In the era of digital transformation, e-commerce has changed more than any other field. Retail stores have to establish themselves on the market, build a reputation, and create unique customer benefits. With big stores like Amazon or Alibaba that monopolize the market, smaller businesses have to develop alternative innovative retail experiences in order to get noticed.
With an estimated market value of $4.8 trillion up to 2021, it’s no wonder why the stakes are so high. E-commerce is a global industry with a lot to offer, but untapping into these advantages requires thorough planning and reliable execution.
What is E-commerce Strategy and Why Is It Important?
The e-commerce market changes every year, which makes sense, considering its annual growth of 23%. To keep track of the long-term purpose and adapt to the market, business owners should have a clear vision. This is where e-commerce strategy steps in.
E-commerce strategy is a plan of action that defines every marketing and technical direction of the company. The strategy includes defined goals, predicted metrics, and potential problems, along with sketched solutions.
Successful e-commerce strategies place customers at the center of all marketing activities and tech advancements. That’s why the first step to devising a vision is to determine an ideal buyer, segmenting the target audience, and analyzing personalized needs.
In simple words, the E-commerce strategy can be a document that directs future changes, marketing actions, and reminds you of a bigger picture for your online business. All advancements are connected and fall into a single predetermined framework.
E-commerce is responsible for managing multiple communication channels. Today, customers seek omnichannel experience — accessing the online store via different devices, platforms, and content mediums.
An innovative e-store has a website, cross-platform mobile application, 2-3 social media accounts, an active newsletter, and a customer support service. Without a defined strategy, keeping track of all of these channels would be a nearly impossible task.
Every platform has its own requirements, but each communication medium should work towards a united goal. If you don’t have any plans in place, you will be easily distracted by short-term benchmarks, preferring the number of likes, comments, and visits over high-quality interactions.
Reducing Operational Costs
A good e-commerce business strategy lays a solid foundation for decreasing operational costs by talking on three key aspects:
- Regulation: a strategy describes compliance costs and investments, and sums up financial requirements;
- Marketing conditions: businesses can predict investment returns and possible risks;
- Customer expectations: a strategy provides valuable information on the target audience, their needs, and preferences.
Additionally, having a solid plan in place spares business owners the necessity of fixing mistakes and paying for hasty decisions. All marketing activities are connected; the strategy helps to avoid illogical investments.
Getting Real-Time Data and Analytics
An e-commerce strategy plan focuses, first and foremost, on establishing metrics and KPIs. Business owners should clearly define desirable positive impact and prioritize the company’s goals. To create smart analytics, business owners typically use the SMART framework: the objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
An effective e-commerce strategy organizes all this information in a single document. At any stage of a marketing campaign, the team can come back to the initial goals to review how their actions contribute to the objective.
Enhancing Brand Awareness
Without a strategy in place, businesses fall into several marketing traps. The first one is using the same communication strategy on all mediums — reposting the same content using identical design style and tone of voice.
Another mistake is to use a drastically different content strategy across all mediums — websites, social media pages, newsletters — without following the brand’s style. All pages look and feel as if they belong to different brands — and it’s natural that a customer won’t be able to form a clear impression of the company.
E-commerce sales strategy describes crucial marketing activities that help spread the word about the brand and its benefits. The communication efforts are careful and methodical, and each platform is focused on a particular type of customer.
Making E-commerce Business More Convenient for Buyers
The strategy is focused on delivering satisfaction to the client. That’s why, along with the marketing aspect, planing covers behavioral scenarios — how users behave on the page, where they click and how often scroll — a separate set of scenarios for desktop and e-commerce. Based on these insights, a business owner can plan future redesigns and functionality updates.
Thus, a strategy should have a standalone section, dedicated to predicting user scenarios. Later, the team analyzes analytical metrics and compares predicted outcomes with actual on-site interactions. If estimates differ from reality, the company should update its strategy.
Top 4 E-commerce Business Strategies
An online store doesn’t have to work with a single strategy throughout its development. Instead, it’s best to target each of the described needs with an online retail marketing strategy — one will target communication with potential customers, another will document interactions with loyal clients, and so on.
Strategies can be simple and fast to implement, but still, produce noticeable improvements. Here, we collected four most sustainable e-commerce optimization solutions.
Optimizing the Checkout Process
According to SalesCycle, more than 75% of e-commerce customers abandoned online stores without checking out their carts in Q1 2018. 2-3 out of 10 customers won’t buy the items which they moved to the cart. The main reasons for cart abandonments are high extra costs, long registration forms, complicated confirmation, and no up-front price calculation.
By targeting each of these concerns, business owners can increase their revenue in less than a week. Let’s take a look at basic cart optimization ideas.
- Start by getting customer feedback. You need to determine which of the checkout issues is the most pressing to the whole process.
