We invest a lot into the businesses we create. Sometimes this leads us on a path to find that elusive magic bullet solution when a challenge arises. That one amazing solution to rule them all, the sweeping resolution, the easy fix.
Sadly, the fix is never really easy. In the case of eCommerce and retail sales, it’s definitely never easy.
We are in the middle of a new tech renaissance. The rate at which technology is accelerating is astronomical. Futurist, Ray Kurzweil, wrote in 2001 that every decade our overall rate of progress was doubling, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”
How do you future-proof your organization? Especially now, when new technological strides seemingly crop up every other week, which in turn, change the way customers shop and engage.
Here are some of the ways the industry has been transformed, and here are some hard questions you need to ask yourself to stay current and accessible in a rapidly changing digital landscape.
1. Are you putting Mobile first?
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about how your customers buy your products? Do you expect shoppers to stride in on-foot to scoop up holiday gifts for their loved ones? Maybe you’re predominantly an online seller, and expect the same frenzied clicks this holiday season.
The actual answer might surprise you. Your customers are shopping via their phones, and if you’re not optimizing your website for mobile — or don’t even have an online store to begin with — you’re missing out.
Mobile shopping is going to hit the halfway mark or more, in terms of sales, by 2020.
Google has already rolled out mobile indexing for many websites, according to this recent article by Search Engine Land. What this means is that websites that are optimized for mobile shopping are going to be crawled by Googlebot first.
We all know — or should know — that getting that coveted Google front page spot can make or break your business.
Are you even on the map? Your competitors sure are.
If every single competitor around you is putting mobile first, why aren’t you ramping up your sales with an actual mobile app or an optimized web presence?
Do you even have a web presence to begin with? Shopping has gone digital and mobile, and in this new age of customer experience, you need to take that leap and chase the uncomfortable.
2. Are you selling Experiences alongside your products?
In the case of eCommerce, experience is absolutely the name of the game. If customers can’t see themselves using your product, they won’t buy it. With the popularity of video marketing surging to all-time highs, visual experiences can no longer be ignored.
Take ticket sales for concerts or venues for example. 67% of live viewers are more likely to purchase a ticket if they see a live stream first.
Even if your industry isn’t even in the same ballpark as ticket sales, you really need to think about what you’re doing to offer your customers a front-row seat to what you’re trying to sell them.
According to this study by Hubspot, 72% of people would prefer to use video to learn about a product or a service.
eCommerce initiatives that don't have a human-centric experience that provides customers with in-your-face context for their purchase won’t make the cut.
How can you offer your customers a way to envision the lifestyle your product or service can provide them?
How can you help them see themselves in the world you create, using the products you make?
The answers to these questions will help define your path to success this holiday season, and beyond.
3. Does your brick and mortar location delight? Is it novel, niche, and current?
We are now in an experience economy. Tech has made it easier than ever for people to productively shop from the comforts of their own homes. Are shoppers shopping online to make more time for their own personal experiences? Probably.
Can brick and mortar stores tap into those personal experiences and deliver greatness? Absolutely.
Think about the unique and influential retailer Kith for a moment. Taking a novel approach to retail, and inspiration from pop culture and his own childhood favorites, Ronnie Fieg has his fingers on the pulse of the contemporary.
Instead of playing the game other retailers play, Fieg aims to serve the “cool” factor by way of exclusivity. Kith’s capsule collections — limited and coveted — are design-specific and rare.
Rarity has never been more attractive in the deluge of retail offerings than it is now.
Realizing that competing on the same wavelength wouldn’t create success, Fieg remodeled Kith’s Flatbush location in Brooklyn to offer an experience you just can’t find online.
There’s a VIP room in the back of the refreshed space that includes a cereal and ice cream bar called Kith Treats. With over 24 different cereals and 25 different toppings to choose from, Fieg has specifically made Kith an outlier in brick and mortar experiences.
Kith and Kin comes from an older Scottish term that means friends and family. Fieg is not only offering a slice of home with this novel idea, but also the concept of rarity and uniqueness.
How can you delight your customers, and how can you tap into the personal to offer the revolutionary?
That’s the big question you need to ask yourself.
4. Is your eCommerce initiative using AI powered technology?
Since eCommerce customers are expecting less friction, they're expecting customer service experiences to also act like search engines. They expect easy answers and expect not to have to wait for a response.
When you reduce friction, you reduce the chance of losing out on a conversion.
That’s why 44% of US consumers prefer chat bots to humans for customer service communications.
