The big Cyber Weekend shopping push is behind us, holiday shopping is in full swing, and 2016 will soon be in the books. As we look to 2017, we can count on e-commerce growing more competitive (and crowded) than ever, and e-commerce marketers needing to be ever-more sophisticated to drive returns.
Now that the dust has settled around emerging e-commerce channels, we predict that top performing online retailers will start tuning in much more closely to customer needs. With renewed focus on the customer experience, marketers will prioritize discovering key moments in customer journeys, influencing purchase decisions during those key moments, and providing positive experiences that bring shoppers back for more.
Here’s our take on how e-commerce marketers can make their customer experience their competitive advantage in 2017.
Look Before the Last Click
Results-focused as we are, e-commerce marketers tend to place the most value on the “last click” for measuring performance. But this attribution model doesn’t reflect the value of other touch points leading up to conversion.
In limiting ourselves to last-click attribution, we’re missing the bigger picture and major opportunities to influence purchase decisions.
For instance: A shopper discovers your product while perusing Facebook on his mobile device. The next day, the shopper opens an email promoting your product on his phone but doesn’t click through to purchase. One week later, the shopper is at work, goes directly to the retail site on his desktop and makes a purchase. Last click attribution would attribute that sale to “direct,” with no marketing influence.
In my example, the mobile touch points before the final purchase on desktop heavily influenced the customer’s decision to buy, but they receive no credit for the assist.
While there’s no easy way to connect actions across devices or offline, marketers should look for ways to measure engagement well before the last action their customers take. All activities, from product discovery on social media to what happens after purchase, map to stages in the customer purchase journey that marketers can influence.
For a high-level overview of key moments in your customers’ online purchase journey, check out this customer journey tool from Think with Google (shown above). It can help you explore how marketing channels typically influence purchase decisions in your vertical.
The bottom line? By paying close attention to how customers interact with your brand and products, marketers can better understand user preferences, the value of each touch point, and prime moments to influence the customer.
Leverage Data to Learn About Customer Journeys
In years past, first-comers to emerging online shopping channels had a clear advantage. Now that revenue-driving e-commerce channels are more established, being strategic about getting in front of customers trumps being first to a marketing channel.
With data science, retailers uncover valuable insights into their customer journeys. Large retailers use regression models to analyze customer journeys and pinpoint which activity has the greatest impact on customer satisfaction and conversion.
Data science pulls in data about purchase trends, customer loyalty, demographics, and browsing patterns that enable retailers to anticipate demand, identify high-value customers, and deliver relevant and personalized offers at right time.
Retailers of sufficient scale should consider how a data science team could help their marketers more deeply understand the customer’s path and inform tactics at each touch point.
Connect Content and Commerce to Foster Loyalty
It costs at least five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. That’s all the more reason to hang on tightly to the customers you acquire.
Great content empowers retailers to make online shopping a guided, bookended experience that customers remember and want to return to when a need arises.
Stories surrounding products can help consumers develop a relationship with your brand. Personalized emails that offer suggestions based on a recent purchase or that delve into product features make the customer experience feel tailored to shopper interests.
Small and mid-size retailers use storytelling to stand apart from big retailers that have low prices but may offer little in the way of personalized, memorable interactions.
It’s worth noting that the higher the price customers pay for products, the more interaction and personalization they will expect. Retailers in apparel, beauty, hobby, and luxury spaces can make their shoppers feel valued by offering exclusive deals or season previews.
In addition to connecting to customers through content, make sure you take advantage of remarketing capabilities, like Google’s Customer Match and RLSA and Facebook’s dynamic ads, to keep up visibility.
Word-of-mouth can be the most powerful kind of marketing out there. And the best way to get customers talking about your products is to give them an experience they can’t wait to share.
Save customers time and effort by cutting the friction in the online shopping experience, and watch loyalty and brand advocacy soar.
First, find the friction points. You could start by reducing the time it takes for a product to reach a customer. Being quick and reliable will make you a go-to for customers.
Have a high-end item that is tough to commit to without trying on? Consider offering a 30-day trial and charging only if the customer decides to keep the item once those 30 days have passed. A quick and seamless way for the customer to manage returns with your store would be essential when employing a tactic like this.
To really get customers talking, consider offering a special discount for sharing your product with friends.
Judge Channel Performance in Context
Data can tell a great story, but one channel’s performance analyzed in a vacuum tells only part of it. When evaluating Google Shopping performance, for example, we may look at ROAS and CPC, and decide on adjustments based on performance in this channel alone.
Marketers should be mindful of how success in one channel can lead to success in another. Consider expanding your data set beyond the channels your products sell in, whether that be email, paid search, or elsewhere, and decide on adjustments based on performance across all marketing channels. Google Analytics is a good place to look for this insight.
With a wider lense, you’re in a better position to make changes in your strategy that yield strong performance.
E-commerce is fast-moving and fast-changing, but your online shopping experience should feel nothing less than seamless and personalized for your customers. By meeting and exceeding customer expectations, shoppers will turn to you time and again. With the right time and attention paid to addressing customer pain points, your customer experience can become your unique competitive advantage in 2017.