by Mark West, CEO
Today retailers are faced with unprecedented opportunities online for reaching new customers and for reselling to their existing database.
Social media, marketplace channels, foreign market opportunities, advanced personalisation and the increasing flexibility in online advertising all contribute to a powerful, yet incredibly busy landscape.
Emerging retailers can often feel a little overwhelmed by all the noise and the abundance of options available. There are also some expensive pitfalls which lead to frustration and missed opportunity.
Without considering challenges to buying and merchandising and ensuring customers receive their orders, we feel that the following five reasons are why most ecommerce sites fail to meet sales expectations and how a capable ecommerce development agency like Remarkable.net can offer a better solution:
#1 A lack of expertise
It is unusual for retailers outside of the UK Internet Retailing Top 100 to have the ability to both technically and creatively address all the essential requirements to drive ecommerce. Even individuals in long term senior IT management positions are likely to confess that there are gaps and limitations to their knowledge. Retailers who are just starting out will also find it a challenge to even start to know how to find the right level of inhouse expertise to achieve online sales growth. And on top of this the ecommerce landscape is constantly shifting all the time with new technology and changing consumer behaviour.
Tip: A competent ecommerce agency should have a broad spectrum of expertise under one roof and be able to walk into your business and provide the right advice for you from day one. At my full-service agency Remarkable.net we have expert teams across design, development and marketing with advanced knowledge of how to make any ecommerce development deliver results. Two of our clients have grown with us and in recent years they have entered the Internet Retailing Top 100, and several more will be joining them soon. We have a long track record of helping our clients to achieve ecommerce success.
#2 A lack of analytics
Ecommerce sales development is driven by knowing what to look for in the numbers. Selling online provides retailers with a much richer dataset about how customers engage with your business far beyond the level of data that would ever be available from traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Yet to make the most of this data and create an action plan from it that leads to improved performance requires a complex skillset. In fact, the biggest missed opportunity for ecommerce development is the strategic use of data to drive everything from improving customer journey to knowing how effective services like click and collect are.
Tip: Our teams at Remarkable.net have many years of experience at helping our clients find ways to correctly interrogate their ecommerce data. The ecommerce platforms that our agency develops also come with many advanced reports and analytics baked in that can show valuable insight from day one launch of any new ecommerce platform.
3# Not realising how ecommerce customers behave
It is a mistake for a retailer to believe their ecommerce customer is anything like them, or in fact is the same as the customer who visits their bricks and mortar stores. It can be a complex feat, but by using the right combination of development in analytics, customer live insight and creative experience, successful retailers carefully identify ways to improve their ecommerce engagement and maximise opportunities to better serve their customers.
Tip: At Remarkable.net we offer inhouse customer behavioural insight events where we invite several customers and assess how they use our client’s websites in a live environment (with the client present too). This process helps retailers to really see through the eyes of their customers and the benefits can be considerable. During one of our recent behavioural insight events when viewing how real customers used a client site we immediately spotted an improvement that could be made to make the shopping basket process easier when using an iPhone. We applied a development fix to the iPhone journey the following day and in the weeks since have seen a noticeable decrease in basket abandonment for visitors who use iPhones.
#4 Not having a sound strategic plan for ecommerce development.
Technically designing and developing a successful ecommerce website cannot just be a bolt on to a retailers existing business. In fact, it is often the best strategy to approach ecommerce development as if starting a new business, separate to any existing operations. Online retailing has evolved far beyond being simply another marketing channel for any existing retail business. To ensure success we recommend the creation of a clear business plan complete with budgets, goals, KPIs and operational requirements. You may already have a plan, but if not imagine that you are pitching for funding, what type of ecommerce business plan would your prospective investor want to see? Within the first few years you will feel the benefit of having the business plan as ground map for developing the new ecommerce business.
Tip: Along with the business plan narrative, create a solid profit and loss forecast for online trading and identify all your key finances and then project those numbers over the first 12 – 18 months. Involve any third parties in this if you are comfortable to do so. This process also helps to provide an external ecommerce agency with clear visibility of the financial KPIs and what they need to do to ensure your ecommerce business becomes a profitable success. We often provide templates for these documents to any clients who need them and provide any supporting advice where we can.
#5 Accept your weaknesses as well as your strengths
Some retailers know the software behind their bricks and mortar stores like the back of their hand but have no idea what they want from a new ecommerce platform. Others have managers who are very capable from an analysis perspective and know about customer acquisition but have limited or no knowledge when it comes to warehousing management systems and distribution. Some merchants have achieved some success with their own online store, but no idea how they can grow into marketplaces like Amazon or eBay.
Tip: Assemble any staff with any IT awareness and assess if they have any internet / ecommerce knowledge or experience. If you do not have an abundance of inhouse technical knowledge this is not a problem but to achieve ecommerce success it is highly advisable that you contract a capable external development agency to bridge any technical gaps.
At our ecommerce agency Remarkable.net we have over 18 years of experience at helping our clients to grow their ecommerce developments online. We can also offer 360-degree advice having also developed end-to-end business processes including a warehouse management system with handheld scanning, ERP systems, online booking facility and much more.