- Reduce extra costs by optimizing order processing. If you can take more orders by accepting them automatically, you can cut off the costs of human resources.
- Shorten a registration form. Using checkout registration from a way to collect information on an average customer is a bad idea — this approach will likely cost you a lot of monthly leads. Instead, move the questionnaire to the after-purchase page; it is likely to be skipped, but at least the purchase will be completed.
- Clearly display card contents. A user should be able to change entered information at any given moment.
- Ask for card information at the end of the checkout. Before that, a visitor should get a detailed description of the purchase, shipping details, extra cost information, and page with bonuses.
Explain your prices. A transparent store should show the reasoning behind each extra cost increase.
Providing Higher Quality of Information to Customers
Recent Forrester’s research showed that more than half of customers leave online stores because they couldn’t find the needed product, and they also refuse to rely on support. This means 50% of your sales depend on what information you make available on the page.
First and foremost, strive to provide a customer with detailed information on a product by adding the following:
- Informative product photos that showcase the item from different angles, on various backgrounds, and lighting;
- Engaging product descriptions: prefer conversational style instead of a typical sale-speak, as if you are talking to a buyer personally;
- Demo videos: a must-have for expensive items: innovative technologies, luxury brands, cosmetics;
- Transparent prices: all extra costs should be published on the page;
- Visible checkout buttons: usually they are located under the text snippet;
- Customer reviews and ratings: ideally, they should include pictures as well;
- Shipping details: additional costs, locations, etc.
Once the purchase is complete, the store should provide a customer with final invoices, transaction confirmation, and full purchase history. These retail business strategies increase customer retention and improve loyalty.
Applying Retargeting Marketing
Retargeting is a way of accessing customers who visited your website or started checking out on other communication channels. These innovative retail experiences are done with targeted advertising on social media or follow-up emails.
Instead of simply pushing the budget to retarget every single website visitor, you can focus on attracting those customers that are most likely to return to the page.
Focus on customers, not visitors. People who had experience of interacting with your store, are more likely to repeat the purchase. They already remember your company’s name well, and likely have no complaints about the checkout process if they completed it once.
Reduce checkout abandonment. You can contact a user who forgot the item in the cart to come back and finish the checkout. Promote a personalized message with the product’s name and the customer’s personal info.
Invest in your best customers. Each retail business has a small fraction of the audience that provides the most of business profits — the Pareto rule of 20/80 in action. With retargeting, you can remind these customers about the best offers, seasonal discounts, and offer them personalized bonuses to retain high loyalty.
Use Instagram and Facebook. These social media platforms have recently implemented a store modality — now users can directly purchase products, i.e. a full checkout that doesn’t require leaving a Facebook or Instagram page. You can create a social media listing with a detailed description.
Making Your Brand More Humane
Personalization is the key competitive advantage of e-commerce shops. If your website features thousands of items, it’s natural that customers can get lost on the page. To avoid that, you need to develop personalized feed that will push the more relevant offers to the top. To do that, you need to get more information about your website visitors in a way that will be informative and fast.
- Offer a quick pop-up screen with a 2-3-question test: ask a customer to choose interests, favorite brands, movies, TV shows, music. Make questions engaging — so a user feels like sharing interests rather than taking a test.
- Use advanced analytics. Analytical software determines the interests of your average users — you can use these patterns to craft a personalized offer.
- Use chatbots. Asking for a customer’s personal data comes more natural in dialogue. You can implement a basic funnel chatbot — an assistant with pre-written questions and answers — to get to know your audience better and simulate a close interaction.
Once the purchase is completed, present a user with a push that congratulates the purchase and offers related opportunities. Add a “Save” feature where a user is able to get an email about favorite products to be able to buy them later.
An efficient e-commerce strategy heavily relies on software solutions and the benefits of automation. In our experience, custom CRMs, AI-based analytics, and digital management tools optimize online store operations and cut costs. At bvblogic, we automate e-commerce stores and startups by creating AI/ML-based ERP and CRM solutions, developing custom websites, and design-responsive mobile apps.
Our development process always starts with building a strategy — we like to have a clear idea of our clients’ business goals. After we understand the specifics of the company and market, we plan a solution and start implementation.
We always make sure that the end result corresponds with customer’s needs and expectations by performing A/B tests, setting up comprehensive analytics, and measuring all investments. Basically, our goal is to lay a solid ground for the store’s digital transformation so the team can keep using our best practice after the release.
Building an e-commerce strategy is the shortest way to improving online store’s relationship with customers. It brings the systematic, methodical approach into marketing investments, and simplifies executive decision making. Most importantly, this is how a store’s team can keep track of the long-term goals, while still delivering everyday objectives.
Implementing innovation in retail takes a professional team of software developers, marketing experts, and business analysts. At bvblogic, we create data-based growth strategies for e-commerce stores and assist in bringing these objectives to life with creative innovations.