The past decade has seen a seismic shift in the world of retail. A 2017 study conducted by Big Commerce and Kelton Global found that 96 percent of Americans have made at least one online purchase in their lives. Even more significantly, 80 percent have made one within the last month.
Brick-and-mortar stores are closing by the day, and brands are sinking copious amounts of time and resources into finding an e-commerce formula that will bring them into the future. Unfortunately, finding a single set of rules that guarantees success to every online store is like chasing smoke. At this point in time, all businesses can do is look at the commonalities between the most successful brands and do their best to follow suit.
Over the past few years, several tactics have consistently had positive results. Here are three of the major ones to keep in mind.
1. Create awesome content.
The elite marketers have been talking nonstop about the importance of quality content in the marketing mix, and for good reason. Online retail is extremely competitive. Your e-commerce content marketing strategy is how you show the world what makes you unique and why you are better than the competition.
REI is a fantastic example of how to create content that doesn't just provide value for the reader, but proves you are a superior expert in the field. Within each category of the items it sells, it has a huge, comprehensive collection of expert advice and how-to articles.
Image source: Screenshot from REI.com
In addition to educating buyers on its products, REI is showcasing its knowledge in a vast industry. As a result, REI has consistently been one of the leading brands in outdoor gear.
There are seemingly infinite benefits to a strong content marketing strategy. Perhaps the most difficult part of running an e-commerce store is simply getting noticed on the web. The search engines favor websites that produce stellar content for their audience. For building credibility and trust with your customers, this is the place to start.
2. Make well-rounded product pages.
One of the biggest advantages brick-and-mortar stores have over e-commerce is that the customers get to see the products in person before making a purchase. While online stores have yet to be able to mimic this, the best thing they can do is create product pages to address every question a shopper might have.
Your product listings should act as an intuitive resource center that has all the answers and prioritizes them appropriately. Depending on your business, this task may require a very in-depth approach. For example, glasses are typically items that people assume they need to go to a store and try on. Firmoo, an online eyeglass retailer, takes this into account and creates product pages to answer every question imaginable to identify the glasses that fit the customer's exact needs.
Image source: Screenshot from Firmoo.com
Firmoo includes all the specs in terms of weight and measurement, while using contrasting colors to highlight the most vital information like lenses and size. It even provides an option for shoppers to set up personal product consultations.
E-commerce itself is built on a foundation of convenience. To truly stand out in the crowded world of online sales, you must understand your customers down to a T and know exactly what types of questions they have and what you can do to provide answers with zero margin for error.
3. Provide stellar customer service.
Perhaps the biggest myth that surrounds the entire concept of online shopping is that providing stellar customer service isn't completely necessary, as there is no face-to-face interaction. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, studies have found that nearly 70 percent of U.S. consumers have stopped doing business with a brand after a single poor customer service experience.
You can have the best online store the internet has ever seen, but if your customer support strategy is lacking, you are basically leaving money on the table and turning people away in droves. If you haven't done this already, step one should be to incorporate a live chat function on your platform, as surveys have indicated this is the most desirable channel for customer service.
In most cases, live chat is positioned at the bottom right of the page. It is not resource-intensive or expensive to implement. Here is an example from Natura Health Products, a small business website:
Image source: Screenshot from NaturaHealthProducts.com
The benefits of using live chat on your e-commerce website are huge. For one, customers can get instant access to someone who can assist them. Secondly, agents can help multiple people at once, rather than just one at a time on the phone. Going further, you'll see on Natura's live chat that it requires a name and email address to start a conversation. In this way, it has captured a lead in addition to providing support.
E-commerce has ushered in a completely new set of criteria for competition. It's all about the customer experience. Online shoppers expect seamless interactions and are quick to leave your site if you cannot meet their needs. Providing quick and meaningful service is one of the best things you can do to keep the edge.
Over to you
Online shopping is still relatively new to retail. As fast as technology and the web are evolving, there is no telling what the future will hold. While the entire landscape may look completely different in the next five to 10 years, it's a safe bet that the importance of these three concepts will stand the test of time.