Secrets for digital commerce success in 2016

How do you stand out from the competition in the digital marketplace? Columnist Jason Warnock outlines three commerce strategies to help brands meet their goals and win over consumers.

buy-globe-ecommerce-ss-1920Multi-channel. Big data. Personalization.

These are just some of the words that have been used to describe best practices for digital commerce in 2016. But the problem is that they are too generic to offer practical benefits for online brands. Instead of delivering wins, they create confusion and frustration for marketers.

To get ahead in today’s marketplace, you need details. And as it turns out, there are three strategies that form a Rosetta Stone for digital commerce — strategies that brands should implement and communicate to target audiences.

Strategies that matter to today’s consumers

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail sales will grow 3.1 percent in 2016, with non-store sales increasing between six and nine percent. Cashing in on digital commerce growth is a top priority. But to get there, you need to market your ability to provide the services and features that consumers actually care about.

In a recent report on “Eight Online Strategies to Implement Before Q4” (email registration required), Yesmail (my employer) identified specific trends that are shaping the current online marketplace. Three of those strategies stand out because they speak to the capabilities that matter to shoppers.

  1. Provide guaranteed, fast delivery.

Fast delivery is now a standard expectation in the digital marketplace. In fact, many shoppers are conditioned to wait until the last minute to place online orders because they believe they will be presented with expedited shipping options at checkout.

More importantly for brands, consumers are using fast delivery as a qualifying factor for online purchases. E-commerce providers that can’t guarantee delivery of items within two or three days routinely lose business to competitors that understand the value customers place on fast package arrival times.

Another upside of guaranteed two- or three-day delivery? Online retailers can use expedited shipping to incentivize consumers to opt into communications, sign up for subscriptions or take other actions that strengthen their connections with the brand.

  1. Offer popular payment services at checkout.

Streamlined checkout processes reduce and eliminate barriers to purchase completion. Visa Checkout, PayPal and other well-known payment services mitigate the need for customers to enter payment information, inevitably resulting in higher conversion rates.

But these popular payment services aren’t the only kids on the block. Mobile wallets like Venmo, Apple Wallet and Android Pay are making serious inroads into e-commerce and are poised to become primary tools for payments as well as marketing communication.

A 2016 Vibes Mobile Consumer Study (email registration required) showed that nearly a third (32 percent) of all smartphone users already rely on mobile wallets for offers and loyalty cards. And a whopping 94 percent of mobile wallet users said they are likely to save personalized mobile wallet offers and coupons sent by brands.

  1. Standardize an online purchase/in-store return policy.

Reports about the death of physical stores have been greatly exaggerated. Brick-and-mortar stores still have value. But leading retailers are discovering that e-commerce and physical stores have to be integrated to create a complete customer experience.

Let’s say you order a pair of jeans from your favorite online retailer. When your package arrives, you discover that the cut runs small and it’s necessary to return your purchase for a different size.

If the retailer allows you to make the exchange at a local brick-and-mortar store, you’re a happy camper. If not, you’ll have to repackage it and ship it back to the retailer yourself — making you less likely to purchase from the retailer in the future.

The integration of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar experiences makes it easier for consumers to say yes to online offers they receive through email and other marketing channels.

The final ingredient

There’s nothing ground-breaking about fast shipping, easy payments or e-commerce/in-store integration. However, when they are deployed in combination, they form a recipe that enables growth-minded brands to dazzle consumers.

But you’re not done yet. Too often, retailers forget to add the final ingredient: marketing. Time after time, brands that fail to showcase services and features that matter to consumers fall short of meeting their goals.

Earlier this week, I performed a quick audit of email marketing campaigns from some of North America’s largest retailers and was surprised to discover that terms like “guaranteed shipping” and “mobile wallets” appeared rarely (if ever) in subject lines and email content.

That’s a mistake. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that how we buy online is just as important as what we buy online. By offering services and capabilities that consumers truly care about — and including them in your marketing content — you can improve your ability to outperform the competition in 2016 and beyond.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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