenue driver?

As the world gets smaller each and everyday, are you thinking about accepting international payments and shipping international? What about making your site multilingual?  Or are you still focused exclusively on accepting US dollars and shipping within the United States? You don’t have to be a top 100 Internet Retailer to consider international shipping and payments.  Third-party logistics providers like #Borderfree make it easier to get into the international game without opening a single new warehouse.

As the industry continues to ship more smartphones and tablets than desktop devices each year, are you adopting a ‘mobile first’ strategy?  Do you see that your traffic from tablets is most likely on the rise, while desktop traffic is flat? Or is your mobile site still the redheaded stepchild?

Are you selling products that are readily available (especially on Amazon)?  If so, are you taking steps to differentiate yourself from everyone else?  Are you working to create a unique value proposition with your products and content?  Or are you simply trying to compete on price with everyone?

These are just a few areas where if you are not applying new focus and creating new strategies, this eCommerce bus that we are all happily riding right now will either kick you off or run you over.

Your customers are NOT all the same: Most retailers that I have worked with over the years spend very little time truly attempting to understand their customer or more importantly, customer personas.  I say that because those who do think they understand their customer think that it’s the same customer persona regardless of how they find you or how/when they choose to engage with you.  It used to be the online shopper vs. the in-store/offline shopper.  Then we discovered multi-channel retailing, which turned into Omni-channel retailing. Regardless of the term you use, both focused on the overarching need to integrate the in-store and online shopping experience.

In my opinion, it’s even more complex.  All consumers want the lowest price, but have different price thresholds for making a purchase.  But customers, who engage and buy via email, are not the same customers who engage and buy via paid search or comparison-shopping engines. All of these channel shoppers find and engage with you based upon timing and need (some are looking or hunting to make a purchase, others are drawn to make a purchase).  Different channels have different personas.  Retailers need to treat these channels differently when attempting to engage with these shoppers.  By better understanding your different customer personas (by channel) and catering to their specific needs and driver, the online retailer can attract more customers from each channel and maximize profitability.

Your customers ARE all the same: While your customers want you to treat them differently based upon how they are shopping or how they find you, there are a few things that all customers want…

“Where everyone knows your name” – every customer wants to feel special or unique.  Make sure that your customers don’t feel like a number.  Use your site and emails to create a personalized experience by focusing on their known preference or past purchases.  Use the data you have to speak to your customers in a way that anticipates their needs or to create additional interest in a category or product line.

Love your customers – show your customers that it’s not just about getting the sale.  Let them know that the entire experience that they have with you is just as important.

Over communicate on order shipment and delivery notifications.  This information builds trust in your brand and can help reduce the number of customer service contacts.

When your customers do need to speak to you, give them options. That means that you need to give them more than phone and email support.  Online chat, Twitter and Facebook are also expected options from today’s consumer.

Use great packaging for shipping that announces your brand is here to make them happy with a great a product.

Ask for feedback on the purchase and the experience.  Email surveys are easy ways to get information on where you can improve.  But the most important part is how you respond.  Consumers want to know that they are being heard when they give you feedback (good and bad) and that you are taking steps to correct the issues.  Remember, they took the time to give you the feedback; the least you can do is acknowledge them.

Say ‘I am Sorry’ when you fail to meet expectations.  Like everywhere else, consumers will be willing to give you another chance when you genuinely apologize and work to correct the issue.

Say ‘Thank You’.  Even when you have done everything right and the customer’s need has been satisfied, send a ‘Thank You’ email.  Tell them that you are grateful for their business and that they are important to you.  This is also a great way to keep your brand top of mind and differentiate your email from the countless other promotional emails every consumer receives.

Reward them for being loyal – loyalty programs have long been seen as a way to retain customers and get them to come back more frequently.  The problem with most loyalty programs is that they can be difficult to deploy and maintain (especially for true multi-channel retailers).  For many of us smaller online retailers, loyalty programs can be much easier to build and manage.  These programs are the ones where there is nothing for the consumer to do other than shop with you.   As a consumer, what’s better than being surprised with an online gift card or promotional code for $50 off your next purchase as a special thank you for being a great customer?  A program like this doesn’t require a special sign-up process and membership codes.  Just use the data you already have to create customers segments to identify and track your best customers so you can reward them.

About The Author
Brian Gallagher, a former eBay Enterprise Executive, is a member of Springbot’s Board of Directors. With more than 15 years of combined Internet and eCommerce experience, Gallagher writes for the Springbot Blog covering best practice advice in retail eCommerce, mobile commerce, product strategy, development and marketing. Follow him on Twitter @gallagherb.