The ease with which an e-commerce site can be created has yielded an environment in which “would-be” e-commerce entrepreneurs take a “build it and they will come” approach. They rely on existing templates and fast as-a-service options that allow them to build a site quickly but ignoring the critical difference between building a site and driving customers to it.
E-commerce templates, add-ins that allow webmasters to build shopping carts and credit card functionality instantly, and inexpensive hosting options all make it possible to create a nice-looking e-commerce website with very little money and to have it up and running in under a day. Doing so, however, merely hangs a site in cyberspace – those as-a-service tools do nothing towards actually driving revenue.
That simplicity lies behind what Cloudipedia defines as the “dotcloud boom”, or an emergence of a new class of born-in-the-cloud startups which are driven by an imperative for speed, convenience and personalization on the part of the consumer, and which are built on as-a-service infrastructure, software and development tools that allow a more agile startup cycle with low initial capital requirements.
Approach marketing as a two-way conversation
While the content on the e-commerce site must be complete, well-written, and attractive, visitors to an e-commerce site today expect more than just information – they expect to be able to establish a two-way dialog just as if they were in a brick-and-mortar store. And increasingly, that dialog isn’t just with the vendor, it’s with other customers.
According to a Nielsen research report, “Global Trust in Advertising,” the best advertising comes not from the retailer, but from consumers’ know and trust. Eighty-three percent of respondents in the Nielsen survey say they completely, or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family, and 66 percent say they trust consumer opinions posted online.
“Online shopping has evolved from being a limited and impersonal experience to one that has just as much – if not more – interaction and personalization than brick-and-mortar shopping,” said Jeev Trika, CEO of CrowdReviews.com, a crowd-driven review site. “Successful e-Retailers have made shopping experiences personal again by enabling two-way dialog, and even by allowing consumers to view and respond to other shoppers’ opinions before making their buying decisions.”
Build for content and features first
That two-way dialog is what drives modern e-commerce success. The first tentative ventures into online e-commerce offered websites that had little more than pictures, prices, and a shopping cart, and shopping online was little more than a curiosity that left consumers wanting more.
Even as online shopping matured, retailers faced two major challenges: An increasing move towards mobile devices, and slow download times. Realizing that consumers are more likely to abandon their browsing session if a site takes more than three seconds to download, retailers began to trim down sites and then realizing that mobile browsing was even slower, trimmed them down some more.
This gave rise to an approach of “design for mobile first” and the minimalist school of web design that created websites to comply with the lowest common denominator of end-user devices and download times. The result was faster downloads, but unappealing websites that simply did not compel users to stick around.
Rather than the “design for mobile first” imperative, retailers will be better served with a “design for end-user experience first” – an approach that allows webmasters to give consumers all of the “try it on” apps, third-party calls, video, graphics, and features they want, apply responsive design tools to transfer the full experience to mobile without stripping it down, and then apply two tactics: content delivery networks (CDNs), which serves the content from data centers closer to the destination; and content orchestration, which addresses the “last mile” by prioritizing page content so that the most important parts download first, to turbocharge the site.
Set triggers on the customer journey
In a brick-and-mortar store, salespeople may watch for customer behaviors such as returning to a certain display or asking about an item and use that trigger as a cue to provide more information. The same tactic can be used, and far more effectively, on a commercial website with simple data triggers. “Data triggers that help automate particular communication aspects being utilized by large and small companies,” said Mandy McEwen, founder, and CEO of Mod Girl Marketing. “Marketers are able to flag customers at different points of the customer’s journey, for example, when a customer downloads premium content or browses trial signup pages. These data triggers tell marketers when and how to reach out to these customers.” Mandy notes that utilizing automated communications triggers will become the norm in digital marketing, especially as new tools make it easier than ever. “Over the next five years,” she says, “We expect to see a surge in marketing data technologies, increasing and improving automation for the customer and marketers alike.”
Embrace digital marketing but keep the best old-school techniques
Modern digital marketers often make the mistake of focusing solely on metrics and automated tactics while neglecting hands-on creativity in marketing campaigns. Lula McKee, Vice President of Marketing at SkinCareConsumers.com, says “Too many marketers incorrectly equate SEO with marketing, thinking that if they reach their backlink target and keyword penetration goals, then they have done marketing. They haven’t. True marketing means creating a well-crafted and creative message, getting it in highly relevant media outlets, and building meaningful and organic social buzz around a brand. SEO comes as an organic outgrowth of putting that creative marketing focus first.”
Mathieu Hannouz, Marketing Evangelist at Adobe, notes four key pillars for successful digital marketing:
While data is essential to fueling any customer experience, data intelligence is key for its success.
Content is not only still king but needs to be as powerful as messages brands wish to convey. Content needs to fit within every engagement opportunity to sustain an experience rather than selling more products.
Delivery and orchestration:
Channels are everywhere. From email, direct mail, mobile apps, kiosk, and social media, the experience needs to be delivered as much as orchestrated to aid the customer lifecycle.
Attribution and AI:
Measuring experiences has become a critical component to success. With several channels to get data from, it is important to use attribution to measure channel mix and how we can optimize it along the customer journey. Artificial intelligence is also becoming critical to make sense of a data deluge and helping marketers make the most well-informed decisions.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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