Online Retail: Opportunity, Not Weakness

We can define “competitive leaders” in every industry—brands that have captured the market by differentiating themselves on several levels from other direct and indirect competitors.

In every client presentation or webinar I’ve ever done, I try to remind the audience that their weakness should be viewed as an opportunity. And yet, when I talk about weakness in terms of online presence, quite a few brands seem ready to give up on expanding online options and services. Our research shows that this approach could diminish brand exposure and dull competitive edge.

In our recent Online Retail Industry Benchmark study, where 15,000+ North American consumers shared thoughts on the their online experiences at various e-tail and brick-and-mortar stores, we noted three key areas that can drastically help your brand rankings in the online space:

1. Make it quick. Make it simple.

The Top 10 industry leaders got this right. User friendly websites with organized content can truly increase both your Likelihood to Recommend and Return ranks, which, in turn, increase your Overall Satisfaction measures.

Consumers are asking for a means to quickly research and purchase products with a few clicks of their mouse. Slower page response times cut into an e-tailer’s bottom line, because consumers want to be able to purchase products in a matter of minutes.

Also, they want to avoid the additional “promotional,” loyalty, or feedback pages. Those should come later, in an email they can circle back to at a more appropriate time.

2. Don’t be afraid to offer more products and services.

Online consumers are more careful than your average in-store consumers. This is mainly because they understand that products can be researched with a simple click of a button and feedback can be found on every product/service today.

Yet, one key notion e-consumers agree on: They are willing to pay more for products and services that truly match their needs. Our top 5 e-tail and brick-and-mortar brands do just that, offering not just unique products and exclusive brands, but also services that can help consumers as well.

This notion of more being better is also important on a shipping scale; offer your consumers more shipping options and you’re likely to see them return to your site in the future.

3. By all means, give them social media!

Unlike many of the offline industries, social media plays a valuable role online. Our top 5 e-tail brands all have a strong social media presence. In return, they noted a higher “likely to return” value overall.

Consumers want to share their experience online and are likely to do so if you give them more unique means of building a stronger e-relationship with their brands. Encouraging your loyal consumers to interact with your brand should be approached in a manner that is relative to your product or service. In some cases, this could mean offering various e-points/e-rewards to help promote social media interaction.

Remember, social media comes with both positive and negative commentary. Yet negative brand mentions should be taken as an opportunity, not weakness, and consumer transparency must be a key means of communicating change with your consumers.

You can learn more about retail’s critical customer experience drivers here.

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