By Patrick van Boom, CMO, TIE Kinetix
It’s probably no surprise the majority of online sales run through leading e-tailers such as Amazon and Walmart.com. As the space continues to grow, so too does the difficulty for smaller, specialized online retailers to differentiate from these big-box stores that can offer lower free-shipping thresholds and a large variety of products.
So, what can non-Amazon Internet retailers do to stand out from the pack?
- Use Data To Target Audiences Accurately
It may sound like common sense, but this step is often overlooked. Many online retailers go straight to work with advertising to general consumers without having identified who their target audience actually is. The target audience of a brick-and-mortar store is often different from an online store because the range is far greater online — you’re not limited to locals. Decide who you want to reach and collect data using available tools, such as (but not limited to) Google Analytics. This will provide insight into who is currently visiting the site, where they are coming from, and what they are looking for. This way, you get insight into factual information about visitors to target them more accurately and increase the likelihood of a purchase on their next visit. Amazon has a ton of data on customers, and you better believe they are using it to their full advantage to pull prospects and gain repeat customers. Make sure your brand isn’t missing out on the data revolution and the opportunities analytics can bring to your online targeting efforts.
- When Creating Content, Choose Quality Over Quantity
After data collection, the next step is analyzing the data to determine the right information to use when targeting specific groups, and at the right time. Previously, it was thought it was important to provide as much online content as possible to get in front of your audiences, but retailers are finding quality is now much more important than quantity. By linking an ERP system that contains basic information on sales, such as price and product number, to the marketing database and applications, a retailer can trace information such as when a female in her thirties buys baby clothes regularly. Based on this insight, she can be provided the most relevant content and recommendations based on her profile and previous search behavior, rather than a general spread of available merchandise that lacks relevancy and results in this user ignoring your brand. By creating quality content and using data to target the right users at the right time, online retailers can avoid wasting marketing dollars on mistargeted content. For smaller retailers with smaller marketing budgets, this is also a way to make sure they get the most bang for their buck. Large retailers like Amazon and Walmart have triple and quadruple or more budgets most other retailers do, so they can afford to churn out content piece after content piece. For those working with less, focusing on creating quality content is a way to work smarter, not harder, and influence the right audiences with less effort.
- Establish Engagement And Maintain A Consistent Brand Experience
Make sure the brand experience and information provided on each channel and device is consistent. Content displayed on a phone, for example, must be viewable without a loss in user experience, and the user needs to be able to seamlessly complete their transaction on that same device or you risk losing the sale. Purchases are often carried out in conjunction with the feeling and connection customers have with the brand; therefore, it is important to build trust through a consistent brand experience. It’s also important to make the customer feel involved in the experience by allowing them to choose when and where they want to receive the product, keeping them up to date on the status of delivery and providing them with personalized offers they’ll find valuable.
- Recognize The Importance Of Following Up
Post-sale interactions for product purchases are often an underestimated component. Providing contact information for customers online is not enough, as that is mainly an avenue for complaints and questions. There needs to be more emphasis on the personal relationship with the customer after the purchase. By combining data streams, as previously mentioned, brands can track customers by mapping an online profile, making it possible to predict what the next purchase will be, and providing offers to influence future purchase behavior. In addition, opening a channel for honest feedback from customers will help provide insight into how well you are differentiating and where you can make improvements.
- Work Together With Strong Partners
New online stores pop up daily and the competition is fierce, especially when everyone seems to be competing with Amazon. For some online retailers, working with strong partners, such as Amazon, helps them take advantage of the high conversion, making it possible to have another strong sales channel. If you can’t beat them, join them — at least until your reputation and brand are strong enough to stand alone. Plus, this route will help to gather initial data on the customers interested in your products, giving you that base to build from for your other online channels.
Data, Data, Data
The takeaway from these tips all center around one main theme: data. The potential data offers to online retailers has increased dramatically in recent years, but this can make everything simultaneously more complex because many do not know where to start. By leveraging the right technology properly, you can reach your targeted audience, make the brand experience superior, and create personalized connections with customers that will keep coming back.