Retail is rapidly changing. It’s not only that the biggest online retailers are getting very close in size to the biggest brick-and-mortar retailers. Consumer behaviors are changing in a way that makes a digital presence relevant even for shopping at a physical store. Many brick-and-mortar retailers have failed to adapt, which is one of the reasons we saw so many of them go under in the past couple of years.
But you’ll see no signs of crisis in online retail. Things are as good as they’ve ever been with online retail, probably even better. The fact that there are a couple of giants that dominate the market doesn’t take away the opportunity for smaller and agiler online retailers to fill in the blanks and find their own niches. But it can be a tough battle to grow a successful online store, and even tougher to keep it competitive. Here are a couple of things every online store needs if it wants to avoid getting overrun by its competitors.
A Fully Functional and Streamlined Website
Adoption of emerging technologies is an important strategy for businesses that want to succeed. However, keeping with the times also means that some things shouldn’t be a problem anymore. Online retailers have figured out why they need social proof on their website, and how they should implement it. They have also figured out that you can’t afford to disregard user experience on mobile devices.
Fast loading speeds, a quick checkout procedure, strong security features, and social proof are some of the things online stores cannot do without. There is little room at the top for the stores that still don’t offer secure connections, for example. As stores implement more emerging technologies, the ones that are still struggling with the basics will stick out, and not in a good way.
Omnichannel is the marketing buzzword of the year. Businesses are getting better at communicating their message to customers. The key effort is in ensuring seamless communication across different channels. That wouldn’t be a big problem, however, if there weren’t so many marketing channels available.
To effectively market your store, you must figure out which channels matter the most to your customers. Social media and content marketing are among the more popular and widely used. You should also make sure that your tech is ready for the task — shared hosting and SEO don’t play well together, at least not if you’re using an unreliable host. On top of that, you need to use tools that let you finely segment your audience if you want to create the strongest marketing messages.
Focus on Customer Experience
Speaking of important buzzwords, customer experience is one that’s been dominating the industry for the past couple of years. As customers get more sophisticated, their demands go up. They expect more from you and your store, and you better be able to deliver. If you’re not, there is plenty of other online stores that will gladly take in those customers.
One of the ways businesses use Big Data analysis today is to give their customers a personalized experience. By using technologies that work with large sets of data, like AI and machine learning, your store can deliver incredible value to your customers. Personalized product recommendations are only the tip of the iceberg. You can also personalize content and customer service, and even offer personalized discounts and dynamic pricing.
Invest in Customer Retention
Many business’ online activities are geared toward customer acquisition. Usually, it comes at the expense of customer retention, which is an incredibly important segment of your retail store’s strategy. Customer retention is cheaper than acquisition, and it’s very cost-effective. Still, retail stores tend to focus on building an initial relationship with the customer, without investing too much in developing it further.
Some of the things we mentioned before, like offering a personalized experience, are very important for customer retention. However, if you want your store to keep its most valuable customers happy, you will need to do more. Setting up loyalty programs is one thing you can do. Finding the right frequency of communication with customers is also important. You should also treat every customer complaint as a chance to prove to your customers how valuable they are to you.
Online retail is a competitive market, and it’s only going to get more competitive. You will have to fight hard to stay in the game. You will need to adjust to new trends quickly. You will not have room for many mistakes. But if you manage to do everything right, you’ll get all the benefits of being a part of a fast-growing market with a bright future ahead of it.