By Brad LaRock, email@example.com
If the 2012 holiday retail season proved anything, it’s this: the smart merchant gets the sale. Retailers have to plan strategically, segment their customer base, and think like today’s super connected shopper.
If you want to stay on the right path throughout 2013, start with your e-commerce site. There you can implement many of the secrets to the changing retail environment. Whether you’re a big retailer or small, online selling can strengthen your position. Here’s how:
1. Dig for treasure: What’s the great differentiator of online versus physical retailing? Not selection, not speed, not low overhead. It’s data — the ability to use information about buyer behavior to increase relevance and build reasons to buy. Today many of us are in data rich but information poor environments, and chances are, all that traffic you generated over the 2012 holidays resulted in extremely valuable buyer data. Capitalize on it to learn about your customer, anticipate his or her needs, and increase your quality of service. Now that shoppers are well over their post-holiday fatigue and back into the swing of buying, you need to stay relevant on an individualized basis.
2. Segment and conquer: Customer segmentation is a powerful way to reach the most captive audiences with perfect offers that seem to be custom designed especially for them. For new shoppers, highlight your competitive advantage, and don’t forget that your service offerings are unique to your business and can be great differentiators. Welcome back returning shoppers with recommendations based on past purchases, and reward loyal customers with exclusive deals and personalized ideas for products they may have interest in based on previously viewed items. This also is a great opportunity to test new product offers or bundles. Finally, don’t pass on the chance to entice those who might abandon their cart with discounts or free shipping to close the sale. Sometimes the smallest offer can make a big difference in your metrics.
3. Sell creatively. Once you understand your customer’s preferences, interests and habits, you can suggestive sell in ways that are truly helpful. Did your customer just buy home theater speakers? Chances are the person is considering upgrading the living room/family room and would consider suitable accessories. Educational materials, resupplies of consumables, and product bundles are all options. So are “intrasite deals” with retail partners; if you sell digital devices, for example, consider a deal with a software vendor to increase interest in both companies.
4. Maintain cross-channel consistency: Presenting a unified front across all marketing campaigns is important to maintaining brand consistency and ensuring shoppers feel comfortable with a familiar shopping experience. Ensure your campaigns are consistent across the Web, email, social media, display and in-store advertising, and double-check that the display is consistent on multiple devices. Your customers are already moving from device to device while shopping, and a disjointed experience can quickly confuse them, and result in lost sales.
5. Go mobile: The proliferation of mobile devices means that more people than ever are shopping online using a smartphone or tablet, giving you even more opportunity to engage these shoppers with your brand Optimize your site for tablet and mobile viewing, and with speed and usability features suitable for touch-screen shopping. Responsive design is an incredibly important function that is expected by today’s connected consumers. Limit the use of Flash and minimize scrolling to make your site compatible with the widest range of devices. Consider creating a mobile app for your store and an email or MSM/text-message opt-in program that directs customers to your store.
6. Maximize marketing and merchandising: Now is a good time to overhaul your site to capture and maintain your customers’ attention throughout the year. Put special offers, purchasing options, etc., in front of shoppers quickly. Add special landing pages to your site, create shopping tabs that make it easy to navigate to special deals, and offer shopping assistance, like top seller lists and volume discounts. A countdown timer to get the best deals, free shipping or other key “calls to action” adds urgency to spur sales. Keep it fresh, and commit to a testing program. The data you gather will guide your future merchandising and marketing efforts.
7. Get customers’ attention fast — and hold it: Getting and holding site visitors’ attention