As a result of COVID-19, nonessential brick-and-mortar retailers have been forced to close their doors and pivot to rely solely on digital to survive. This reliance looks permanent, with recent research from Capgemini identifying that in the next six months to nine months, only 39 percent of consumers expect a high level of interaction with physical stores.
Retailers need to rethink how they utilize technology, with the appetite for online shopping and convenience set to continue to accelerate post-lockdown. Digital is no longer a choice; it's your lifeline, and you need to make sure that it's performing to survive. Your digital properties need to help visitors quickly and easily find what they're looking for to ensure they make a purchase and keep coming back. Below are some tips to help you:
Don’t prioritize design over performance. Smaller web pages are more user friendly as they load much faster. By reducing page sizes, optimizing images, minimizing text files, and removing irrelevant content, retailers can speed up their website. Don’t forget to audit third-party content as that can also negatively impact site performance.
It's also important to recognize that optimizing for performance is a continual process that needs attention on an ongoing basis. If retailers don’t adopt this mentality, they run the risk of the site slowing or failing due to increased pressure.
Understand Customer Journeys
There are literally millions of possible paths through your app and website and hundreds of customer environments (e.g., different mobile devices). Still, only a small number really matter and generate revenue. Retailers need to obsess about understanding the customers (e.g., iPhone or Android) and paths that lead to revenue, and then focus on optimizing those experiences. Otherwise, optimizing your app is just poking around in the dark.
Connect the Entire Supply Chain
Retailers need to connect their digital apps directly with their back-office logistics and supply chain management systems to give users up-to-date, accurate information. You can’t sell products on your app that you can’t fulfill. This only adds to customer frustrations and will drive them to sites that have accurate information. It’s therefore vital that the entire supply chain is connected and updated in real time so that the front-end apps and website convey precise information. With the rapid shift in demand and the pressure to meet the surge for essential products, retailers can't afford to mismanage customer expectations.
In addition to these steps, retailers need to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) as these can act as warning signs. For example, by tracking the length of time users spend on your website or app, you can spot a decline that could be due to an issue with your site. Similarly, if conversion rates start to nosedive, then that’s another indicator that there's a problem. You need to investigate the source of these issues and quickly take action before it impacts your revenues.
With the rapid pivot to all things digital, retailers must stay attuned to customer needs and continually monitor the performance of their online properties. By following these steps, they'll be able to ensure that their digital products are, at a minimum, meeting and, eventually, exceeding customer expectations during these challenging times. Going all-in on digital is no longer a choice; it’s your path to survival.
Antony Edwards is the chief operating officer at Eggplant, a customer experience optimization specialist.
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