It’s no secret that the changing wants and needs of today’s consumers have pushed the retail world heavily in the direction of online shopping, and this trend is unlikely to ever reverse. Modern consumers are now accustomed to the convenience and freedom that online shopping offers, so a clunky or hard to navigate e-commerce experience can be a real turn-off. The time has officially come where the ecommerce aspect of retail businesses can no longer be a complementary piece of their sales strategy.
To help retailers ensure they’re on the path to ecommerce success, the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) held its annual eCommerce Summit at the Wayfair headquarters in Boston, Mass. on February 5. Speakers at this year's event came from a variety of professional backgrounds, and session topics ranged from customer centricity to data privacy regulations to the importance of company culture.
Here's a look at some of the most valuable ecommerce tips shared with this year's attendees.
Ecommerce is more effective with a customer-centric approach
If you’ve been following along with our content, you know our thoughts on the importance of customer centricity in the retail industry. These sentiments were echoed by Drew Casey, VP of Channel Platforms at Vistaprint, in his presentation “Media Moneyball: The Keys to Cultivating Customer Centricity.”
Casey directly equated ecommerce success to customer centricity, which he noted is heavily derived from meaningful and actionable customer data insights. Interestingly, Casey discussed how Billy Beane’s analytical approach to baseball roster-building was an excellent blueprint for how customer data should be used in digital media campaigns. Beane, the General Manager of MLB’s Oakland Athletics, is famous for the data-driven approach to player analysis he and his staff used to build the team’s roster in the early 2000s (which has now become common practice by front office executives across the league).
Casey suggested that this analytical approach is the most effective way for retailers to become customer-centric and find ecommerce success. Through customer data analysis, retailers can gain a clearer understanding of customer behavior and overall customer value, which retailers can then use to develop their go-to-market strategy and sales initiatives. These insights, according to Casey, also help ensure that a diverse range of customers (rather than just a select group of big/frequent spenders) are purchasing a variety of products, which indicates that the wants and needs of their customers are being met (which is a major requirement of a customer-centric organization). He also noted that this data helps retailers strike a better balance between customer acquisition and customer retention.
Analyze data to reach customers on their preferred channels
Continuing the subject of customer experience, Cynthia Smith, Director of Global Digital Experience at Bose, discussed Bose’s ongoing strategy shift to better aligns it with the changing buying channels of its customers. (Smith was also a speaker at a previous MITX event in June 2019 which covered brand loyalty.) While Bose still uses direct marketing in its approach, Smith noted that the company now has a much more prominent focus on digital channels in an effort to engage and interact with its customers on the channels they're now on.
Smith attributed this business shift to customer data analysis and direct customer research. She said that fostering relationships with its customers is a critically important initiative for Bose, which is why the company has heavily invested in technology that helps it uncover the insights it needs to provide its customers with the best shopping experiences possible (both in-store and online). She noted that this is especially important for Bose now that the company's sales strategy includes more resellers, a change from the direct selling model it relied on for the majority of its history.
Smith said that Bose's commitment to customer research and focus on customer experience, which includes investing in a tool to help it understand "voice of the customer" and increased use of user research, has helped the company find ecommerce success and improve overall business. So much so that the company is actually planning to close some of its physical stores without expecting a negative impact, an impressive feat given the recent challenges encountered by other retailers.
So what's the key takeaway?
Success in ecommerce requires an in-depth understanding of your customers: how they shop, what they buy, and what's driving them to (or to not) purchase. Without this knowledge, you're presenting them with a one-size-fits-all customer experience, which just won't work in a world where consumers want personalization and hold all of the power in the retail buyer-seller dynamic.
Dan Wulin, Head of Data Science & Machine Learning at Wayfair, described data as an "ongoing investment" while speaking at the event, and he couldn't be more correct. Retailers are sitting on tons of customer data, but many struggle to turn it into actionable intel. But as demonstrated by the speakers at the event, organizations that invest in tools to analyze and manage customer data -- such as the customer data platform offered by us at QuickPivot -- see noticeable business improvements and are able to create corporate cultures that put their customers center-stage.