2016 witnessed yet another sensational Black Friday and Cyber Monday saga as shoppers splurged record sums of money across retail channels both offline and online. Let’s keep our focus to the eCommerce side where 2016 saw some records being rewritten. Primarily those records were for eCommerce transactions via mobile phones or to be more specific mCommerce. There were reports suggesting that many online stores were ill equipped to handle the huge peak in mobile traffic and consumers were frustrated with low grade mobile sites but when you look at sales percentage, Adobe reports that nearly 36% of all online sales revenue for Black Friday 2016 came through mobile phones.
Though PC’s drove more sales, the traffic volume was higher from mobile screens 55 percent of traffic to retail sites were from mobile screens. Tablet PC’s occupied only a fraction of the mobile traffic and the competition was predominantly between iPhones and Android powered mobile phones. Black Friday 2016 also witnessed for the first time that mobile sales revenue alone surpassed $1 billion on a single day.
For retailers, this is a wake-up call as their reluctance to offer crispier mobile experiences to shoppers will cost them dearly in market share. If you were to ask us for the exact areas to focus on, in order to deliver a seamless cross channel experience for your shoppers, the below would be our picks:
- Responsive websites
- Light weight mobile sites
- Shopping Apps across all popular platforms
- Mobile centric marketing campaigns via emails
As days pass by the shopping season is only going to get hotter and online retailers who haven’t drawn up elaborate plans for mCommerce need to catch up with their app engineers or software vendors to put some great mobile experiences in place.
The E-Commerce industry is going through rapid innovations and retailers now have to face challenges on multiple frontiers. They cannot just sit back on the sales and revenues that have been generated so far. The game has just begun. As Cersei of House Lannister says: “When you play the game of thrones (E-Commerce), you win or die. There is no middle ground.” Some of the key challenges ahead for the e-commerce are:
Understanding the Customer beyond Personalization
In order to cut through the intense competition, building the right customer experience is primary and to do so, you need to understand how your customers interact with your products, services and brands. It is not just about the numbers. By looking at the customer’s buying behaviours, social media engagement and digital footprint we can learn their individual needs and preferences. But personalization is not the all-encompassing cure. Personalization is limited to few elements of an e-commerce site. It is just one of the spokes in the wheel of building the right customer experience. To deliver a shopping experience that is relevant to each individual customer, we need to look at the bigger picture. For instance, your Customer Service, Merchandising and Marketing teams have different approaches to interacting with the customers. Customer experience is about the entire context, every customer touch-point. Data is the key to building great experiences and only by a unified approach to disparate systems such as search, recommendations, merchandising, banners and navigations can we drive a fully optimized customer journey. Also, the customer experience is not just for special occasions like thanksgiving or Diwali. It is for Life.
Increasing relevance of AR, VR and Wearables
The latest technology trends such as wearables, virtual reality and augmented reality are finding use in the e-commerce industry faster than you would imagine. This is truly the era of Virtual, Augmented reality. Sports retailers, for instance, could track user activity on a fit-bit and push relevant recommendations. Lego Digital Box is another interesting case, which can greatly enhance the in-store customer experience. These technologies are increasingly helping the retailers by driving the sales, enhancing the in-store experiences and creating a niche for themselves among the competition. Facebook buying Oculus Rift, Google Ingress and Samsung GearVR are just examples of the fact that the industry is moving towards the technology of the future. Such measures will definitely revitalize the brands and provide competitive edge over the rivals.
Over the last few years, Customer social engagement has drastically changed. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, the customer has increasing number of channels to communicate and share their experiences. Social Media has become a valuable resource for information. Each day, millions and millions of users post their opinions and reviews on various channels. Identifying and categorizing these vital data points can help the retailers to understand emotions around their products and brands and provide productive insights that can be invaluable. This is where the gold (read as data) is. It also acts as a useful market research tool. Through customer emotional analytics, retailers can track digital marketing performance and align their personalization campaigns appropriately. By analysing what is being said in the social media, the personalization strategy can be tailored to help customer make that last jump to conversion. This again ties back to understanding the customer and increases the relevance of their shopping context. The challenge is to correctly comprehend all the nuances of human communication through a machine. But increasing levels of accuracy only points to the fact that we are getting close.
Smart Home wars
The idea of a smart home is no longer alien but futuristic, practical and accessible. But the market is still struggling to move from the early-adopter phase to a mass-market phase. Google, with the recent announcement of the launch of Google Home, has made its intentions clear that it would not let Amazon take the lead. The competition is getting hotter. Just like Amazon Echo, which lets the customer place an order through a voice-activated smart home, Google Home is a voice-activated assistant. The conversational voice command paradigm of Google Home is expected to be a sure hit with the tech-savvy audience. Through the prevalence of smart homes, retailers will be encouraged to set up online stores and users can use their smart devices to place orders. This is where the future battles will be fought. Initially the conversions might be little too less, but once the smart home becomes a mass-market, retailers can expect huge traffic from these devices.
These are some of the key challenges we feel will require the attention of online retailers in the coming years.
Since product content is efficiently stored and managed, the distribution to the supporting manuals is critical. Retailers should ensure a management process that co-ordinates with the warehouse, logistics, and customer to provide a seamless presentation of the latest versions required.
Systems should be smart to trigger alerts that inform sales and marketers when a new product is introduced without online help or whether an existing product is discontinued. These alerts should be carried one step further to inform the customer who has already brought the product to inform that such changes have occurred. This strengthens your customer relationship and the shopper feels confident in their purchasing decisions.
The content management systems you incorporate within your site require flexibility to create manuals. This avoids unnecessary delays especially during peak seasons where your technical teams are too busy with logistics and supply management.