Our series of web technology articles back in 2015 was a big hit. A lot has changed since then. Here's where you should be focusing your investment in the eCommerce and retail technology space today.
Tech advances in eCommerce have changed the retail game. The purchasing process moves faster than ever, and customers have high standards for what they consider a “quality” shopping experience. Companies that want to meet (or exceed) their customers’ expectations need to focus their limited resources on the levers that will drive results.
Create an Omnichannel Experience
First and foremost, make sure your platform enables commerce in different environments and across channels. This is a foundational part of a good customer experience. Customers should be able to buy from wherever they want, whether they’re on their home computers, on their phones, in your brick-and-mortar store or as a sales rep making a visit to a client. No matter which environment they prefer, the shopping experience should be simple, convenient, and consistent.
Prioritize investments in eCommerce platforms that support a unified shopping experience across each of your customers’ preferred channels. This strategy saves you the hassle of trying to sell through multiple storefronts and platforms and provides a huge boost to your customer experience management. When you have a single platform housing all of your customer data, it’s far easier to find information when you need it—whether it’s in the moment to fulfill a customer’s request or when making big-picture decisions about marketing strategy.
Don’t underestimate the value of the omnichannel retail experience! Data shows that companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain, on average, 89 percent of their customers. Compare this to companies with weak omnichannel engagement that see only 33 percent retention, and the value of omnichannel engagement is clear.
- Your best customers will use multiple ways to shop
- Omnichannel eCommerce is crucial to engaging and retaining customers
- eCommerce investments should prioritize platform flexibility and a unified shopping experience across all preferred channels
- Create a coordinated shopping experience that aggregates all customer data in a single place for easy access and analysis
Proactively Meeting Customer Expectations
Every eCommerce tech integration should support the customer experience in some way, but you can get a lot of mileage out of your investment by making improvements that directly address customer expectations. Research by Salesforce found that 76 percent of consumers prefer to buy from retailers that anticipate, and meet, their expectations.
Look for opportunities to address customers based on their behavior. For example, you might have noticed that your customer service center receives an inordinate number of messages from customers asking about their previous order history. If so, you can drastically reduce the load on your service teams by adding a simple web function that lets customers look up purchasing history.
Take this idea and run with it! How can you customize your platform options to meet your customers’ expectations before they realize they need them? Common options here include tracking inventory levels in real-time to let customers know what’s available or adding options for order online/pick-up in store. But don’t stop after they’ve purchased. Work on these strategies and address shoppers throughout every stage of your marketing funnel, including the post-purchase delight phase. For example, email copies of receipts to customers when you have their email on file.
Of course, if you’re working with an eCommerce platform that’s tightly integrated with your CMS, your customization options might be limited. If so, you may need to compromise on a few of these features (unless you’re willing to explore more cutting-edge solutions like headless eCommerce).
- The customer experience depends on meeting a shopper’s expectations across the entire purchasing experience
- Examine past customer behaviors and look for opportunities to proactively address their needs through your platform
- Companies with tightly-coupled front-end and back-end platforms will need to get creative in how they approach these optimizations
Empower Store Associates & Sales Teams
Technology has changed many things about the in-person sales experience over the past few years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the customer’s expectations. To create a truly frictionless shopping experience, you’ll need to make sure your employees (both on-site and in-store) are up to the task.
Whether selling in-store or in a direct B2B sales environment, there are opportunities to create great pre-sale and post-sale customer experiences. From a selling perspective, every employee in your store and every customer service rep on your site should be able to provide detailed product specifications, promotion details, and account information to whichever customers need it.
Online sales reps should be able to run product searches based on different criteria. And even your in-store teams should be familiar with the eCommerce platform and how to use it to help customers find what they need.
It’s not just good service—it’s a matter of ROI. Research on retail shopping behaviors found that educated, engaged employees with knowledge of specific products brought in an average of 69 percent higher sales than their non-educated counterparts.
Creating portals for these kinds of digital sales experiences requires having complete control of your eCommerce interface, access to all products in your catalog, and on-demand order data delivered through APIs. Overall, eCommerce providers need a system that lets them iterate quickly and build new tools as needed.
- Despite the rise of retail technology, consumers still rely on employees when purchasing
- Prioritize investments in training and tools that empower team members with the information they need
- Educated team members who can walk customers through the shopping process bring in significantly more revenue than unengaged staff
Invest In Your Most Profitable Levers
All of the above enhancements serve one purpose: creating a seamless, unified shopping experience for all customers. Modern eCommerce technology lets businesses take a single view of all customers across every channel, and as time goes on, these coordinated shopping experiences will become the norm. Businesses should prioritize their investments accordingly and get in on the process as soon as possible to better serve and retain their existing customers.