Ecommerce has changed rapidly over the past decade with the proliferation of mobile devices and the emergence of social media. Merchants are springing up online in large volumes due to the influx of bootstrappable shopping platforms such as Magento and Shopify. Never has it been harder for the merchants to capture the attention and loyalty of consumers.
Customers still follow a unique path of buying products and services in a cycle. The Ecommerce purchasing cycle can be broadly categorized into three phases: Discovery, Sale and Post-Sale.
Here are six strategies Ecommerce merchants can leverage to engage customers in each phase:
1. Widen Outreach to Customers (Discovery)
Merchants should explore other methods of reaching out to existing and potential customers as retail is increasingly becoming more personalized and social-based.
It is especially important to have a presence on platforms where the merchant’s target audience spends most of their time. For example, Soldsie empowers merchants to offer products to their fans on their Facebook and Instagram news feeds. Once a customer indicates a “Sold” comment on a photo, an invoice will be generated automatically to him/her.
Another revolutionary startup, Shopbeam, teams up with publishers and merchants to allow items to be directly purchasable after clicking on the ad.
2. Deepen Contextual Experience: Ecommerce 2.0 (Discovery)
Mobile sensor technologies such as beacons, smartphones’ geolocation and other inbuilt sensors are getting commoditized. Mobile apps can be equipped with situational awareness by pulling a multitude of information, and presenting users with a set of options to make a “discovery” in a contextual manner. Fab, a designer Ecommerce store, is an example that does this well. It gives curated suggestions of what to buy through push notification and in-app content based on the user’s profile and past behaviors.
Mobile platforms offer limited real estate and is harder for buyers to input data on the go. Due to this limited space, it is especially important to tailor content specific to mobile platforms to enable a seamless and relevant user experience.
3. Enable Omnichannel Purchases (Sale)
Small and medium-sized merchants now have the capability to compete with online giants by adopting a range of services to bridge the gap between online and offline. Shoppers are increasingly using the internet as shopping aids. Merchants can partner up with existing services and brands to better tackle the cross-channel/Online-to-Offline (O2O) behaviors of their consumers. StockNearby and StreetHub are two such apps that allow tech-savvy shoppers to find fashion items in nearby boutiques and browse them online.
Once they determine an item is to their liking, the shopper can either collect/further evaluate the item at the brick and mortar store or have it delivered.
4. Embrace Social Influence As The New Currency (Sale)
Merchants have to rethink how their customers are paying them. For instance, by incentivizing customers to pass on good experiences to their social networks instead of customers forking out cold hard cash to pay for goods upfront, these customer testimonials may result in increased volume of sales, which have a larger impact on the bottom line. Also, criteria-based discounts and incentives can be marketing strategies drawn around sales events that require customers to interact across all social media channels. Uber is a classic example where it cracked the initial chicken-and-egg issue (not having enough drivers and passengers) by giving out credits when its users provided referrals for drivers and passengers. A second example is Markable, which is a social commerce app that utilizes the similar incentive by rewarding the person who posted the photo of their favorite style, when one of their referrals makes a purchase through the photo.
5. Reward Loyalty (Post-Sale)
Losing a customer to competing services is just a keystroke/touch away. It is increasingly critical for merchants to provide relevant and simple incentives for recurring purchases by the same customer. This is to reward the customer for their continual engagement with the brand and keeping them on the platform. These incentives can be further enhanced to support a customer’s buying experience and create intent by having it location-based and personalized. Thanx is a startup that does initiates loyalty rewards by enabling customers to earn loyalty points for gifts by simply registering a credit card. Points are automatically credited into the consumer’s account when the credit card is used to spend within Thanx’s merchant network, both online and offline. There is no hassle or the need for a separate loyalty card.
and personalized. Thanx is a startup that does initiates loyalty rewards by enabling customers to earn loyalty points for gifts by simply registering a credit card. Points are automatically credited into the consumer’s account when the credit card is used to spend within Thanx’s merchant network, both online and offline. There is no hassle or the need for a separate loyalty card.
6. Provide End-To-End Sale Fulfillment (Post-Sale)
When a potential customer faces difficulty navigating through an app/site, he will abandon the purchase entirely or stop returning to the same online merchant. When designing a sales interface, keep the flow simple by connecting and automating each step in the process as much as possible. Start from the search function, to product/service delivery and then end with the maintenance/warranty. This creates a seamless buying experience as one unified storefront to customers. Starbucks has expanded its services offering by integrating delivery into its loyalty mobile app, effectively making it a one-stop shop. Starbucks aficionados can not only skip the long queues but also have their coffee automatically ordered, paid and delivered to their desk. Reserve, a mobile app startup, operates a digital dining concierge service. The app offers diners the flexibility to reserve space in restaurants, as well as make payment and provide private feedback for the restaurateurs. This focused feedback empowers restaurateurs to convert first-time guests into regulars.
Keeping up with developments in ecommerce is a challenge. Bootstrapping from scratch is never easy. But as you can see from the above examples, the future is definitely brighter with prioritization, simplicity and syncing all your channels. Focusing on several targeted distribution channels that are pay-per-use can create a new funnel of customers at a low cost. After a sales lead is converted, it is important to ensure that each customer’s experience is a personalized with minimal hassles and extra incentivizes for loyalty. The end result will be merchants deeply entrenched in a customer’s shopping lifecycle, which translates into getting more customers in less time for less cost, and increased customer stickiness to your business.
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