The growth of online shopping isn’t slowing down. The most recent Black Friday and Cyber Monday numbers point to a 23% increase in online shopping on Black Friday compared to 2017, and a 19.7% increase in online shopping on Cyber Monday compared to 2017. Meanwhile, in-store shopping saw a 1.7% decrease on Black Friday year-over-year.
That online shopping is popular and gaining steam shouldn’t come as news to anyone at this point, but for traditional retailers, the numbers can still be anxiety-inducing. You can’t help but worry that your online business isn’t doing enough and that online revenues won’t increase enough to offset any shrinking in-store revenues.
The good news is that it’s not too late to up your e-commerce game and build a better online shopping experience. And with the data and tools available today, there are more new and exciting ways to make it happen than ever.
Your online store isn’t “just another store”
It’s a common mistake that traditional retailers treat their e-commerce operation the same way they treat their stores. Even if you consider it one of your top stores, if you’re managing your online store the same way you’re managing your physical retail stores, you’re making a huge mistake.
Even your largest physical store carries only part of your total product offering, after all, whereas your online store can — and should — offer the entire depth and breadth of your product line.
At the same time, your online store isn’t just about doing it bigger. Yes, your online store has the potential to generate 20 times the volume of sales of your top physical store. But you can’t just order 20 times the product and leave it sitting in your distribution center. You still need to look at all of the dimensions — product popularity, customer demographics, price, etc. — to make the right buying decisions for your online store.
You can’t build a better online shopping experience based on spreadsheets
If the above makes sense to you (and it should!) your next worry might be: How are my buyers going to manage that in their Excel spreadsheets? That’s a red flag right there — if you’re still using spreadsheets to plan and manage your buys, it’s time to invest in a buy management system that allows you to layer on multiple dimensions (customer preferences, location, volume, product depth and breadth) and create buy sheets for each channel.
That way, your buyers can buy in the right quantities for each channel, ensuring product availability both in-store and online. There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting an online store and seeing that “sold out” tag, after all; that’s not a memorable shopping experience.
Personalization: The next frontier in online shopping
Every shopper that visits your retail store sees the same thing when they walk through your door. The same display, the same sale items, the same sections laid out before them.
What if you could personalize that experience so that every shopper saw the things that mattered most to them as soon as they came through your door?
That might be an impossible dream in a brick-and-mortar store, but it’s fast becoming the norm in e-commerce. And when you offer that experience to customers, you create pleasing, memorable interactions that keeps them coming back for more and turns them into brand advocates.
Building in all of the tools to create a truly personalized shopping experience — especially an omni-channel one — takes time and an investment in tools. But if you have an e-commerce solution, a website and a buy management system, there are steps you can take today to get you on the right path.
Once a customer has purchased from you, you have the opportunity to go even deeper. What can you glean from their profile? Their location, their style/fit preferences, how much money they’ve spent and when they like to shop? With the right tools you can serve up the right products on their web visits, and create personalized offers and emails.
Use customer data to buy even smarter
That customer data helps you on the back end as well. Your buy management system can aggregate all of your data to learn what people are typically buying, and your buyers can more make smarter, faster decisions, and your planners can predict future trends more effectively.
Furthermore, you can use the collated data to target specific demographics with products and prices that fit the target profile, generating more awareness and brining more prospects into your funnel.
The data is the thing
Thinking of your e-commerce channel as just another way to move product is limiting the power of what it can really do for you: teach you about your customers.
When you know who’s buying from you, and what they’re buying, you can create more and more customized shopping experiences across multiple channels, from online, to social media, to physical stores. And the more data you have, the more you can use it improve your planning, buying, allocating and inventory management.
If you feel like your current e-commerce platform isn’t doing enough, you’re not alone — but it’s time to get on the right path before your competition leaves you behind.