While parts of the world are beginning to open up again and some consumers are anxious to get back into stores, many will continue to shop online as much as possible for a long time to come. Over the past couple of months, a lot of retailers have risen to the occasion to serve their customers very well, while others have fallen short. Wherever you may fall within the spectrum, now is a great time to evaluate what you’ve done or uncover where you should begin to implement changes to optimize your web properties and turn browsers into buyers.
Everyone loves to receive a personalized email with a special discount code for being a part of a loyalty program. However, in order to be competitive nowadays, retailers need to offer even more to their “regulars,” and there are plenty of opportunities to add extras via loyalty programs when retailers might have more inventory than ever. One high-end native online apparel shop has been offering discounts to its customers for a few weeks now. When consumers receive their package, a gift (candle) is included with the apparel as a way of saying thank you for being a loyal customer. That is just one example of going above and beyond with loyalty programs when you’re a smaller store so that you can compete against enterprise brands that simply cannot offer that kind of high-touch service and reward because it doesn’t scale across the board.
With communities still spending more time at home than usual, engaging online experiences are more important than ever before. Quality product images and videos really help shoppers make decisions, so they need to load quickly whether on a laptop or a mobile device because shopping is happening everywhere. Inviting customers to share their images and videos is another great way to inform — and no one expects the same quality. Rather, it’s about engagement. Maybe contributors can even be rewarded every time they share (see paragraph above). Don’t stop there; maybe that buyer of dumbbells is taking up a new form of exercise and has no idea how to use them, so add a few tutorials and pre-recorded workout classes. Retailers can’t boil the ocean at this time, so focus on the areas where you see the most amount of traffic and the highest volume of sales.
So that begs the question: Are you monitoring the performance of your sites? Shopping habits have shifted considerably recently. Never-before-seen online spikes in certain categories such as hair care, pet food and fitness have been all over the news. Those are just some of the categories that may or may not affect retailers’ online properties. They should be monitoring their online stores in order to make necessary modifications to ensure optimal performance, which leads to conversions. While consumers may not expect Hollywood-quality videos from fellow shoppers, the expectation that the video will load, and load quickly, persists.
Last but certainly not least, security is instrumental to the long-term success of your business. There are so many areas within security to address, but if retailers must prioritize, start with protecting customers’ personal identifiable information (PII). Retailers may have taken shortcuts to keep the lights on, but they need to double-back and get a full-proof solution implemented. Not only are the retailers protecting their businesses from catastrophic consequences if PII is stolen, they're building digital trust with their customers when they inform them of the steps they're taking to protect them. While retailers are at it, consider what information they're collecting and whether they need it. Do you need the year of your customer’s birth in order to send a special coupon or gift for their birthday, or is the birth date enough? The less retailers collect, the less PII that can be compromised.
In summary, there are several ways in which retailers have pivoted in a very short time frame to keep their businesses alive online. It's imperative that recent enhancements not be regarded as short term. The key is to focus on the consumer. Continue to invest in personalized loyalty programs, offer engaging content, monitor behavior and performance for continuous improvements, and protect your customers' data.
Tara Bartley is senior manager, global industry marketing at Akamai Technologies, a globally distributed intelligent edge platform.