Consumers have changed the way they shop and want options as to how they browse, select, and receive goods. According to Statistica*, 66.9% of North Americans purchased products via eCommerce in 2020 and that number is projected to rise to 74.7% by 20241. The impacts of Covid-19 will accelerate that trend.
An eCommerce platform, unlike in-person shopping, is immediate and convenient, drawing in additional shoppers from a larger pool. It also puts information in the hands of consumers, and, depending on how it’s structured, in the hands of competitors. Online, people can view and compare pricing, detailed product information, and inventory availability. It also allows them to compare products across brands and competitors.
With this, eCommerce brings new challenges and may force you to change the way you do business.
CLARIFY THE GOAL:
The first, most critical, and often skipped step, is documenting and agreeing on the goal of eCommerce.
- Critically, which customer group is the eCommerce platform primarily for? It’s helpful to document the customer journey for this group as it is today and what it will look like online. important to understand this customer and how to reach them through marketing initiatives and driving website traffic.
- Is eCommerce for existing customers, allowing them to shop more conveniently?
- Is it to expand the customer base geographically, allowing those distanced from brick and mortar stores to also shop?
- What is eCommerce meant to accomplish strategically?
- How will that success be measured?
Defining expectations and assumptions will help calculate return on investment (ROI), to ensure the costs associated with eCommerce balance against the expected gains.
Map the Customer eCommerce Journey
The eCommerce Journey begins with the Customer finding your website. This may be through direct prompt to historical customers announcing the launch, through your website, or through search. Identifying the ways in which they’ll find it and land on it is necessary to inform the marketing efforts required to hit those targets.
An up-to-date customer database for historic customers will support email marketing and outreach efforts. Search engine optimization tactics will drive the up your sites standings on search engines, such as Google. Leveraging brand and marketing experts will help focus your efforts on impactful activities.
Once the customer lands on the website, it’s important to know what they need and expect from it. Consider site language options, search functionality using filters and categories, product options such as size and color variants, and discount offers.
Highly sought-after features include product/price comparisons, alternative/recommended product suggestions, and ‘notify me’ when back in stock. Easily identified promotions and discounted products also support the customer experience through incentives while helping with inventory turnover.
Now that the customer has selected products to purchase, the path to purchase and delivery must be seamless and fast. Consider shipping options and speeds, payment methods, and account features such as viewing past orders, saving favourites, and cloning previous orders. Customers also want to be informed on progress. This includes providing order updates and gathering feedback on the experience.
Update Operational Processes to Accommodate eCommerce
With the Customer journey clear, its important to align internal processes. Operations must continue to meet Customer expectations for those who come to the store while now also meeting the new needs of online shoppers. This requires process change.
The first step is documenting the current Customer journey as it occurs today. A Process Mapping document lays out each step that occurs through the Customer experience today and how those needs are met by staff, systems, and process.
The next step is converting the eCommerce Customer Journey into a process map, allowing you to highlight where the current flow and future flow do not line up. This points out areas for improvement. The article ‘How do I fix my process’, provides more detail surrounding process change and improvement.
Below are some eCommerce-specific impacts you may come across:
- Increased demand on warehouse and logistics
- New warehouse and logistics needs introduced by a broader customer location compared to inventory locations including warehouses and stores
- Packaging and labelling requirement changes
- Additional marketing activities to bolster online presence
- New marketing activities to add a personal touch to the online customer experience. Some unique examples include:
- Maintenance of website accuracy, particularly surrounding inventory, costs and delivery timelines. This may be supported through integrations, such as eCommerce to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Freight and Logistics software, Product Information Management (PIM) solutions, or Catalogue software
- Supplier Agreement changes, specifically to Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
- Possible shifts in sales responsibilities and compensation structure
The current and future processes highlight what must change to ensure the customer journey is what it’s intended it to be.
FIND AN E-COMMERCE SOLUTION
Once the eCommerce needs are clear, it’s time to find a solution. There are a myriad of eCommerce products ranging in complexity and purpose.
Shopify, SquareSpace, or Big Commerce may be sufficient for a company with 100 products, minimal variants, no integrations, and direct-to-customer sales.
Companies with complex business models likely need a more robust system. Complexities often come with global sales, thousands of SKUs and variants, wholesale customers, and PIM and ERP integration requirements. Insite and Magneto are two solutions aimed at resolving these complexities. For these projects, a robust approach and project management support success, ensuring the ROI is achieved and that the Customer Journey online meets Customer expectations.