More than 4,800 stores in the US have closed their doors so far this year and 18,000 since 2017. Let’s take a peek at why these stores are closing and ask what major brands plan to do with their retail processes? If you haven’t already guessed, they’re bringing their retail operations online. So, what can we learn from these closures and companies? Effective eCommerce strategies for engagement and sales!
Tesla Motors is closing their brick and mortar doors this year (all of them) and making vehicle orders exclusively available on the web. So, it seems that eCommerce is granting major retail companies increased ROI.
What happened to the omnichannel trend?
Rest assured, it hasn’t gone anywhere. We’re a long way from a future of storefront-free shopping.
Let’s use Amazon, the world’s largest global online retailer, as an example. While they are dropping some offline innovations from their operations, their unique ‘cashierless’ shopping experience at Amazon Go is thriving in Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco.
From the looks of it, Amazon Go locations aren’t leaving us anytime soon. In fact, they’re probably only going to get better.
So, how can you compete with big box retail?
The easy answer would be to tell you to follow Amazon’s lead and add machine learning, computer vision, and artificial intelligence to your operations. However, that’s not exactly the right solution. Not only can this be an overwhelming amount of technology to add to your plans, but according to a global study by Pega, consumers haven’t exactly boarded the AI train.
- 8o% of consumers still prefer to chat with a real person vs a chatbot about customer service needs.
- 45% of customers would prefer to reach out to a live representative on the phone vs an online chat, social media message, or in-store conversation for customer service issues.
- 38% of consumers don’t trust that AI can provide the same or better levels of customer service than a human.
Still, according to the same study, consumers believe the potential is there for AI to outshine human assistance. Furthermore, most people would be more open to AI over human interaction if it could save them time or money, and they are more comfortable with AI in retail applications than they are other industries like healthcare, finance, government, etc. While consumers aren’t standing with open arms to welcome Big Brother into their lives, they gladly embrace convenience.
So, don’t put automation on the backburner. You should implement eCommerce technologies that make the online shopping experience simple and pleasant. Just make sure to engage your customers in a reliable, trustworthy way.
How to build trust at each stage of your sales pipeline to increase eCommerce Engagement and Sales
You can’t just throw up a store, add your products, and expect you’ll hit it big. You need to first build a strong foundation for your customer relationships; this comes through building trust.
Stage 1: Awareness
The first stage a customer goes through before making a purchase is “awareness” of their problem. There is a product out there to solve the problem, and you might be inclined to throw your products in consumers’ faces. However, that’s not how you attract new customers and retain existing ones.
Instead, you want to get your voice out there for people to hear through awareness marketing:
- Social media
- Search marketing
- Advertising (PPC and offline)
- Influencer mentions
None of the marketing types above come without work. Even influencer marketing requires a solid marketing plan on your part. What you need to keep in mind when implementing your awareness-stage campaigns is that this is not the time to promote. Instead, at this point, you need to be a problem solver – establish yourself as an authority.
At this stage, post helpful content — not your goods — on social media. Publish an informational blog full of helpful and relevant advice for your readers rather than just bragging about your brand.
Any ad campaigns you run should be educational. For your influencer campaigns, instead of paying influencers to post pictures of your products on Instagram, pitch interviews and provide something valuable for their followers.
Stage 2: Consideration
Your potential customers are now considering solutions. This is when you can help them by being available. Make sure your product pages are optimised and make sure people can find them. Easily.
At the consideration stage, your possible buyers are in social media groups looking for recommendations, they’re searching for the products they want on Google, they’re subscribing to your newsletter, and they’re following the links at the bottom of your blog to move through your funnel.
This is when you want to have well-written product descriptions, images, and ads that showcase what you’re selling in a way that makes people want to purchase, or at least sign up to learn more later. It is also the stage where you want your product pages to show up in search results. Think of this as the phase of capturing your leads and implement strategies that help you do just that.
Stage 3: Decision
Now, you’re working with leads that want to make a purchase — from you. At this point, you are not only available, but you’re ready to streamline the buying process with personalised product recommendations based on what they’re searching for, fully-disclosed costs, shipping deals, sales showcasing your best selling products, directions to the nearest brick and mortar location, and a streamlined checkout process.
You need to consider how you can make the buying process as easy as possible, for all consumers. Assume that everyone is going to view your website from a mobile device and a computer. If you’ve got a physical location, make sure you assume people will shop online and make a purchase in-store. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t just focus on one aspect of your marketing and sales – keep things simple, yet inclusive.
After the sale, here’s what customers expect
Your job isn’t over once your lead makes a purchase. You need to impress your customer with the quality of your products and services to build loyalty.
After the sale, there are still four critical points where you need to be impressive:
- Shipping – If you can’t beat Amazon’s shipping speed and prices, at least be sure to inform your buyer of their order’s status. Send regular updates about progress, including when the product is shipped and when it can be expected to arrive.
- Delivery – Upon delivery, notify your customer that their order is waiting for them via email or text.
- Product Quality – In the age of Wish App and other low-cost, low-quality goods, you can stand out by offering products that customers are delighted to open. Make sure to choose a product manufacturer that can meet the demands of your shoppers.
- Follow-up – After your customer has received their product and has had ample time to use it, reach out and ask how everything is going. Shoppers appreciate follow-ups, and this gives you an opportunity to find out how you can improve and ask for ratings.
Once you’ve mastered these, you’re on your way to the top of the mountain.
About Ashley Kimler
Ashley Kimler is a freelance marketing consultant and the Captain of Conversion at Heroic Search in NYC. She regularly shares her business knowledge across the web, so follow @ashleykimler on Twitter to see what digital marketing crimes she and her team are fighting.