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Omnichannel Retail Experiences

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The world has seen eCommerce take a giant leap forward this year. In 2020 retailers were reacting to a changing landscape month by month, week by week and even day by day. The changes implemented in 2020 will undoubtedly lead to success for online retailers in 2021. Platforms like Alibaba, Catch, Amazon, and Mecca had one of their most successful years in history, despite the prevailing economic challenges. Brick-and-mortar stores that were partially selling online witnessed a surge in their online sales, while those primarily trading offline embraced the trend. As we anticipate another year of growth for eCommerce players, let’s look at the top five eCommerce marketing strategies Australian retailers are prioritising to fuel growth in 2021.

Data & Artificial Intelligence

Data plays an integral part in powering Artificial Intelligence (AI) and informing marketing strategies in a rapidly changing environment. eCommerce retailers are typically data-rich, which is a competitive advantage. However, with customer behaviour changing so rapidly due to Covid, regular business  patterns have changed. For example, after panic buying, physical retail being closed for months, economic instability, and competitors either leaning into extra demand or pushing efficiency, it’s likely your PPC strategy has changed considerably. Change impacts every marketing channel:

Are your customers now behaving differently?

Are your suppliers now behaving differently?

Are your competitors now behaving differently?

In the same way ‘the year of mobile’ came and engulfed us a few years ago, ‘the year of AI’ happened recently without many realising:

  • Did you know most display ads you see around the web have been put in front of you in part because of machine-learned algorithms?
  • Google’s ads engine – the fuel behind the company’s revenue – has moved more and more toward AI tools (whether they function as
    they’re labelled is another matter)
  • Twitter, Facebook, and all other major social networks use machine-learned systems to decide what you – a reader – will and will not see.
  • Amazon has built an ads business from very little to $4bn in the last quarter of 2019, basically through the power of machine-learned systems.

Machine learning can be used to carry out simple tasks:

  • Show a customer a product they are most likely to buy, rather than random items from your 10,000+ SKU catalogue.
  • Answering common customer enquiries with automated customer service and chatbots
  • Rank your category pages to maximise your likely gross margin return.
  • Estimate the propensity to buy to inform your CRM campaigns.

All that nebulous talk of ‘AI’ has been replaced by a focus on outcomes: processes & algorithms built into tools that work in the background to improve your results. These tools are built on top of most of the major platforms, baked into eCommerce platforms, or enabled by third-party vendors that can plug in all manner of straightforward customer experience tweaks directly into your systems.

Omnichannel Retail Experiences

Omnichannel retailing is how retailers provide customers with a consistent experience across all channels and devices during their purchasing journey. In a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 73% of respondents confirmed they use multiple channels during their shopping journey. It’s becoming more evident that with more channels, there are more omnichannel customers too.

To ensure your customers feel supported along their path to purchase, integrating your eCommerce website with your marketing, CRM, channels, and POS systems for a seamless user experience no matter where they interact with your brand.

A customer buying experience is often multi touch and happens over a period of time. For example, a customer may come across one of your products while reading a blog on their tablet and decide to click to view it. Later, they may come back to your site (now on their mobile phone) to read more about the product. Liking it, they may purpose to buy it at a future date. Days or even months later, the customer then decides to place an order while working on their office laptop.

Without an integrated custom relationship management (CRM) solution, your ordinary analytics tools will treat the customer as three different leads. However, there are CRM tools that you can use to integrate different touchpoints. This helps you provide a consistent experience across all devices and channels to streamline the customer journey. It also enables remarketing so that you can serve relevant ads to your website visitors and encourage them back to your site to complete a purchase or buy additional products that they may be interested in.

Personalisation

AI helps crunch data quickly, enabling real time optimisations and scalability. eCommerce businesses can utilise the data to personalise product recommendations in real time and design an individual, user-oriented shopping experience.
eCommerce businesses such as Amazon in the west, and JD.com, Alibaba in the east are built on principles of personalisation. Data-driven merchandising, product recommendations, matching customers with the products they are most likely to buy are just some of the personalisation strategies they use. A study by O2 showed that adding personalisation to their eCommerce experience increased sales by 7.8% over a short period of time.

Caring about your customers’ needs can be a crucial part of your performance strategy. If you shift thinking from “How much can I sell?” to “How much can I help?” the money will follow.

Social Commerce

Social commerce involves allowing customers to buy products directly within the social platforms. With social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and TikTok rallying behind social commerce, businesses that embrace the trend are recording an increase in sales.

The emergence of influencer marketing has also driven the success of social commerce. As a small or medium-sized business, you can engage even a micro-influencer to promote your products/brand to their audience, thereby expanding your market reach. However, an essential thing to keep in mind about social commerce is that  social media users visit the platforms for reasons other than buying. In other words, they are rarely in a buy-now mindset. Hence, giving them an incentive like offering them discounted products can go a long way in sparking their interest and getting them into a buying mindset. It’s also important to consider your content strategy on social platforms. Using short entertaining video ads with clever product placement rather than traditional, longer length “product commercials” will help increase reach and engagement.

Customer Experience Strategy

The importance of great customer experience to a brand is immense. It can create or destroy sales. Covid radically reshaped the global economy and accelerated the pace of digital transformation. Since the beginning of the pandemic:

%

of consumers in Australia say their digital experience with brands has changed.

%

of brands in Australia report a shortage of machine learning engineers to support customer communications.

%

report buying more from independent or local businesses in store than before

According to Mecca, their customer experience strategy is their most potent marketing lever. Mecca describe themselves as “a high touch, high service beauty boutique supported by a curation of the world’s most luxe brands”. Their founder and CEO Jo Horgan attributes a lot of their success to their utilisation of eCommerce, which makes up 15% of their total sales. It’s one thing to be customer-centric in your physical stores and communication with customers, but it’s another challenge entirely to bring that centricity into the digital realm and onto your website. Mecca does it very well using the strategies below:

  • Website navigation couldn’t be easier with helpful category pages and detailed filtering options
  • Keep key features above the fold
  • Customers can book a makeup or beauty service online
  • Rotate important information at the top such as sales, customer service
    and safety messages
  • Information rich product pages which showcase the products in action
  • Automated up-sell and cross-sell
  • Segmented reviews
  • Product-specific FAQs
  • Chat support
  • Educational and entertaining content shared through their socials

When it comes to online selling, creating positive experiences for customers is everything. Competition in the eCommerce space is fierce, and just having the best products isn’t enough anymore. Customer experience is what separates you from your competitors and keeps your online customers loyal.

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