While COVID-19 has brought lots of uncertainty to our world, nothing has been “certain” in the retail world for a very long time, and the current pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted anything resembling “business as usual.” However, whether you run a tiny, web-only startup, are the owner of a single small town brick-and-mortar shop, or the CEO of a global retail enterprise, you’ve likely been trying to unlock the secret to increasing market share or, in many cases, the secret to simply remaining in business, for years.
Skyrocketing costs for commercial real estate, the fight to attract and retain top-tier talent, accelerating time to market, and the ever-growing presence of Amazon.com in your rearview mirror (or perhaps you’re in its?) keep business owners and C-suite retail executives up at night, and justifiably so.
It’s never been easier to gain, or lose, a customer, and thanks to increasing consumer demands for “digital excellence,” both can happen in an instant.
What is Digital Excellence?
Digital excellence enables your online visitors to be delighted by how easily they were able to accomplish a task or complete a transaction on your website and/or application. The term is highly subjective due to the endless number of tasks that your customers or potential customers may come to your website expecting to be able to accomplish. Maybe they’re just looking for pricing or sizing information. Maybe they need to track an existing order or chat with support. Maybe you need to make sure they know about a new promotional discount, rewards program, or payment options. Today’s successful retailers are making sure their online properties leave their customers impressed enough to return, and to encourage others in their personal and social networks to do the same.
What Are the Challenges to Delivering Digital Excellence?
It’s us. We’re the challenge. Every time we interact with a website or application, we expect the world. No matter what browser we’re using, or what tablet or mobile device is in our hands, we expect to be able to find exactly what we’re looking for, that images will render beautifully, that pages will load, payments will process quickly, and that we can quickly get on our way. And, thanks to plenty of companies that are currently delivering digital excellence, we expect every company to do the same.
Whether we’re online to purchase nails and screws, adorable cupcakes, or a high-end sports car, our expectations are the same. No retailer is spared from this requirement to delight us, as consumers, in every interaction. The retailers achieving the most success today understand the importance of not just meeting these expectations, but exceeding them.
What’s at Stake for Retailers?
While a loss of recurring revenue is what retail business leaders are most concerned with, I would argue that it’s the threat of a loss of trust that best summarizes the importance of what we’re talking about here. We don’t tend to befriend, recommend, share our personal data with, or conduct business with organizations we don’t trust. And as much as it might seem like slow-loading pages, crashed websites, missing images, and broken buttons are everyday occurrences, there are innovative technologies out there that eliminate these threats — and the threat of lost market share that comes with them.
It wasn’t that long ago that visitors to physical retail locations had limited expectations of the shopping experiences that were available to them. But today, the internet has provided online shoppers with never-before-seen digital experiences by forward-thinking retailers that understand that settling for business-as-usual is something that consumers stopped doing a long time ago.
Noel Wurst has covered the software dev/test space for a variety of tech startups for almost a decade, and he's currently a software testing evangelist and head of communications at SmartBear.
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