It has been proven that the online shopping experience is changing and taking over the traditional in store experience, and I think now is the time to find the gaps that this change has left and make the most out of it.
Some big players may appear to dominate the online marketplace, but there are lucrative opportunities for smart operators.
Lets take Amazon.com as an example of success. They are constantly innovating in an attempt to be the only shop you will ever need, they have same day delivery, free returns, robot-automated warehouses, a concept store where you just walk out with goods, and they even offer delivery by drone. How cool is that? Then add in the cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, which brings in $10 billion a year.
You may ask yourself: “How can I compete with that?”. The truth is, this huge online retailer has helped the market to create niches. We’ll talk more about how you can succeed later on in the article, but first let’s see what is happening around the world – or more specifically, China. With its massive population of 1.4 billion people, and only one big player where they can buy from - the giant Alibaba.com - I think it is time for us to access this massive emerging pool of consumers. It is a tragic fact that British business exports more to Ireland than to China.
The reasons why Brits are scared of trading with the Chinese market, are:
- The language barrier
- The Logistics
- The Laws
- The Bureaucracy
- Lack of basic knowledge
Alibaba made it easy for businesses from anywhere across the globe to access Chinese consumers and even the Google-Apple-Facebook-Amazon quartet called GAFA has now been changed to GAFAA to accommodate for the underdog giant.
“THE SCALE OF THE OPPORTUNITY SHOULD MAKE IT COMPULSORY FOR ALL UK BUSINESSES TO INVESTIGATE ALIBABA”- Charles Orton-Jones, Business Journalist.
What did I learn from Amazon's customer frustrations?
LACK OF PERSONALISATION
We consumers, have been trained for convenience and the easier you make your journey from finding the right product, to the “thanks for buying from us” page, the higher your chance of success will be. It is not the slickest site in the world that will garner the most sales, rather the easiest to use that will succeed.
Firstly, have a look at online businesses from various industries and identify what their successes are before setting up shop online. From car dealers where you can customize your search to get an exact result that will match your budget and taste, to the practicality of booking a flight online; have a look at how companies upsell their products, and learn from their user journey experience.
It is all about personalization, think about all the possible questions that people might ask themselves when searching for the item you are selling and create “filters” that will assure them you have something to fit their exact needs.
Another thing that I found during my research is that to increase the chances of people buying your product, you should clearly show how many items you have left in stock (Ryanair and other airline companies do it really well e.g. “2 seats remaining”). This method prompts faster customer action but also gives a feeling of a reality in the sense that you have a ‘shelf’ of goods so to speak, and that at some point it will need restocking.
ADAPTIVE PERSONALISATION IS HERE TO STAY
Adaptive personalisation is when the online retailer customises the shopping experience on the fly. Let’s imagine that last week I went to my favorite online retailer to buy a dress for my Wife, but today I’m looking for a pair of shoes for me and the site is bombarding me with options of dresses and female clothing.
I think the secret to nailing this is to learn about your client on a per click basis and offer personalization as they browse your site. It is helpful to remember the probabilities of customer behavior, such as the fact customers are more likely to sign up to your site during the checkout process. You can simply adjust your focus to attaining customer information from the moment they reach your site as an anonymous browsing through.
BUYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA HAS YET TO WIN OVER CUSTOMERS
It is just about taking off, but one thing that hasn’t happened yet is changing social media users’ minds from “Like” to “Buy”. People are on social media to share their stories, pictures and cat videos. They are not yet prepared to buy products via Social Media.
Twitter, for example, got rid of their buying button as it was not effective and I believe that Facebook “Market place” wont take off either as users aren’t prepared for that.
The challenge is to offer something different than what all e-commerce websites are already offering…
Personally, I believe that if they want to succeed it should start from an end to the beginning approach. The review of a product for example could be shareable on social media. So lets say you bought an item from Nike and loved it. You go to Nike’s website and write a review about it, then you share your review about that product on your social channels. This course of action could ensure people don’t get bombarded with random offers, but instead will actually make them curious to know more about that particular product or brand that their friend had recently reviewed. Word of mouth is rightfully the best marketing tool ever known.
