E-commerce is a space full of inherent advantages. Companies that make sales online have been making gains against their legacy counterparts since the former first appeared in the early days of the Internet.
But E-commerce is becoming a more and more crowded space as time goes on, and the simple advantages of online access and mobile convenience aren’t enough anymore.
More than ever, E-commerce companies are forced to set themselves apart not just from legacy competition but also from each other, as almost every imaginable market now has more than one E-commerce entrant.
So what is the key to edging direct and legacy competition in E-commerce? It’s about customers and convenience, just as it has always been. In the modern era of multi-platform apps, that means having a consistent customer experience on any branded app or site.
Related Article: Helpful Feedback: What Customers Like to See in an E-commerce Site
Familiarity Doesn’t Breed Contempt
E-commerce companies and brick-and-mortar stores are often in competition, and big chain stores, in particular, have felt the heat from online competition. So it may seem odd to say that brick and mortar chains and E-commerce companies share a key part of their appeal but it’s true.
The appeal we’re talking about here is familiarity. Chains have long capitalized on this by making their stores as similar as possible. Customers can walk into a chain store anywhere in the country and have it feel familiar. But E-commerce can often do this even better they can replicate the experience exactly, for the simple reason that customers are usually accessing the same website or app. No matter where the customer is physically located at the moment, an online sales site stays the same.
Until that is, the customer changes platforms.
Different Doors to the Same Store
The importance of familiarity is why E-commerce companies should strive to keep their various customer-facing apps and websites as similar as possible, down to the tiniest details. For my company, Rukkus, our mobile web experience may look a bit different than our app experience, but there are little tweaks that drive home the idea that this is the same company. So when you're on the Adele Tickets page on your desktop later in the day - after having seen it on mobile web while you commuted earlier in the day the connection is inherently there.
The other appeals of E-commerce are closely linked to the user experience and feel of a site. Shopping online is more convenient than driving to the store, of course, but how convenient it is depends in part on a customer’s familiarity. In the same way that loyal big box store customers want to go to a store with the same layout every time a place where they know exactly where to find anything E-commerce app users want to see buttons and options in the same place, menus sorted in the same manner, and logos, colors, and branding used in exactly the same way.
If done perfectly, this consistency can allow an E-commerce company to reclaim the advantages of the single website. The different apps can be more than just “similar” in the way that big box stores can be from town to town. Apps can be essentially identical, acting as gateways to the same customer experience.
Instead of being similar stores, apps can be seen as different sets of doors to the same store. Some doors may be more convenient than others to certain customers on certain days but once those customers enter, they find themselves in the same familiar place no matter which direction they approached from.
Ever More Important
As important as consistency in user experience has been to the rise of E-commerce in general, it has only become more important to E-commerce companies individually. The competition is no longer merely between E-commerce companies and their brick-and-mortar counterparts now, more than likely, your E-commerce company is in competition with other E-commerce companies.
That means that all of the shared advantages of E-commerce enterprises things like accessibility on mobile devices, or the ability to purchase things without leaving home are all held more or less equal. In this competitive landscape, the little conveniences familiar button placements, cross-platform saved checkout information, etc., become all-important. Now, as always, it’s all about delivering the most convenience customer experience possible. The only thing that has changed is how we do so.