Iflexion
E-Commerce Competition

E-Commerce Competition Is All About Digital Experience Now

By 2017, e-commerce brands can no longer afford to compete on the grounds of their products only. Though the price factor still lingers, there’s now another, more crucial component to a brand’s survival on the market, and it’s digital experience.

The idea is not new, yet it remains quite a challenge for brands to comprehend it, let alone bring it to life. What follows is a list of signposts to guide e-commerce marketers and brand developers in laying out their DX-based competitive strategies.

It should be personalized

Personalization is more than putting your customer’s name in an email. It’s about talking to each and every one of them individually, at every touchpoint. This takes smart marketing automation tools and fine-grained analytics to map our individual customer journeys. The outcome? More precise product recommendations made in an expert consulting voice, which in its turn leads to more positive purchasing decisions.

What’s more, personalization allows to pick up the thread during a customer’s next visit, and effectively cross-sell and upsell due to the advantage of truly knowing the customer. It looks like an ongoing conversation, sparing customers the hassle of starting it all over again. Those brands that treat customers like strangers will be highly likely to lose them to other sellers that know better, literally.

It should be cross-channel

Digital experience is made up of several channels: website, device-agnostic mobile apps, online customer support and social media. Instead of treating each of these channels as self-sustained, it’s necessary to think about merging them seamlessly into one e-commerce ecosystem, so that the customer could transition from one channel to another effortlessly without losing neither the data they’ve already entered elsewhere nor the feeling of being familiar to the brand.

For brick-and-click e-commerce brands, it may sound like a paradox, but digital today is not only about your online presence. Increasingly, retailers find themselves facing the challenge of digitizing their physical stores as well. This includes introducing augmented reality gimmicks and letting in-store visitors fiddle with their branded mobile apps at the same time, just to name a few examples.

It should be diversified

One more step further into deep personalization, digital experiences should differ substantially for each of your customer groups. Basic segmentation by demographic and psychographic criteria is fine but no longer enough. The true to-the-point diversification of your messages starts when you separate new visitors, first-time buyers, existing customers, and those abandoning baskets, all with a proper respect to the e-commerce channels they use.

Logically, it’s about effectively combining personalization mechanisms and cross-channel seamlessness described above with a clever set of identifying criteria based on your brand specifics. With this approach, you will never cease trying to persuade the customer who quit the basket in your mobile app to buy at a special discount through a push notification the moment this particular customer enters your physical store.

It should be measurable

No strategy is workable unless you know when it’s successful and when it’s not. For this, at every stage of transforming digital experiences, metrics are crucial to guide you and notify if something is wrong.

With digital experience analytics, we enter a broader domain of customer experience management in general. At the moment, there are still heated debates over measuring customer experience properly with no unified opinions yet. One thing is clear though, you should both ask your customers directly though polls and surveys, as well as observe and audit independently based on the operational data you have on hands.

It should be one step ahead

Eventually, every innovation gets stale and no longer innovative when every brand out there adopts it. The truly competitive digital experience starts when you push to the front and become an early adopter.

In 2017, it’s worth talking about artificial intelligence, chatbots, augmented reality apps and IoT when it comes to the next big thing. Now most of the e-commerce brands are only trying out the new toys, and it’s hard to say if customers themselves take these game-like experiences seriously. Yet, the next few years will likely see a change in their perception, mostly because these new technologies will mature and start to bring feasible benefits. Setting off for adopting these innovations now would mean investing in sustainable intellectual property in the longer run.

Technology is an enabler

None of the above is possible without underlying digital technologies. The load of offering in eCommerce development covers every stage of fulfilling a digital experience strategy for e-brands today. Namely, slick web and mobile storefronts, e-commerce modules for real-time order processing, deep analytics, and of course, integration with sales and marketing automation systems such as CRMs to enable two-way communication between an e-retailer and their customers.

Sensing the shifts in customer expectations, brands may as well go for redesign and upgrade of their legacy systems. This practice is common today, one of such recent cases being Sleepers in Seattle, a US furniture store. Migrating their existing website to a more scalable technology and adding one more, brand new online store to their portfolio, the brand managed to completely redefine the digital experience they bring to their customers, including the introduction of a shared basket across the two websites for a truly seamless customer experience. Altogether, this resulted in winning a wider audience and hitting higher sales.

Time to join the front line

For e-commerce brands anxious to stay afloat or to enter the market, competing in digital experience above all is the answer. This is the new competitive advantage, and the new reality of selling to digital-bound millennials. The journey can be a bit bumpy, but with a whole array of success stories, it gets less scary. The flipside though is the accelerating speed of innovations that is driven by brands’ race to win a bigger share of customer wallet on a limited retail market. This puts digital transformation on the agenda of every e-commerce brand – those who finish last in the race will just see their prospective customers waving them goodbye on the way to another store.

Adriana Blum

  • Masha Marinina

    Providing a true personalised experience for a customer is a very complex process. Previously that customer had been lumped into a market segment based on a few parameters such as age, gender and spend. This is a very broad brush. Let us take a 35-year old female customer as an example. Is she a working professional who commutes, self-employed and working from home or a full-time mom? Does she have a husband and children? How does she get to the store? Why does she visit your store 4 times, but only purchase every 4th visit? If you cannot answer these questions, you are probably not going to target her with any useful messages, and probably only create irritation. This is where the creation of personas can be useful. Define your ideal customer as a persona with as much detail as you can, then match your customer database against this persona. This will highlight data gaps. You can fill them using existing data such as your shopping basket intelligence and publicly shared social media. Even privacy settings on social media can tell you a lot about your customer – if she has set them to high, she will probably not be thrilled to receive SMSes in store based on her personal data, whereas her counterpart who shares everything publicly will probably appreciate them, but is also flooded with messages from your competitors. This is not an easy win, and no amount of technology will help without a true customer understanding.