With the proliferation of customer touchpoints, retailers must integrate marketing channels to provide better customer engagement. Volker Wiewer outlines the five key ecommerce trends to consider.
More than ever before, European shoppers are becoming increasingly tech savvy and have a far wider range of tools and touchpoints to communicate with brands, as well as research and buy products on- and offline. Retailers must embrace this multi-channel approach to continue to engage with their consumers, which is key to retail growth and a strategic answer to continued economic tensions.
The level of integration of marketing channels varies across Europe and indeed from company to company. Market leaders in this multi-channel approach are currently big name brands such as Argos, Marks & Spencer and Tesco. However, by concentrating on the five key trend ‘must haves’, any retailer can better engage with its consumers in this new multi-touchpoint environment.
Trend 1: Multi-channel touchpoints
As already outlined, consumers are more than ever before using multi-touchpoints in order to communicate with brands and find the best deals on products they want to buy. It’s no coincidence that this is the top trend for 2012, as it influences all of the key five.
With 40% of European shoppers now making purchases across these multiple channels, the challenge for retailers is to bridge these points. UK retailers are early adopters of multi-channel strategies but more recently Forrester Research outlined how German retailer Saturn led the way in mainland Europe by launching a click and collect service, bridging their online website with the offline in-store. As a result, the brand is experiencing much stronger customer engagement.
The key to developing a successful multi-touchpoint customer journey is understanding how your consumers use each different one. Understand each touchpoint individually so you are able to integrate them effectively. This could be your website to store or involving mobile, social media or apps. Once you have evaluated how your customers are engaging with your brand and how you would like them to continue to do so in the future, you can launch the appropriate campaign, for example, driving in-store purchases with click and collect free shipping, a mobile app store locator or email subscription via SMS to receive discount offers to the inbox while standing in-store.
Trend 2: Developing a mobile strategy
Despite this channel receiving well-deserved credit throughout 2011 and into 2012, less than half of European retailers had a defined mobile strategy or even a mobile optimised website. If you don’t have a mobile strategy as yet, build one in the context of your multi-channel strategy (as discussed above).
The first basic step for retailers is to launch a mobile site or optimise existing sites to display on mobile devices and to ensure that email communication can be viewed as well on the desktop as on the move. From here, you are able to cement the role of mobile further into the core touchpoint strategy by adopting campaigns such as John Lewis’ ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’, where shoppers are encouraged to use free in-store Wi-Fi for price comparison on their mobiles. This drives in-store sales and increases engagement.
Trend 3: Tablets
House of Fraser, John Lewis, Tesco and Oasis are just some of the stores already experimenting with new tablet technology and how it can enhance the in-store experience for shoppers and staff. There is an obvious place for apps and assisted high-value selling aided by tablets. These devices can open up opportunities to co-browse content with shoppers and extend the store range.
Oasis was one of the first stores to adopt this interactive co-browsing between staff and customers. With the larger view, tablets are also a more obvious tool when browsing websites on the move, so retailers need to be taking this in to consideration at the same time as optimising for mobile.
Trend 4: Speed-driven culture
The inherent want in society for faster answers and information coupled with some leading retailers offering a next-day delivery service has driven new higher levels of customer expectation in consumers. Other retailers in the UK and some in mainland Europe are starting to mimic these offers in order to remain competitive, however customers looking for the best deal may not want to pay additional shipping costs.
Click and collect services can answer this problem and drive in-store footfall. Retailers can also offer a more responsive service by improving the integration between store stock accuracy and web analytics. It is possible to store all of this related data and respond to abandoned shopping baskets online using a targeted and personalised email campaign. This email can show the customer related products to the ones they have viewed, which are definitely in-stock and across a range of price brackets, with the chance to upsell.
Trend 5: Cookies
All website owners and brands who are communicating with consumers electronically are being affected by the change in Privacy and Data Protection laws. In the UK, there is some governmental guidance, however across Europe and especially for Pan-European companies, the new laws seem complex with various National compliance and many retailers are asking what it means for them.
Conrad Bennett, VP of Technical Services EMEA at Webtrends, recently delivered a comprehensive presentation about how businesses can successfully future-proof their sites and best prepare themselves to make sure that they’re not left in limbo, while having the knowledge to allay consumer concerns about their privacy. View the video of his presentation here.
There are of course further trends that retailers should be keeping an eye on, for example contactless payments moving consumers to a ‘digital wallet’ and QR codes, which show the promise of success should consumers be better educated and mobile devices were to be sold with scanners built in. However these won’t change the ecommerce market dramatically in 2012.
By concentrating efforts on these key trends, retailers are able to experiment and innovate to identify their own multi-touchpoints along the customer journey and maximise their own campaigns to drive sales and awareness.