This post is an installment of our partnership series where we invite our esteemed partners to write about trending topics and industry news that impacts our mutual clients.
Consumer needs and tastes are always changing, and businesses need to meet their customers where they are. As technology evolves, customers expect better experiences for lower prices and shorter wait times, and retailers must deliver to survive. Make sure your tech is helping, and not hurting your customer experience with these tips:
Make mobile first. Mobile optimization is no longer optional when it comes to your e-commerce site. In fact, researchers predict that mobile will account for more than half of all retail e-commerce sales by 2021. Mobile optimization is more than just making sure images scale and navigation collapses on small devices. ‘Mobile First’ needs to be the mantra of your entire tech stack. Oftentimes, third parties are not built with mobile in mind. This can lead to slow loading sites and other awkward experiences for customers that negatively impact their perception of your brand.
Let customers shop where they want to. 97% of customers who shop online do so on marketplaces, like Amazon and eBay. Marketplace integrations open up the opportunity to reach your customers where they are already shopping, but they also have a lot of risk. Inventory counts can get off in a heartbeat, leading to over or underselling. Order statuses must be communicated accurately and promptly. Product data must meet strict criteria to be accepted and to stay flowing. Many marketplaces have strict requirements for shipping times as well as customer satisfaction rankings. Your underlying technology and its ability to keep up can make or break marketplace sales. As an example of some of the work that needs to be done to get this right check out this article for an in-depth look at the work Virid has done setting up clients to sell on Amazon.
Let customers pay how they want to. Make sure your site can support multiple payment methods, including alternative mobile payment options like PayPal, Amazon Pay, or Apple Pay. While many people are happy with their Discover or American Express card, more and more customers expect these other payment options. Choose your payment provider and implementer carefully, because generally the more market-appropriate payment options the better, and you don’t want to be hampered by what your partners can, or can’t do. Providing a frictionless checkout is crucial to the customer experience, and for many, these alternative payment options make their experience easier. And again, be sure the mobile checkout process is just as seamless on mobile as it is on desktop.
Engage customers where they are. In 2017, 81% of the US population had a social networking profile, and the total number of users is expected to grow to 2.95 billion by 2020. Incorporating social selling into your e-commerce strategy with a service like Like2Buy can help you drive traffic and revenue directly from Instagram, where 80% of users are already voluntarily connecting with brands. And creating shoppable posts on social media will allow your brand to deliver a native shopping experience for customers and expedite their path to purchase. Your customers are already on social. Instead of making them come to you, why not bring your products to them?
Help your customers sell your products for you. Leverage user-generated content through features like ratings and reviews or fan galleries on your site. With a ratings platform like Revere, you can highlight your brand advocates by featuring top reviews on your site and by posting positive reviews to social media with the click of a button. If you’re looking for frictionless feedback on your products, the Heartbeat feature allows customers to “heart” products without creating an account, keeping a running tally of which products on your site are the most popular. The instant social proof provided by this type of UGC increases trust in your brand and gives consumers the confidence they need to make a purchase. Additionally, implementing fan galleries on your site, either on homepages, product detail pages, or category pages can help customers envision that product in their own lives. Services like Fanreel help you do just that, connecting your products directly to the customer experience.
Speed is of the essence. Partner with a team that understands the tech behind selling and owns your core site tech top to bottom, so that it is fully responsive and operates at optimum speeds. Studies have shown that 47% of customers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Your platform, site, and hosting are the backbone of your e-commerce technology and it is vital that they work together seamlessly to maximize performance. Your site is only as good as the weakest link, be that the implementer, the hosting, or the platform. Most solutions providers built on platforms that they don’t own and can’t control. This puts them at the mercy of that providers performance capabilities and no matter how good they are, their hands are tied to improve this key component of site performance. Virid’s frustration with these performance constraints led us to our unique model, which includes our enterprise platform and a front end site, hosted on Microsoft Azure’s global infrastructure, all built to work optimally together.
Choose wisely. While the core of your site is the platform, site and hosting, third party technology providers, like personalization, UGC, email or fraud providers play a huge role in the overall success of your online business. Technology is full of nuance and can be hard to assess without really digging into the details which means technology can be particularly prone to snake oil sales. Make sure that you look beyond the flashy homepage to make sure you aren’t being sold a tech bill of goods. It’s also important to have tech experts in your corner. If you don’t have anyone on-staff who is deeply technical and staying abreast of all the changes in such a dynamic space, you can go out of house. Consultants can be helpful or if possible form an ongoing consulting relationship with your solutions provider to help with 3rd party assessments. Many providers focus just on ‘support ticket’ type code work, but ongoing access to tech expertise can be very helpful, if available.
Retailers can’t escape digital transformation, and the way you respond to and leverage evolving technologies will determine the future of your e-commerce business.
Interested in learning how Virid can help you achieve your growth goals? Sign up for a personal tech consultation with one of our e-commerce experts.
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