The way that customers consume and shop for products has shifted further away from bricks-and-mortar stores and into the digital space over the last decade. In early 2020, even before coronavirus, we saw online competition and lack of foot traffic force the closure of stores around Australia from brands including Harris Scarf, EB Games, Jeanswest and Bardot. But with the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on the global economy, now more than ever, consumers are turning to online shopping to meet their needs.
There is so much potential in the online space, even for businesses who are considered as ‘non-essential.’ In fact, an incredible 62% of consumers are in favour of brands continuing to sell non-essential products via their websites. And, according to the Global Web Index, 45% of pre-existing online consumers say they plan to spend more online after the outbreak, while another 33% of those who weren’t shopping online regularly before COVID-19 also plan on spending more time shopping online after the pandemic.
So, with these unprecedented times changing the ways that consumers will shop online both now and in the future, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your retail store has an optimised and thriving presence in the e-commerce landscape.
What’s the difference between an online store and an e-commerce store?
Most retail outlets will have some form of online store to showcase or sell their products online. But not all digital stores are created equal.
Traditionally, online shopping is limited to the transaction and showcasing of products. An online retail store can be an alternative to window shopping before a consumer heads into store to try on a purchase. They can also be used to offer exclusive products or build hype for in-store items. But in a time where more consumers are online than ever before, retail outlets are faced with fierce competition for traffic beyond just that of brand recognition. This is where a comprehensive e-commerce store comes in.
An e-commerce solution offers a wide range of services to consumers as well as the products you are trying to sell. Customer service, advertising campaigns, customer awareness, trend research and more can all be found on a high-quality e-commerce store that provides consumers with a shopping experience and service that can’t be found in store.
Through an e-commerce platform you can increase visibility of your brand, improve recognition, and boost your online sales with a comprehensive digital marketing strategy and plan. An e-commerce store isn’t just the digital branch of your retail store. It can, and should, be so much more.
Why should you create an e-commerce store rather than just an online storefront?
With foot traffic switching to online, consumers aren’t just searching for brands. They are searching for products. So, it’s important that your business is ready to optimise on those search terms and be found by more consumers.
Transforming your online retail store into an e-commerce beast is about more than just making your products available online. Every element of your online presence needs to be designed to create leads and secure sales. This means a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that covers your different platforms to direct people to your site. You have more capacity to drive people to your website than you do in store, so your marketing strategy should tie into the goals your have for your bricks-and-mortar store to help you achieve the same results, if not better, that you would have previously.
If you need to transform your online store into a more comprehensive e-commerce solution, here are a few places you might be able to start.
How to create a comprehensive e-commerce store that will thrive
Choose the right e-commerce platform for your needs
If you’re transforming your online store into a better e-commerce site, then it’s important to look at what platform will best support your needs. Transitioning from a basic online store into a more comprehensive e-commerce platform can be a big deal, so we always recommend doing your research to make sure you get it right the first time.
(Two of the most popular platforms for online storefronts are Shopify Plus and Magneto Commerce. Read more about which could be better for your business here.)
Image Source: Shopify Plus
Adapt your media and advertising strategy
While you might have the same sales or income goals for your e-commerce site as you do for your retail or online store, the way that you can achieve these will change.
Online shopping behaviours are already different from those in-store, and understanding the ‘at-home consumer’ shift in mindset is a serious consideration for marketers.
With consumers spending more time at home, how they’re searching and shopping for products is changing – and scrolling through images and newsfeeds has become part of the customer journey.
Brands that are delivering personalised messages, while empathetically identifying the customers needs are more likely to engage those customers to take action (and get the sale!)
Bunnings online ad campaigns have shifted their messaging to capitalise on the changes in consumer behaviour due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Cotton On & Zo Personalised are examples of two brands, who have quickly pivoted their ad campaign messaging to speak to consumers amidst the current 6 week lockdown in Melbourne.
COTTON ON: Source
For Cotton On, the closure of their retail stores during this period means they will be relying on the online store to drive sales. Combining a personalised message, with a cheeky 20% off offer, and product relevant to people in this geo-location is the winning formula to have customers engage during this period. As Melbourne customers are forced to stay indoors – Cotton On connect by sending them ads featuring loungewear.
Source: Zo Personalised
ZO are playing to the consumer’s ‘self-care’ essentials mindset, a treat to oneself or a gift to get you through isolation.
Wittner have cleverly repositioned their message by giving customers a reason to shop – acknowledging that people are not able to go out as frequently, but you can still dress up (even at home).
Source: Wittner Shoes Facebook
By identifying which regions might need a larger (or smaller) focus, you can revise your ad campaigns to reach the right people, at the right time, with the right messaging. Marketers and store owners can directly connect and attribute their ad campaigns to sales, revenue and profit.
Provide good online customer service
It’s important to remember that while you’re going through new and strange times, your consumers are as well. Online customer service is incredibly important to make sure that they know they are being heard and supported the same way they would if they walked into a store. Make sure your contact details are widely available, adds some FAQs and consider implementing live chat programs to optimise on customer service that can provide both real support to the customer as well as prompt them to make a purchase or ask a question.
It’s also important to be current and transparent in your customer service and brand message. Make sure you keep consumers in the know with updates about their purchases, details about the store as a whole, shipping details, and anything else that will be relevant to their online shopping experience.
You know who loves order confirmation messages? Your customers. It’s also never a bad time to send a message about when their order is expected.
Consider new solutions to keep your customers updated on the progress of their order, such as integrating Facebook Messenger. It’s quick, its direct, it’s personalised. There are a number of plugins available for Shopify, alternatively you can build your own sequences through programs like ManyChat.
To learn more about the best way to launch this for your brand, get in touch with our digital strategists.
Optimise your site speed and mobile usability.
As your online traffic increases, you need to make sure that your site can keep up with demand. But it’s not just your desktop site. Before coronavirus, 40% of consumers said they use their mobile for research before making a purchase. And a massive 62% of users who have had a negative experience on your mobile store are less likely to purchase anything from you in the future.
Use tools like PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test to make sure your desktop and mobile sites are easy to use and loading quickly, or see where there is room for improvement. Every second delay it takes for a page to load on mobile can lead to a 20% drop in conversion.
Use analytics to improve your shopping experience
It’s not just important to make sure that you’re driving consumers to your e-commerce site. You also need to know that they are hitting the pages you want them to and converting into the sales you need. 51% of mobile users say they have purchased from a company that wasn’t the one they originally intended to, because of the information they received at the moment they needed it. Make sure that your site is the one they are using with relevant, up-to-date content that is easy to find and navigate.
Analytics across Google, Facebook, Instagram and your other social media or online platforms will allow you to take a look at what consumers are resonating with, where they are clicking, how long they are staying on your site, and the journey that they take. Implement conversion rate optimisation across different areas of your site and use heat mapping to track your consumer journey and see what pages are working well or need to be improved.
Remember, the customer comes first
Transforming your online store into an e-commerce site will not only improve the performance of your own business, but it will also create a more comprehensive online shopping experience for your consumers. By ensuring that you have created a platform that is easy to use, can see to their needs, answer their questions, and provide them with a great product or service, your customers will come back for more time and time again.
Learn more about how you can transform your online store into a more comprehensive e-commerce site with one of 10 free strategy sessions being offered to retailers, valued at $1,095. Contact us today to secure your spot.