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The rate of change in digital marketing and e-commerce has never been greater than it is today.
We’ve reached a point of no return, and are accelerating forward at a pace where businesses are challenged to keep up with advances in technology, growth of customer expectations, and whatever comes next.
So, how can marketing teams keep up with the change and adjust accordingly? Let’s explore the idea.
Keeping up with the Pace of Innovation
As soon as you start to adjust and adapt, customers have already begun to get used to whatever trend is taking hold. And it’s not even by choice; it’s psychological.
“The wiring in your brain is physically changing,” Wise said. “When an innovation makes the buying process easier, you come to expect it, like contactless purchase for example. You’ve rewired your brain towards pleasure (using the innovation) and away from pain (the old way of doing things).”
But this idea can help us as marketers. It impacts how we think about innovation — how we communicate with customers, how we design our marketing, and the experience we create with our websites to gear them for success.
In fact, as a recent Econsultancy study revealed, customer experience is taking over as the number one differentiator:
So, what does the future hold for e-commerce, and what can you do about it?
The Future of E-Commerce Marketing
Brands are starting to (try to) take more control and ownership of the experience they’re offering customers, and are shifting more and more to a direct-to-consumer approach — using their own websites as opposed to third-party marketplaces where they have less control.
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A recent survey showed that Amazon accounts for more than 45% of online sales in the US — what incredible power!
The challenge, of course, of selling in a marketplace that you don’t own is limited access to the data, and thus little control over the experience customers have. You aren’t able to give customers that “beautiful, guided, curated experience because you’re within the constraints of the environment and rules,” of that property, as Wise put it.
So, how can you work on this process of owning your brand identity — and driving traffic to your website experience so that customers will choose to shop there as opposed to some online marketplace?
The answer: by optimizing the experience of your website and making it easy to find what customers want.
Using your website as a marketing channel
Why would a consumer shop on a brand’s website as opposed to an online marketplace?
Research from eMarketer lends insight:
If you want customers to shop on your website, offer unique products they can’t get anywhere else, a robust assortment of products, and automatic replenishment programs.
If you can mix the ease-of-commerce that marketplaces offer (smooth process to buy and reliable delivery) with the control and experience that only a brand can provide, then you’ve got a winning combination. The common thread that connects these things: personalizing engagement — and making it meaningful to customers.
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If you can make content relatable for each individual, and ensure content has relevant details/value, you’re on the right page.
According to Wise, the richness of content you provide — tagging, and using AI to attribute segments and their preferences/interests with certain content — will truly set your website apart as its own marketing channel.
Example: Big Bus Tours
The Big Bus Company is a multinational sightseeing/tour company operating in 20 cities with more than 150 buses worldwide. Its namesake product/experience Big Bus Tours lets riders see unique sights and scenery around these towns.
A year ago, this is what its website looked like:
The website experience lacked engagement opportunities, personalization elements, or any clear conversion strategy. So the brand looked at how it could make content a driving force in creating a GREAT experience when people came to its website.
Working with the systems integrator agency Born, here’s what Big Bus Company’s website looks like now:
It’s better in many respects: rich with content, optimized for mobile, accessible in multiple languages, uses captivating images, is personalized, and is geared for conversions (such as using exit-intent overlays to collect emails).
As a result of completely redeveloping its website, the brand saw the following results:
- +40% increase in website traffic
- -17% decrease in bounce rate
- -20% in time-to-conversion
- +45% in sales YoY
- +50% in mobile conversion rate
- +24% increase in mobile traffic
- +70% increase in mobile revenue
“Does content, commerce, and experience pay?” asked Wise.
It absolutely does, but takes energy, effort, thought, and innovation. The Big Bus Company is a prime example of web personalization done right.
Using Data for Omnichannel
From a consumer’s point-of-view, it doesn’t matter when, where, or how a product is sought out — only that it can be found and purchased virtually anywhere and at any time. Consumers don’t care what a merchant has to go through to provide that kind of accessibility — that’s the promise (and challenge) of “omnichannel.”
Data, though, is the key to unlocking its potential.
Truly Experiences sells high-end experiences (for example, an airship tour around the Palace of Versailles).
Like any brand which sells high-involvement products, for this brand, acquiring a customer is absolutely critical — as is understanding the repeat purchase triggers and resulting behavior of retentive customers.
Truly Experiences was able to optimize ad spend by 70%, analyzing big data and understanding which channels yielded the highest conversion rate of repeat customers. It also increased average lifetime value by looking at data and learning from it.
What’s the Future of E-Commerce
How can you future proof your brand for those constant advancements in technology and evolving expectations of consumers? While there’s no silver bullet, Wise says that being aware of trends, being prepared for shifts in the marketplace, and being able to respond are critical.
Shoppable content is one trend Wise is seeing on the rise. This kind of content is intertwined with blogs or other articles which double as a commerce outlet — you can buy by clicking images within the content itself.
Using visual imagery to drive purchase isn’t new (Instagram sponsored posts, for example uses this same idea), but thinking about how you can maximize the customer experience AND optimize for conversions will set you up for success.
Other tips to “future-proof” your e-commerce brand include:
- Being social — “linking” into Facebook, for example, as an additional outlet to sell products
- Make it easy to hook selected inventory into Amazon – you can’t ignore that channel
- Thinking mobile-first — everything is going mobile and vocal. According to Wise, voice search accounts for roughly 20% of Google inquires and most of them are done with a smartphone
- Being experience-driven — for example, personalize wherever you can, and make your website easy and simple to use (for instance, on mobile use big buttons instead of cumbersome drop down menus)
Wise closed his presentation with a quote from Jeff Bezos urging us to rethink how we go-to-market… and how being agile is the ONLY sustainable plan for truly remaining competitive.
Eventually, anyone can come up with a similar product or service to yours. But being able to zig when everyone else zags — that’s revolutionary.
Overall, four ways to find success include being bold, thinking digital-first, staying flexible, and innovating while remaining human.
It’s by recognizing these perspectives that Big Bus Tours and Truly Experiences are owning their customers’ experiences and optimizing their websites for success — and how you can too.
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