ABANDONED SHOPPING SESSION
Abandoned shopping carts and sessions have always been seen as a problem, and lots of money has been spent in an attempt to solve it, but we missed the opportunity to use this as a first point conversation with a customer.
The focus should be on how you approach this potential client, using big data and the shopping experience information that you have on them.
Let’s say that you know that this person has made two purchases on your site before and has spent around £150 on goods. You already have a lot of information to help the start of a conversation with this potential client so why not offer them products around their ‘sweet spot’ of £150 and try to encourage larger expenditure through the use of an incentive – maybe a voucher for purchases above £150.
The incentive is extremely important and often effective… Especially when personalised.
CAN SMALL RETAILERS OPERATE LIKE AMAZON? Conclusion
You might ask yourself, “how do I compete with these big companies?”… Don’t worry the are plenty of fish in the sea.
I have been researching e-commerce success stories, and they all have a lot in common. They’ve focused on finding a niche in the market, then created a community of people interested in a particular subject/passion, giving a more thoughtful and personalized service to their client, which is something that Amazon or EBay cannot do.
Another point that caught my attention is that successful retailers are not selling their products via third party sites. This results in sales traffic being funneled straight to their website rather than being split between other sites such as Amazon or EBay. In turn, you will be more likely to have a better profit margin and you won’t be competing with yourself. Customers will be more likely to visit your site for the personal experience that you offer.
A good example is the Electronics Retailer Reichelt.co.uk. Basically, the customer will have a much better experience buying direct from their website as it will have more information, clear calls to action and easier ways of interacting with a specialist, where as Amazon makes your product look like any other product among their billions of choices with a massive lack of personalization. Then there is the Post-sale service
‘Liberty Games sells pool tables, pinball machines and jukeboxes. It believes the size of these goods merits specialist knowledge. Sales director Jamie Stanford points out: “Our vans are designed for heavier tables with tie-down points, non-slip coatings and tail-lifts, and are equipped with trolleys. Our couriers are trained in installing and leveling games tables, allowing us to offer a comprehensive delivery and installation service that cannot be matched by Amazon’s delivery partners.’
Customers are increasingly demanding. They expect accurate information about the product or service that you are offering and they want it for tomorrow, if not today! So you must focus on the “Human factor” as this is what is missing on the online shopping world. Great customer service and client first always is the future.
FIVE MUST-HAVES FOR SUCEEDING ONLINE
Be specific on your product descriptions and try to create landing pages to help people who type full technical terms about your product in their searches: For example, if you sell headphones and after your keyword research you discovered that a reasonable amount of people are typing “Stereo HD Headphones” then create a page called “Stereo HD Headphones” and optimize this page with these search terms. That will make people feel like you’ve got exactly what they are after.
2- Digital Marketing
Imagine you have a nice car, but the tank is empty. You can’t and wont go anywhere! Now imagine your website as the car and digital marketing as the fuel. In the same way that you can’t stop filling the tank in your car, you can’t stop pumping your website with digital marketing or else you’ll fall behind.
The key of this article is personalisation, so do your research, talk to your clients and try to create a shopping experience similar to what they would have on the high street. The sales assistant sees the client browsing in a particular aisle of the shop and then tailors their approach to help them every step of the way.
Payment systems that are consistent across all platforms will be crucial if they are to meet people’s expectations. We all now expect a joined up and connected journey when it comes to purchasing with a significant focus on mobile payments. Digital shopping carts that are synced wherever the customer is in the shopping process will also be crucial.
The future is programmatic commerce: imagine you run out of milk and your fridge simply orders more for you and then the next day you have all you need without a single click or leaving your house. Amazon prime has increased people expectations when it comes to delivery options so it is super important to offer the best options to your customers.