Today’s shoppers expect a lot from online retailers. In a June PwC survey of global shoppers, respondents ranked important e-commerce attributes. Coming in at the top were fast, reliable delivery; in-stock availability; ease of returns; and convenient site navigation.
These results underscore that the most important thing an online retailer can do to drive sales and retain customers is continuously improve its e-commerce platform to stay competitive and successful. Here are three areas you should look to upgrade and tips for doing so.
Always Be Scaling
For an e-commerce retailer, expanding to offer new brands, vendors and products is a sign of success. Your customers are about to have even more options available to them directly through your platform. However, onboarding new categories and items can be a bit of a headache. If you’re already gathering data on existing inventory and sales activity, you can tap into that information to better understand where and how new products will bring the most value to customers. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be deployed to analyze large sets of existing data, run it against new product specs and deliver insights on gaps in your offerings, and identify which items might be better suited to offer for specific customer profiles, among other tasks.
Deep analysis performed by machine learning can get to a granular level that the human brain can’t. As you add more SKUs to your online store, naturally there will be products that are very similar to one another at first glance. AI can give a more clear picture of subtle differentiators, particularly across complex product categories, to help you grow your inventory more intelligently while offering consumers unparalleled decision-making insights as they browse your store.
Prioritize Efficiency in Fulfillment
Offering fast delivery is essential to remaining competitive in today’s e-commerce market. For retailers that don’t have a large warehouse or direct fulfillment footprint, finding ways to optimize delivery can be a major challenge. Over the past decade, drop-shipping has emerged as a solution for maintaining a large product catalog and offering rapid delivery across more orders. The benefits of working with external vendors to fulfill orders via drop-shipping are myriad, including saving on local inventory and distribution; scaling product offerings more rapidly; and, of course, providing faster deliveries to more locations.
Once you’ve built out a solid drop-shipping network, you can further optimize the fulfillment process with real-time data analysis that runs a customer’s location, request and order specifications against inventory, vendor offerings and price points to provide recommendations that best fit their needs and time frame.
Keep Customers Confident
Coming back to the PwC survey results, consumers are drawn to sites that are easy to navigate. Building a convenient, friendly user interface at all stages of the online shopping process — from search to checkout — is essential to keep customers coming back and boost their confidence when they shop with you. One way to optimize and offer a more custom experience is by pulling from existing inventory and sales data and integrating AI to provide product recommendations. Even the most basic algorithms can do wonders to analyze past transactions to suggest similar items a customer can add to their order. Getting a bit more advanced, for an e-commerce store operating in a more niche space, where product fit, size and other attributes need to be matched to a customer’s needs, AI can be deployed at the point of search, instantly running a query against the available inventory to offer results that are guaranteed to match the specifications of their request.
The impact of the pandemic on e-commerce isn't expected to reverse course any time soon. With consumers increasingly more comfortable turning to online shopping for items they used to only buy in brick-and-mortar stores, now is the time for retailers across all industries to upgrade their e-commerce platform to stand out, retain shoppers, and grow their business in the face of the new e-commerce world order.
Evan Frangos is the vice president of marketing and analytics at PARTS iD, a technology-driven, digital commerce company focused on creating custom infrastructure and unique user experiences within niche markets.
For an e-commerce retailer, expanding to offer new brands, vendors and products is a sign of success. Your customers are about to have even more options available to them directly through your platform.