In the Fast-Paced World of E-Commerce, it Pays to Slow Down
In today’s fast-changing landscape, retail brands face an escalating number of challenges, from shifting consumer behaviors to the imperatives of digital transformation. In years past, many would consider multichannel as just having a brick-and-mortar store and an online presence. Today, retailers must adopt more robust multichannel strategies and deliver a cohesive brand experience to remain competitive.
Consumers are shopping in more locations than ever before. Multichannel shoppers spend three times more money than single-channel shoppers, and 47 percent of shoppers engage with retailers across 10 or more channels. Although brands need to match the modern buyer’s journey and target new shoppers across all the relevant platforms and touchpoints, many are biting off more than they can chew, trying to accommodate every customer by being everywhere. The truth is, not every brand can handle the rigors of so many channels, and as a result they spread themselves too thin.
Brands Need to Expand Smarter, Not Faster
Customers expect flexible and consistent shopping across retailers’ channels, but too rapid development of many different online and offline platforms can yield subpar results. Poor execution can lead to poor user experience and abandoned carts at checkout, costing e-commerce businesses an estimated trillions in lost revenues.
Just take the nightmarish mobile shopping experience for example. There's a great deal of hype around the potential of mobile to be the next major shopping channel and every brand is expanding there. However, poorly executed mobile designs can cause users to become so frustrated they abandon the process before purchasing anything.
To deliver a superior shopping experience, retailers and brands must first improve their processes behind the scenes. The key differentiator isn't how many channels you adopt, but how well you're able to leverage and integrate each channel.
So What Should Brands Do?
The best strategy is to start slow and grow at a pace at which you can properly accommodate additional channels. It’s all about expanding at the right time and on the right platforms instead of casting a wide net with the goal of reaching as many consumers as you possibly can. Rather, retailers should focus on touchpoints that offer the best chance to reach the right customers.
When it comes to multichannel commerce, it’s imperative to collect as much customer data as possible and gain valuable insights into individual preferences, buying behaviors, activities and shopping objectives. The channels used should be integrated so that customer profiles aren’t split and you can harvest a 360-degree view of their activity.
With 85 percent of online shoppers starting a purchase on one device and finishing on another, it’s important to provide a seamless experience between each touchpoint. Customers must be able to easily switch between devices while retailers can retain an account of all their behaviors and activities. This helps provide a better customer experience, resulting in increased customer loyalty and satisfaction. However, if too many channels are adopted without the proper framework, the experience can become disjointed and customer data can slide through the cracks.
Developing channels for your customers that provide a quality shopping experience will not only help you now, but also help your brand to scale and incorporate more touchpoints in the future. Gartner predicts 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality by 2020, and other emerging technologies like chatbots and virtual reality also are creating new opportunities for retailers. With the right strategy in place, brands will be able to stay ahead of these trends while expanding, reaching more customers and providing better shopping experiences.
Being prepared before adopting new channels will allow you to be more flexible, grow more efficiently, and meet the needs of changing customer preferences and behaviors. The ultimate goal of an omnichannel strategy is higher engagement of your customers and more conversions for your business.
Providing a seamless shopping experience through a variety of online and offline channels gives retailers a competitive edge over online-only retailers, but a smart approach is to expand to e-commerce platforms at a pace your brand can sustain long term.
Bart Mroz is CEO at SUMO Heavy, a digital commerce strategy firm.
Related story: How DSW is Getting Omnichannel Right
Bart Mroz is CEO at SUMO Heavy, a digital commerce strategy firm. The company builds, connects, expands and invests in growing online retailers. This group of experienced strategists, consultants, designers and developers works to build solid brands and to create effective online retail solutions. Bart is an expert in e-commerce, business consulting, and technology strategy.