January 19, 2016

Three Ways to Optimize Your E-Commerce Strategy in a Customer-Driven World

Your customers are online. Are you there to greet them with an intuitive website, ensure their experience is optimal and guarantee a smooth checkout? If not, your competitors have got the jump on you and it’s time to play catch-up. Even if you answered yes, you may still need to take steps to stay ahead in the game.

B2C customers are hitting their stride with online purchasing (with global sales projected to double by 2019 to $3.5 trillion, to 12.8 percent of the total retail market, according to eMarketer), and B2B customers, influenced by their own personal online shopping, aren’t far behind. In fact, 59 percent of U.S. B2B organizations see a third of their customers transacting online, according to a new Accenture Interactive study.

So what can you do to lock down your share of the e-commerce market? Here are three actions to take now to drive consumers to your site and/or keep them there through purchase:

1. Regularly update and enhance your platforms, including mobile:  Make sure your site is easy for visitors to navigate. It should practically go without saying that the site is well-organized, loads quickly and is designed to be responsive. Also imperative: The site must be able to handle the traffic volume you expect to generate. Be sure, too, that you offer users a human touch. That is, offer online phone support via direct calls or click-to-call. Indeed, Accenture Interactives’ “2014 State of B2B Procurement” study found that one-third of buyers cite phone support as their preferred way to involve a sales rep in a transaction. For mobile, embed special features to enhance customers’ mobile experience, such as text messaging and mobile catalogs. Your mobile strategy should take into account that more than half of millennial buyers aged 18-25 conduct research on their mobile phones prior to purchase, as do more than one-third of those over the age of 45 as well, per the study.

2. Use email blasts to promote your site: You can also employ direct mail, as do 86 percent of the respondents in the aforementioned study, but email marketing is the most prevalent tactic, used by 92 percent of B2B organizations to promote online sales. Your email content can be used to notify customers of special online discounts and online-only loyalty programs, for example. Engage in best practices when crafting your emails—from subject line to call to action. For instance, is your contact database clean and up to date? Personalization is the key to effective email marketing, but only if your contact information is correct. Most importantly, when creating email messaging, write effective copy. Ask yourself: Is it scannable (your targets are likely not reading carefully)? Does it flow from headline to lead to call to action? Have you triggered an emotion? These are just some of the content parameters you need to consider when writing emails. If you don’t have expert content creators in-house, look to an expert content strategy vendor for support.

3. Use multiple channels to drive online sales: According to the 2015 Accenture study named above, the predominant channels for supporting online customer shopping are: email (49 percent), dedicated employee outreach (45 percent), website (43 percent), social media (25 percent) and editorial content (20 percent). Since all these channels contain a content element, you must ensure that your content resonates with readers, meaning that your messages are consistently interesting and relevant. Another priority with your multichannel strategy should be a seamless customer experience from one channel to another. In addition, customers should be offered a self-service option whenever possible and robust digital account management features, such as transaction histories.

As you strive to build your online presence, keep in mind that improvements to an e-commerce strategy bear fruit slowly. To keep pace with your competitors over the long haul, stay on track by acting on these three recommendations.

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