2017 is well underway, but most retailers are still picking up the mess left over from the e-commerce party that was Holiday 2016. So here are 10 E-Commerce Tips for 2017. While many say that there is nothing new under the sun, in e-commerce, 2017 looks to be a year of pretty massive change for online retailers. From embracing the competition to changing from intent-based to audience-based marketing to refocusing on your customer experience, we think that 2017 is a year that you can dramatically grow your e-commerce business.
Embrace Amazon: Listen, as much as we want it too, Amazon ISN’T going away, or become less important in the lives of your customers. More than 50% of e-commerce searches start on Amazon. If you aren’t selling your stuff there, you have already lost out on >50% of the market. Amazon isn’t stealing your customers. Your customers are already Amazon customers. And you need to sell your products where your customers are shopping. Think of Amazon as another search engine. You wouldn’t opt out of sales from Bing or Yahoo? Why would you do so for Amazon? Here is a bright note, when I worked for a major (seriously big) retailer, we analyzed all of the new ship to addresses that came from our marketplace partners (including Amazon). We saw that 4-6% of those buyers bought directly from us in the following 6 months. And we were profitable on all Amazon transactions, so Marketplaces became an acquisition channel that paid us…
Expand Beyond Text Search Ads: Most e-commerce retailers already do this, but the traditional text ad in Google is having diminishing impact. Shopping ads, almost universally, are the number 1 driver of new customer acquisition. So, if you aren’t using shopping ads because they are too expensive, or because you can’t figure out the technology, this is a warning to get smart. If you aren’t participating in Google & Bing Shopping, you are relegating yourself to the back seat. Search customers are clicking on search ads in record numbers and driving new customers in record numbers.
Display Media Is Today’s Biggest Growth Opportunity: Display ads are hot. Hotter than they have ever been before. The simple reason is that they work.I am not talking about remarketing where you are showing ads to your visitors, but rather where you are showing ads to visitors who may or may not know about you, but have the right characteristics. Today’s display providers like Google Display Network, Criteo, AdRoll and Steelhouse have amazing amounts of data about web visitors on & off your site. They use that data (browsing history, location, products viewed, income, gender…the list is amazing) to show a great ad to the right customer. These are prospecting ads, so they may convert at lower-levels on a direct click basis, but they are a valuable (and usually pretty cost-effective way) to mix brand awareness and conversion.
It’s No Longer An Intent-Based World: In the old days, all e-commerce retailers raced to the bottom of the funnel to capture search traffic when consumers expressed an interest to buy. Now, with Amazon such a big part of the landscape, and Google getting less product-focused searches, that intent signal is no longer as loud as it once was. But by targeting audiences, and behavioral groups, you have a better chance of finding your customer than with search alone. So, as above, acquisition-focused display is important, but also things like Facebook Custom Audiences, or Google Customer Match are crucial building blocks for acquisition. When you upload these lists to the advertising platforms, the platforms can create lookalike audiences, which may not have expressed intent to buy your products, but they share other attributes with your current customer base, and they are more likely to buy. PROTIP: On many social advertising platforms, you can target people by the products and companies they like and follow. (So, if you are Dick’s Sporting Goods, you can target people who like Modell’s.) This competitor targeting is a major strategy for 2017.
It Is A Mobile 1st (and probably only) World: This has been a long time coming, but the majority of the traffic on the internet is mobile. So, if your site design, your layout, your checkout and your site speed isn’t up to snuff, you are going to suffer – a lot. If you haven’t been thinking about this, stop EVERYTHING you are doing and start putting together a plan. You are 18 months behind. Catch up now.
Advanced Analytics & Attribution Are Your Friends: There are a million solutions available for you to do complex analysis on your site traffic. But let’s break it down into 2 things that you need to master. In Google Analytics, there are two building blocks of your business just waiting to be maximized. Multi-Channel Funnels can help you understand how your marketing channels work together. This is crucial to you understanding that your customer is on a journey and that they aren’t showing up to your site credit card in hand. This is complicated stuff, so learn what your visitors are doing on their way to becoming customers. Also, the Attribution Model Comparison Tool can help you see that depending on how you look at it, marketing channels can be more or less valuable. And, as you see the differences between First Click Attribution and Last Non-Direct Click Attribution, for instance, you might find that organic traffic drives early value in the customer journey and display drives value late in the customer journey. This will help you prioritize your traffic efforts in 2017.
E-Mail Is Still Awesome: As we showed in our Facebook Lead Ads for Retailers study, having a non-active customer on your e-mail list makes them significantly more valuable to you over time. And e-mail is a prime reminder of your value proposition into the your customer’s hands. Focus on growing your list, even if they aren’t buying today, because they have invited you into their inbox, and if your are good at what you do, they are going to buy! Find inventive ways to capture information – coupons, giveaways, special content, whatever, provide something your visitor values and create an e-mail relationsip with them. It pays off! (And, you can use it for audience-based targeting!)
Segmentation Matters: Your customers are different from one another. They have purchased different products, have visited different pages, have worked with you in different ways. So you need to engage with the differently. If you are sending them e-mails, tailor their messages to their shopping or product experience. If you are using remarketing, segment the messaging by behavior. You probably want to send a different message to someone who only looked at your home page vs. someone who looked at a specific category or product page. Your campaigns are more complicated (different creatives, etc.) but the result set will be much better.
Spread Your Content Wings: Most consumers say they dislike ads. (I kinda like them, but then again, I am a total dork.) So we need to find non-ad ways to engage with consumers. Think about content as your non-ad sales driver. If you are a beauty brand, you should be blogging, YouTubing & Instagramming about beauty. If your are a consumer electronics retailer, maybe you should have buying guides and unboxing videos. If you are a home improvement retailer, you should have DIY videos and graphic instruction guides. Consumers who are in the “need it”, “want it”, or “love it” zone WANT to eat up this content. And if the useful content provider also happens to be a retailer, that makes they trusted buying choice easy. Best of all, content is evergreen. Unlike an ad that stops having benefit when you stop spending, that YouTube video or Instagram post will continue to live and provide value. Invest in content to increase your footprint, your sales funnel and give your visitors a reason to engage.
Treat Your Customers Really Well: So this shouldn’t be just a 2017 focus, but retail is so competitive that this bears repeating every year. From delivery logistics to easy returns, the bar is set really high. I would suggest that you focus on one customer service area per quarter, and drive tons of effort into it. Regardless if it is responding to e-mail faster, or getting shipping information faster, or changing the way your return process works, your customers get AMAZING service everywhere. You don’t want them to have a non-positive experience with you. Think about your customer service from the outside in and commit to analyzing and improving one facet of your post-purchase customer experience every quarter. That will yield results far into the future!
What are you seeing in your neck of the woods – what are your e-commerce tips for 2017? Comment below!