The Ecommerce Blueprint: Launching And Establishing Your Online Store
If you are a part of the retail industry, there’s a good chance you’ve felt the impact of the ecommerce juggernaut. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that in the 2016 holiday season in the US, total retail sales grew by 4% year on year, whereas e-commerce, specifically, is expected to have grown by at least 16% over the previous year.
For traditional retailers who still have a primarily brick-and-mortar presence, these recent events have been increasing proof of the need to expand to online channels. They are adopting ecommerce to extend their presence online, primarily to prevent customer churn. We, however, see this as the part of the inevitable transition to the omni-channel retail – or ‘brick and click’ – model for all retailers. This is why we recommend that instead of adding online presence as a separate channel, retailers should move ahead towards a more integrated and agile model of business.
Getting The Backbone Right
- Cross channel integration: Customers expect to have a consistent and seamless experience across your store, website, mobile app or kiosk. Cross channel integration in terms of transaction data, loyalty programs, customer service and inventory data will allow your in-store customers to move seamlessly on to your website.
- Flexible fulfillment: Increasingly, customers are demanding the conveniences of buying online, picking up in store, and your inventory and logistics systems should be integrated to allow the same.
- 360° customer view: Personalization is, increasingly, the key to customer loyalty. Having access to real-time data about a customer’s demographics, social media profiles, previous transactions as well as their loyalty and service records is a key enabler forpersonalized offers, promotions, recommendations and assortments.
- Analytics and KPIs: Analytics gives youclear and timely insights into customer and market preferences, helping you manage your product, pricing, sales and marketing strategies in an agile and effective manner.With ongoing promotions being a common model online, tracking competitor prices, for example, is important for online stores. Additionally, analytics can help you track the performance of your online channel. Clear key performance indicators based on your online objectives and strategy should be identified, and systems configured to ensure ongoing monitoring and reporting of the same across relevant functions.
Getting Ready to Take Off
With your systems in place, it’s time to get started with the pre-launch activities:
- Designing your online store: Apart from ensuring consistent brand representation in terms of visuals and themes, designing user experience in keeping with your online objective and strategy is important. For example, if the primary objective of the website is to prevent loss of existing customers who now prefer to shop online, it would make sense to have a faster, one-step registration process for existing loyalty program members. This stage also includes defining your responses to scenarios like abandoned carts, items not in stock online, etc., as well as defining email templates (promotional, transactional, service related) and chat scripts.
- Getting your SEO strategy in place: Searchability is a critical success factor for an ecommerce website. Making sure that your online store is search engine optimized is, therefore, one of the most important pre-launch activities. Develop and fine tune a comprehensive list of key words for your website depending on your product category, customer segmentation, geography, and any other relevant attributes. It also helps to know the keywords your direct competitors are using. Tools like the Google Keyword Planner Tool help can you finalize keywords and related search terms that have high search volumes and low competition.
- Creating a social media presence: If your brand does not already have a social media presence, you definitely need to create one by this time. Think through your social media objectives in terms of outreach, fostering dialog around your retail category, tapping local/community events, type of content, etc., and create a presence on relevant platforms. Invite existing customers to follow you and plan for frequent content updates to attract newer followers. Planning a few interactive activities or online events is a good way to keep your audience interested and generatea pre-launch buzz.
Hitting in Off with Customers Online
The launch of your website, which could involve certain promotional strategies like store-wide discounts, or even direct offers e-mailed to existing customers, would be a good chance to review the extent of engagement you have been able to achieve with your pre-launch strategies. A close eye to transactional analytics will be required to identify what works, and what doesn’t; for example, user flows leading to abandoned carts or otherwise truncated purchases. Prompt responsiveness in terms of follow-up emails to customers who were not able to complete their transactions, or social media updates in the wake of customer feedback on various platforms, will be critical to assure customers that the brand is willing to engage and is here to stay.
Establishing an online store is a long process depending on a lot of factors, but searchability, good user experience, smooth order fulfillments, and ongoing and personalized customer engagement to build trust and transparency, are definite stepping stones to online success.
Amelie Kensington is a Senior Technical Writer. She has over 5 years of experience in software product development, IT solutions, IT consulting, Retail Technology and Digital Transformation.