In the good ol’ days of ecommerce, launching a snazzily designed website and running some display ads was more than enough to attract consumers and convince them to make an online purchase. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find most retailers have wisely chosen to abandon this passive approach. As ecommerce continues to carve out a larger chunk of total retail sales in the U.S., smart brands are realizing they must work a lot harder to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Ultimately it’s companies who adopt the mindset of the modern consumer that will have an edge over the competition.
How Your Customers Think
To get a full picture of how consumers view your brand, go beyond standard measurements of direct website traffic and conversions. It’s important to remember the customer mindset isn’t “click and buy” right away. Rather, it’s a complex, nonlinear process involving:
- Discovering a need or problem
- Researching solutions
- Reading product reviews
- Scrutinizing prices
- Receiving recommendations
- Comparing products
This process often involves the consumer accessing digital properties your brand doesn’t own. The other online stores and platforms where your products are sold can carry as much weight with consumers as your own website. BigCommerce found that 48% of online customer journeys begin at ecommerce marketplaces like eBay or Amazon, so consider using their built-in ad platforms as you build out your digital media plan.
What Your Customers Want
According to Bazaarvoice, 54% of online purchasers said they read online reviews prior to hitting the buy button. So in addition to having a flawless ecommerce site, you’ll want to be sure you build out a strong influencer strategy and proactive community management plan. Your potential buyers need more than a product description to commit. They desire social validation. They want to know other consumers have had a good experience with your product and your brand. The best way to prove this is by taking a cross-channel approach to sourcing and managing reviews. Remember, potential customers may come across mentions of your product on their Facebook timeline or Instagram feed, through a product review section of your site, on an ecommerce marketplace, or via an online publication.
When developing an ecommerce strategy for a client, Planit considers the many different actions a modern customer takes along his/her path to purchase. The following items are pulled from a framework that corresponds with the modern consumer’s thought process and resulting behaviors. Use it as a starting point when building out your ecommerce acquisition and retention strategy.
A Modern Ecommerce Marketing Framework:
Search Is Life
Approximately 39% of global ecommerce traffic comes from searching. If your potential customer doesn’t have a specific product in mind, they are likely searching for the “best” blank-for-blank. Also, customers who are torn between two products often ask Google to pit your product up against the competition, e.g., “Product X vs. Product B.” It’s imperative that your SEO and content strategy account for these common user searches.
If a consumer does have a specific product in mind, it’s likely it came at the recommendation of their favorite social influencer or from someone else in their network. A whopping 75% of consumers admit to purchasing a product because they saw it on social media. So of course paid social advertising should be part of the game plan. However, don’t neglect the opportunity to measure the sentiment around your brand on different social channels. Sentiment analysis tools give you a good idea of how consumers feel about your brand and can help you sharpen your organic social and influencer marketing strategies.
Once your potential customer has conducted comparison searches, whether through Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc., he or she is closely reading the product reviews section. It’s important to remember that not everyone will take the time to leave a review. Generally, reviews come from those customers who’ve had either an outstanding experience or a very negative one. Generating a constant stream of honest reviews needs to be your goal. If you want customers to review your product, give them an incentive to do so! Establish a rewards program. Offer discounts on future purchases. Run regular giveaways.
Pricing It Out
Ok, your potential customer might be down to three options—all with good reviews—so it may ultimately come down to price. Who has the lowest shipping cost? What’s the delivery timeline? Many customers might go to Amazon first because they have an Amazon Prime account. Still, others may go directly to your ecommerce site to find out if there is a unique benefit to purchasing directly from the maker. Will they save money buying from the brand site? Are there complementary products available for purchase that can’t be found on one of the ecommerce marketplaces?
The look, feel, and functionality of your ecommerce site can make or break an opportunity to convert a potential customer. That’s why when designing out a great customer experience, Planit places tremendous value on a brand’s site. In that same vein, we also consider the many other digital touchpoints in a customer’s journey, as well as the thought process of modern online shoppers. The brands that will win at ecommerce will be the ones who invest in truly getting to know their customers.