It's time to re-evaluate your eCommerce secret weapon

It’s been quite the year for retailers across Australia and New Zealand. In the past 12 months we’ve seen a succession of troubled retailers including Herringbone, Marcs, David Lawrence, Pumpkin Patch and Payless Shoes fold. More recently, high street chain Topshop, along with menswear brand Topman, entered voluntary administration, closing five of its nine stand-alone stores and all 17 Myer concession outlets. Its online store has also closed—one that only launched earlier this year.

This may not come as a complete surprise to those who have read Deloitte Consulting’s Navigating the New Digital Divide report, which confirmed that the customer journey and expectations are evolving faster than some retailers’ ability to deliver.

While it is easy to track growth in online sales, retailers often miss the influence their digital store has on in-store sales. Whether it’s 2 per cent or 20 per cent of your brand sales, it’s the digital representation of your brand that has more impact than anything on your customers.

The Deloitte research found that the digital store influences more than half of in-store sales, and its share is projected to grow to nearly two-thirds of all sales at the physical store. The customer journey is also getting longer. In 2010, Google said there were five digital touch points in an average customer journey, in 2015 this increased to thirteen.

The flagship store is no longer on Pitt Street or Bourke Street. The biggest impact on your customers—in terms of awareness, consideration and buying—is your digital store.

But it’s not all doom-and-gloom. Just ahead of the beginning of the new financial year, Freedom Furniture began to offer online shopping to New Zealand consumers following the implementation of a full eCommerce solution with a new omni-channel strategy. Within the first few weeks it exceeded the retailer’s expectations.

Essentially, your eCommerce solution is the foundation upon which you build your digital presence—it is your Digital Flagship. With digital touchpoints providing increasing influence over customers’ buying journeys (40 per cent of in-store visits are influenced by digital touchpoints) investing in a (new) eCommerce solution is truly a strategic decision.

Three questions to ask when evaluating your eCommerce strategy:

1. What journey are your customers on?

Consumers are on a journey and these are becoming longer. A 2015 Google study found that, on average, consumers referenced 13 sources of information online before buying online or in store. In 2010, the average was just five.

2. What steps are being taken?

In the eyes of the consumer, a ‘step’ occurs when they take an action and new content is presented (or the same content appears differently). Each time they view the relevant content, consumers feel they are moving closer to their need being met.

3. Are you constantly reviewing your eCommerce?

Creating amazing online experiences is not a one-off process but includes:

Data mining, insight gathering and hypothesis creation. Over time, with the right foundation in place, data-driven decision-making becomes the norm.

Iterative and agile development programming. Many of the decisions require development and technology enhancements. Technology is the enabler of everything.

In summary, the most important thing to live by in eCommerce is to focus on the customer first. Making the customer journey simpler and more effective in-store and online. Virtually every customer journey now involves a digital element so retailers must focus on their flagship store, the Digital Flagship store. It is the most visited store in the network and the one ‘store’ with the biggest impact on brand, sales, and success.

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