In tough times retailers and brands look at how to adjust to survive and later thrive. Many would like to make big changes but that can be hard to do given the current situation. Yet for most retailers getting the boring eCommerce basics right would make a huge difference to their prospects and set them up to be in a stronger position to make bigger changes later if necessary. Some think these changes are hard to get right due to legacy systems and internal processes, whilst they can be fiddly, there really is no excuse for not being tighter here and any retailer can make dramatic improvements quickly and cheaply.
Retail is all about products yet just last week, two different retailers advertised products to me that later turned out to be “out of stock”. This is a criminal mistake wasting not only marketing spend, but a potential new customer. Tying stock levels to marketing efforts was solved by many companies ten years ago through relatively simple technology implementations. Equally retailers are losing opportunities by not pushing hot products properly. It is these products that drive new customers for most retailers. These products can change quickly, particularly in the current environment so having the automation and skill to reflect that across the various marketing channels is vital but very achievable. Top products need to be reflected in every platform available with great imagery, compelling copy and effective landing pages. These are basics yet I think less than 5% of retailers are even close to effectively solving this simple challenge and effectively losing money by not utilising data in the right way.
Most retailers need to produce more content and utilise it more effectively. Beautiful product images are the absolute basics in most cases, model and lifestyle imagery converts better, increasingly video is expected and there are a range of low cost options to help produce this content. You only have to look at the success of Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook and how long a potential customer consumes video content on these platforms, however many retailers and brands lack a completing content strategy across these channels and post for the sake of having to post. Consumers also demand authenticity and real world stories which again can be turned around incredibly quickly and cheaply with little risk. It is this content that will drive your organic (free) search and social engagements and customers. It also aids the conversion of marketing.
With the customer’s attention through maximising your product and content its all about walking them through to conversion. Poor landing pages, problems with the marketing funnel, poor delivery options or site performance issues can all cost retailers and brands valuable sales they have worked so hard to earn. Whilst re platforming is expensive much of this can be fixed simply through having a customer centric attitude and can do attitude. Skills are required here but too many just shrug and leave it to others or right it off as too hard due to legacy systems or budget constraints. With a bit of determination and if necessary outside help (readily available right now) every retailer can improve their conversion rate and quickly.
Fast fashion is something that often takes place on mobile devices, particularly Apple devices. The same is true for many retail sectors where the latest iPhones signify a prosperous audience with money to spend. Yet retailers often have websites not geared to running on mobile and many have yet to invest in a competent app. Even where these issues have been taken care of, many retailers are still unable to conduct efficient marketing to these users as Apple devices don't suit cookie based targeting and most retailers have yet to work out how to operate marketing in app. Combine this with poor use of platform features like Facebook stores, Amazon (either deliberately or not), eBay and more and retailers are unnecessarily missing out on a huge segment of potential customers. Deciding not to engage with Amazon, ebay, Facebook or the like can be a sensible decision. Not making these platforms or devices work well for you because you don't know how is unforgivable and easily fixed.
A personal favourite KPI is the number of orders per customer. So many retailers spend all their time and effort to acquire new customers over and over again and forget to try and retain the ones they have already acquired, and turning them into regular spenders. In general earning a pound from an existing customer spending again is so much easier than acquiring a new one and yet many retailers have average booking numbers per customer less than 3 (I have seen some less than 1.5). Lifetime customer value is obviously the other KPI here worth paying attention too and doing the basics to improve. It is on customers that data exists for better personalization efforts. Customer centric retargeting campaigns on display or social plus having customer segments in Google Adwords are the basics so many are missing out on. For retailers that have an app then repeat orders and keeping customers is the reason to have an app, yet hardly any are able to track and market to the app effectively. Brands that put more focus on their current customers and recent lapsed customers are ones who will better be able to survive these turbulent times.
We live in a global world and whilst the pandemic has limited some horizons there is still a wealth of opportunity in global markets. Yet many retailers are hamstrung by operating in just a couple of markets when the cost and effort of operating in more has never been lower. Then there is the fact that those that do have an international presence don't get the basics of language and currency right to reflect where the customer is based. Data is readily available to optimise to British people abroad and those who hail from other countries. It may sound simple and common sense to most that having a website which shows the prices in the local currency and that offers local payments and delivery options convert up to 50% higher than one that doesn’t, driving incremental revenue by simply utilising a technology partner.
I genuinely believe that effectively every retailer in the land is missing out unnecessarily by falling into many of the traps highlighted above. Some may recognise themselves and be scared because they don't know how to fix it. It need not be that way, as specialist companies and digital talent exist in the market to fix these problems efficiently and with a massive immediate ROI.
My plea to retailers. Please don't struggle unnecessarily because you haven't got the basics right.
Co-Authored by Robert Webster and Graham Broomfield