AI and machine learning has become an absolute game changer for the eCommerce industry. Not only are chatbots encapsulating customer service, but algorithmic approaches to product offerings are making it easy for shoppers to purchase on autopilot.
Netflix is a great example of offering suggestions via their service, using intensive, data-heavy processes to suss out and deliver the best experience possible.
Amazon also uses an incredibly robust predictive service to offer up what buyers are most likely to purchase based on their shopping habits.
When you take away the fatigue and hassle of choice, you help shoppers buy what they want even before they know they want it.
The robots are here to stay for good. Are you onboard with these sweeping technological changes?
5. Social has become shoppable. Are you where your customers expect?
If you’re looking for an edge for your eCommerce business when it comes to seasonal sales, consider social shopping.
What about Instagram’s shoppable posts, for a revolutionary example? Even brick and mortar stores need to get in on this trend. It also should go without saying that physical retail stores absolutely need an online presence.
If customers are shopping from the comfort of their homes, you need to be where the people are.
Online commerce outlets are reporting a 1416% traffic increase and 20% revenue increase just using the shoppable post feature on Instagram. You absolutely need to be doing this if you aren’t already.
Mobile is the future and the 'now' of eCommerce. It makes perfect sense to use one of the most coveted, gamified, and used apps out there to reach potential buyers.
6. Is your approach to video advertisements new school or old hat?
If every single competitor around you is doing TV commercials, why aren’t you doing YouTube advertisements, or even Hulu ads?
Television seems to be a dying beast. That’s not to say there isn’t merit in advertising spend on primetime television — of course there is. But as the trends become increasingly digital, the numbers become harder to ignore.
The Pew Research Center cites that 6 in 10 young adults primarily use streaming services to watch television and consume video media. If your retail competitors are heavily vested in television, it’s time to switch up your game and go for streaming services.
Based on researching 56 different case studies, Google-owned YouTube outperforms the ROI of television advertisements by a sprawling 77%. This overarching study obviously had a gigantic amount of push-back from the cable broadcasting industry, but again, the future is here.
It’s time to advertise where people are actually watching. It’s also time to advertise where people are speaking and listening, too.
7. Are you tapping into the power of voice search?
What comes to mind when you think about voice search? At some point, the collective eye-roll could be felt sweeping the entire globe.
However, it’s not a novelty anymore. Voice search, and voice shopping by way of Amazon Echo and Google Home, are becoming ubiquitous in terms of online commerce.
Your eCommerce brand needs to start paying attention to voice search, conversational computing, voice-driven SEO, and AI. ComScore estimates that by 2020, more than half of all searches will be done via voice search.
Getting ahead now relies on being able to forecast future trends. Ease of use is the future. A frictionless sale is a conversion easily made.
Not surprisingly, 1 in 4 shoppers used voice assistants in their holiday shopping during the 2017 season.
You should be thinking about “Voice Commerce” as a pivotal part of your 2018 strategy.
8. GDPR has transformed the entire landscape. Are you compliant?
Here’s perhaps the trickiest aspect of online retail to surface in the past decade: GDPR and compliance. The General Data Protection Regulation spearheaded by the EU was officially implemented on May 25th of this year.
It outlines very clearly what a business or entity must do to remain compliant with the data they receive from website visitors and shoppers alike.
As online data, privacy, and protection has now become such a concern, your eCommerce store is going to have to conform to the new rules. There’s no way around it.
No longer can you nonchalantly employ data on a whim and keep customer information in analytics databases without repercussion. Users must exercise explicit consent via tracking cookies and other scripts used.
For instance, retargeted marketing efforts, which rely on Facebook Pixel in many instances, need to be directly explained upon just the first visit of a site.
Users must also have access to delete their data.
Email marketing efforts have been sincerely hindered by this new development, but the changes were and are necessary in order to protect consumers. The Right to be Forgotten is a huge challenge when it comes to growing your email lists.
Once the sales process is done, this regulation stipulates that the personal data of the consumer must be deleted. If the subscriber asks to be removed from your list, the data must be deleted. Gone are the days of long email lists stretching back over countless years.
Technological and regulatory requirements across the entirety of the internet have transformed the landscape permanently.
The current tech renaissance has changed retail forever. Are you prepared for the future?
If you’ve read through this article all the way, and really wrestled with the hard questions but are still coming up empty, let us know.
We'd love to talk with you about some of the things you might be struggling with. We’re deeply invested in helping you get your shopping experience set up for Cyber Monday and beyond.
We might ask you even harder questions, but we’ll also help you answer the hardest one of all:
How do I design demand for my brand? Find out today.