Total average eCommerce spend per customer over the course of the year is estimated to be $1,800 in the US. (Source: Statista)
4 Must-Haves in an eCommerce Strategy
Let’s say you have a product line with proven success in traditional retail channels. That’s great. But consumer buying habits are changing. Now customers expect an omnichannel experience – the ability to browse, shop, and buy through multiple channels and devices. It’s time to take the next step and build your online brand before you fall behind.
Do you have what it takes to be a successful omnichannel seller?
40% of US males aged 18-34 say they would prefer to buy everything online. (Source: DDB Worldwide)
As a short-term solution to getting some of your products online you might sell on marketplaces like Amazon. But then you realize that you’re giving away margins and losing the opportunity to build customer relationships.
So you take a bigger leap and add eCommerce capability to your website. But the effort doesn’t stop there. Now you’ll have to drive traffic to your site, handle fulfillment and service your online customers. Then you think, well, I already have marketing, customer service, and fulfillment resources and infrastructure in place for my B2B customers, so why not just adapt these to my eCommerce operation?
The operational demands of eCommerce and direct to consumer are different than B2B in many ways, and have their own skillset and infrastructure requirements. When planning your eCommerce strategy these factors should be carefully evaluated.
1. Warehousing and Fulfillment
For B2B, both shipping and receiving typically involve infrequent orders and large, pallet sized loads. Accuracy is a priority because of complicated routing procedures that sometimes involve penalties if not followed to the letter.
B2C has different requirements and priorities:
- Receiving – a steady stream of smaller loads
- High volume pick/pack/ship – labor and material handling equipment needed for this
- Kitting and light manufacturing may be needed
- More shipping variables
- The warehouse should be configured for B2C demands
Bottom Line: If you’re handling fulfillment in-house you’ll probably need to add infrastructure and headcount to have an optimal and efficient operation.
CEO Mike D'Errico discusses the 4 must-haves for creating a successful eCommerce strategy
2. Digital Marketing
In traditional channels, there are many time-tested ways to market your products, including co-op marketing, trade shows, end caps, and print/media advertising. You might have a marketing manager that builds these programs and works with creative. You have a sales force that works with your channel partners to introduce new SKUs and implement programs to increase sell-through. These are all valuable skills that pay off in traditional channels, but are they transferable to the world of eCommerce?
eCommerce requires people who understand digital marketing strategies. If you can’t drive traffic to your website, engage them with content, and convert visitors into buyers, your eCommerce initiative will fail. You need marketers who…
- Understand and can execute organic search, SEO, PPC, social media, reputation management, and content marketing.
- Know how to use these vehicles to guide the buyer’s journey – the path from site visitor to loyal repeat customer.
- Have skills and experience in deploying a budget to select the right digital marketing mix and monetize the investment.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, most website visitors stay for 59 seconds before moving on. If you don’t capture the user’s attention in less than a minute, you’ve lost them. This is just one example of the challenges that eCommerce marketers face.
Make an honest assessment of your in-house talent. Do they have the skill sets needed to plan and execute a digital strategy? Would it be realistic to try and adapt their skills? If the answers are no, consider whether you should recruit people with the right skill sets or evaluate outsourcing options.
3. Customer Service
"Customer service is the new marketing.” Derek Sivers, Founder/CD Baby
B2B customer service involves servicing the demands of a relatively small number of customers who place infrequent large orders. The orders may be complex and involve multiple decision makers and points of contact. Each account might have a dedicated customer care rep or even a team that has a relationship with the account and understands their requirements.
In the DTC eCommerce world, there is a large volume of interactions and the pace is fast. According to a study, 30% of products bought online are returned. There is usually one point of contact. The customer service rep doesn’t have a relationship with the customers, but must make them feel like they have a relationship with your brand.
In addition, the routine basics of old school customer service – processing returns and advising on order status – are no longer enough. Customer service agents should have enough product knowledge to advise consumers and make recommendations that lead to upsell and cross sell opportunities.
Perhaps most important, today’s consumers expect a seamless omnichannel experience across devices and channels, and your customer service team needs the technology, skills, and training to provide that experience. This includes:
- Support and interaction with all channels: live chat, phone, e-mail, social media
- Self-service options for returns and exchanges
- Optimized for mobile
- Customer service software that integrates with all relevant business processes in real time
There are businesses that have best-of-breed solutions for eCommerce technology, infrastructure, and resources, in place. Yet they struggle. How is this possible?
eCommerce can be a complex relationship between people, process, and systems. If one component is out of sync, it can cause a fractured system and have dire results such as lost productivity and customer churn. The breakdowns often occur because the systems used by your best-of-breed vendors don’t communicate well. According to Gartner, the typical online retailer ends up using 15 technologies to get the functionality they need. Let’s consider customer service, as one example.
On just one call, a customer service agent may need to check if an item is in stock, confirm if a promotion is still valid, help process an order, confirm if a previous order has shipped, and process a return. You have transactions involving inventory, marketing, order management, shipping, and returns. You’ve outsourced fulfillment and marketing and they’re using systems that need to interface well with your CRM software in real time. And what if they don’t? Your agent won’t be able to provide outstanding service.
89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report) This is why integration is a must-have in your eCommerce strategy.
What are your options for making sure that your people, processes, and systems are coordinated?
- The Integration Project – Many software vendors provide add-on services (at a charge). If not, there are systems integrators that can take on the project. It can be time consuming, risky and expensive.
- Connectors – Pre-built connectors facilitate data exchange between systems. Mostly available for connecting widely used systems, they might not exist for all the systems you connect to. They can be time and cost savers.
- Training – Even if your systems are well integrated, your processes will have breakdowns if personnel aren’t well trained on both systems and processes.
- End-to-End Turnkey Solution – A turnkey eCommerce company has well integrated systems and processes in place. They provide complete managed services so you don’t have to be concerned with licensing and integrating systems, building processes, and training employees.
While eCommerce has several operational differences from an established channel-oriented model, with a well-developed strategy it’s possible to mitigate the risks and keep your business well positioned into the future.