By all measures, ecommerce is on the rise globally.
In the US, Adobe Digital Insights reported that Black Friday generated $3.3bn in online sales, a 17% year-on-year increase.
US consumers spent an additional $3.45bn on Cyber Monday, an annual increase of more than 12%.
While impressive, these figures look small compared to Singles Day (November 11th) 2016 in China. According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese consumers spent $17.8bn in one day on Alibaba sites alone, up 32% from 2015.
Australia, too, is experiencing rapid ecommerce growth. According to industry reports, ecommerce sales grew by 12% in 2015 topping $10bn in total and accounting for 4.5% of all retail sales in the country.
With such growth, ecommerce marketers must be doing something right. To find out what the experts recommend these days, Econsultancy recently held roundtable discussions in Sydney to discuss ecommerce strategy, trends, and best practices.
Here are the top seven tips provided by ecommerce marketers on the day.
1) Personalise the customer journey
Delegates felt that marketers have never had more options than they do now to customise the customer journey. From emails, to dynamic ads, to website content, marketers have the capabilities to provide a highly peronalised experience for consumers.
What many found surprising was that so few companies seem to be taking advantage of the tools available. Most customer outreach, attendees noted, was still designed for a ‘mass audience’ and not very well segmented.
Because of this, participants felt that there was a lot of opportunity for marketers to see improvements in both conversions and revenue by using customer data to personalise the customer journey.
Indeed, according to a recent Econsultancy report, many other marketers agree. More than two in three (69%) of marketers in Australia indicate that ‘personalising customer interactions’ is ‘very important’ for their organisations over the next few years.
2) Create a culture of testing
Marketers reported using a number of tools for testing, including Optimizely and VMO, mostly for A/B testing. While some were doing more sophisticated multivariate testing, the majority felt that their testing programmes were ‘basic’.
Several participants on the day indicated that they struggled to improve their programme because a team outside of marketing was responsible for testing. Because of this, the marketers had little control of what was being tested and had trouble drawing insights from the results.
Experienced ecommerce professionals said that marketers who are responsible for ROI should also run tests. Building a testing culture, while difficult, was a must for improving ecommerce performance.
Doing so, one added, will also help marketers avoid making changes suggested by management which do not resonate with customers.
3) Deploy optimization systems to fix abandoned cart issues
Attendees felt that they still had a major cart abandonment problem and some had up to 90% of shoppers failing to complete purchases. Many said that they were making changes to the cart and checkout workflows, but admitted that they weren’t A/B testing the changes.
Ecommerce experts warned against making changes without tests and advised that marketers should use tools such as Yieldify, Cloud IQ and VE interactive. These tools help with site optimization and integrate with email providers to help get customers back to the site.
Those who already use such tools reported positive ROI, but noted that they still struggled with producing reports which indicate true uplift.
4) Use tools to manage ratings and reviews
Another common issue faced by marketers was managing user-generated content on their ecommerce sites, such as ratings and reviews.
Again, ecommerce specialists pointed out that there were tools available which made handling user comments more manageable. The most popular among these was Bazaarvoice, though Yotpo was used as well.
These tools allow marketers to better integrate their brands into the customer journey and derive insights which improved their marketing.
Everyone who used these tools saw an uplift in conversions after they started encouraging customers to leave comments and reviews.
None, however, were using the ‘question & answer’ capabilities of these systems, which participants felt was perhaps a missed opportunity to engage further with customers.
5) Innovate delivery
How products are delivered to consumers is now an important feature of industrial-strength ecommerce platforms. Click and collect, same day / next day delivery, and multi-address deliveries were all mentioned as delivery innovations which had boosted sales.
Free delivery promotions, attendees agreed, was the best way to increase sales. Participants reported that their sites enjoyed up to a 3X conversion boost when they offered free shipping.
6) Experiment with new payment methods and online chat
Another tip from ecommerce experts was that sites should experiment with new payment networks. ‘Buy now / pay later’ networks, such as AfterPay and ZipMoney, were the best known examples on the day, but no one had enough data to discuss the ROI for these platforms.
Deploying online chat is another way that ecommerce brands are trying to drive conversions. While gaining popularity, most felt that resourcing a live chat channel was a sizable barrier to wider implementation.
7) Move from old platforms to new industry standards
The final piece of advice from the experts was that merchants should consider abandoning their legacy or bespoke ecommerce platforms for newer industry-standard ones. The main issue with the old platforms is that they were designed before the numerous innovations which newer systems, such as Magento, now have as standard.
Features such as security, SEO optimization, and international support are built-in to the newer platforms and are much easier to configure and customize than niche or legacy systems. One participant noted that after moving to Magento it was ‘significantly easier to get done what we need to do’.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and especially our Ecommerce table moderator, Fraser Gardner, Ecommerce Manager, Matt Blatt.
We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!