Untapped opportunities abound for retail businesses working to expand their digital presence and optimize the e-commerce arena. If this describes your business, and you also want to improve the customer experience you offer to online consumers, consider exploring the following three areas, identified in a 2015 Accenture Interactive’s study as the most likely avenues for achieving these goals: capable digital channels, human capital, and internal engagement.
Some businesses waver in their commitment to point customers to their e-commerce websites. While this hesitance makes online sales pioneers scratch their heads, many of these irresolute businesses simply have yet to realize the enormous promise for increased revenue that exists in the e-commerce space.
Whether your business is moving forward with the ongoing development of its e-commerce site or lagging behind, the Accenture (News - Alert) study can help you understand the ramifications of your competitive position, as it details the strategic impact of this sales channel for retail businesses. Although the Accenture study focuses on B2B efforts to shift customers online, B2C businesses should take note of the study results as well, as B2B customers, influenced by their own personal shopping experiences, shine a light on consumer expectations for informative, intuitive online purchasing platforms.
In fact, U.S. B2B organizations are not far behind their B2C brethren, with 59 percent of them seeing a third of their customers transacting online, according to the study. This compares to global B2C online purchasing, which is 12.8 percent of the total retail market, and is projected to double by 2019 to $3.5 trillion, according to eMarketer (News - Alert).
So, what are the potential benefits to retailers of shifting customers to their digital sites? Those benefits include:
- surmounting geographical limitations;
- adding to your customer base with search engine visibility;
- lowering costs of real estate, equipment, and employees;
- improving convenience for customers by reducing travel time and expense, as well as staying open all the time;
- enticing more shoppers by facilitating comparison shopping, speeding up product location, and providing abundant information; and
- accessing more customer data, enabling the creation of targeted communications and niche products.
That said, e-commerce is not without its drawbacks. This is where the Accenture study picks up, detailing how to compensate for these shortcomings. Once you’ve considered these challenges and their solutions listed below, you will better understand and appreciate the opportunities online sales can bring to your business.
A business’s personal or human touch encompasses valuing the interpersonal relationships that exist within retail transactions. When shoppers buy online, they typically proceed without any human intervention – and this is having a negative impact on the customer experience. Case in point, Accenture found that one-to-one communication is a critical step toward encouraging customers to use a retailer’s e-commerce site. The businesses that do best shifting existing customers to their e-commerce sites have allocated resources toward not only boosting the e-commerce experience but training customers to navigate their digital channels. What’s more, online retailers are finding that once customers locate them online, a human component, such as a live chat feature, is helping them ramp up their web-based customer service satisfaction.
Seamless Omnichannel Engagement
Businesses offering customers multichannel options must ensure that channel switching is seamless; otherwise, they undermine their efforts to meet customers where they live. Your website visitors must be able to choose their preferred channel for engaging with your company as well as smoothly jump among channels, including mobile apps and social media platforms, to solidify their trust in your brand. Today, many of these communication channels are not integrated, causing customer experience to suffer. Overcoming this limitation requires that you develop a real-time inventory management process and a channel-agnostic view of the customer, but you mustn’t stop there. To convert visitors into buyers, you must also differentiate your customer experience with personalized features, exclusive promotions, and information content that customers can’t get any other way. Think about offering a self-service capability as well as account management features, such as transaction history.
Everyone in your organization – from the CEO to the mailroom clerk – needs to understand the business plan to optimize digital success. All internal teams must collaborate to positively influence external audiences. This means working to secure and maintain supportive engagement among employees across departments and roles. Start by getting key stakeholder buy-in for any e-commerce strategic initiative, and then encourage staff participation with incentives such as sales credits.
As you endeavor to drive customers to your website, keep in mind that improvements to an e-commerce strategy bear fruit slowly. To keep pace with your competitors over the long haul, stay on track by developing your business in these three key areas.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi