If you build it, will they buy?
There will be 1.32 billion – yes billion – digital buyers across the globe in 2016. This is up a staggering 60% from 2013, as more B2B and B2C shoppers direct their spending to e-commerce sites like Amazon, eBay, Rakuten and Alibaba. And while there are dominant online players around the world that deliver solely online revenue, there are also business behemoths like Apple, Walmart, Staples, Sears and Macy’s that have effectively combined their bricks-and-mortar business with their online sales to deliver a diversified revenue mix.
“Opening your doors to feed the growing appetite of online shoppers does not necessarily mean you’ll be successful”, says Stuart Lewis, President and CEO of sales lead generation company 360 Leads. “Aside from having a product or service that somebody actually wants to buy, there are a number of factors that can make the online purchase experience a winning transaction for both the buyer and seller.”
Lewis, whose company serves a blue-chip client base across North America and Australia, cites customer research and precise targeting as the most critical elements in delivering an effective e-commerce strategy. “Identifying who your customer really is, executing an effective channel strategy to reach them and then presenting your products or services in accordance with your buyer’s preferences will yield a much greater return than a less focused approach to marketing.” Lewis adds, “Companies need to be honest with themselves about their business strategy and their place in the market. An e-commerce strategy should be exactly that – a strategy – versus simply an online shopping cart.”
An area where online purchasing is extremely prevalent is the IT sector. And with the rapid changes in technology, purchasing patterns shift at the same rapid pace. In 2010, only 1.2% of the world’s population used a tablet. In 2014, that number was up to 20.7%. Trevor Dantas, VP Marketing for the Digital Products Group at Toshiba Canada knows all too well about market shifts and the need to offer first-in-the-world type products like the Toshiba Portégé.
Dantas says that to drive conversion rates you need to really focus on delivering a spectacular user experience. “As marketers, we tend to focus too much on what we want to say or how we want it to look. It’s not about us, it’s about our customers and making sure they have a positive experience on our website that will lead to a sale.”
Gray Tools, Canada’s preeminent hand tools for the industrial mechanic, also offers an online shopping experience. Marketing Manager, Frank Dominguez believes that “Effective online selling relies heavily on trust since there is no physical interaction between the consumer and the product. It is imperative that the consumer trusts that our company will deliver on the product being offered.”
Site stickiness is key to ensuring the shopper completes the transaction and Dominguez is adamant about the integrity of the process. “It’s about secure payment options, a clear shipping policy, and a design that looks professional and allows users to find products quickly. Consumers dislike negative shopping experiences such as hidden fees, back orders or images and descriptions that do not accurately reflect the product.”
A major consideration for Gray’s e-commerce strategy is to manage any channel conflict in terms of offers, pricing and availability. Gray Tools mirrors its featured products, product bundles, and special offers to those offered in their traditional channel. This ensures they have uniform offers and eliminates possible channel conflict.
Trevor Dantas believes that you can also offer different choices in different channels and tailor-make your bundling to different types of buyers. “Toshiba uses various analytics tools to determine which pages, products and promotions are getting the most hits, and where the traffic is coming from. Knowing what’s successful and what isn’t helps us optimize our efforts as we go along, so we’re not just shooting in the dark. The beauty of digital marketing is that everything can be measured giving us the data to make informed decisions and demonstrate the ROI of our choices.”
40 percent of worldwide Internet users have purchased products and goods through their desktop, mobile, tablet or other devices. This is more than 1 billion online buyers and is projected to grow. But one major factor e-retailers need to consider is the devices being used to make their purchases. Dantas feels “The number one priority for all e-stores right now should be mobile optimization. More and more people are researching and shopping using their mobile devices, many of which we actually sell them. If your website is not mobile friendly, you’re already losing prospects and you may not even know it.”
Stuart Lewis, whose clients at 360 Leads include Toshiba and Gray Tools, recognizes there are many factors that make a company a successful online seller, with an important factor being to build trust with the buyer. “When a customer is making an online purchase, especially from a lesser known brand, everything needs to focus on building the most positive user experience. They best way to avoid shopping cart abandonment is to ensure the customer knows exactly what they are going to get by showing pictures, videos and compelling product copy.”
Lewis adds that shopping cart abandonment can also be managed after the fact through email follow-ups and persistent shopping carts that address comparison shoppers.
Dantas agrees, as keeping shoppers from leaving the Toshiba site means providing a great user experience through data based decision-making. “If you make your e-store easy to navigate and provide deals that you know will be attractive to your customers, they’re less likely to leave in search of better options. It comes down to simplicity and knowing your audience.”
Leigh-Ann Clarke is Director of Sales, North America for 360 Leads. She has been with 360 Leads since 2014, following her progressive management career at Yellow Pages Group where she led their sales efforts in digital products, print, telephone sales and neighbourhood directories.