E-commerce adoption has been catapulted into hyperdrive over the past few years. Consumers are shopping more online for products they’ve historically purchased in-store. Globally, e-commerce is expected to account for 20.4% of retail sales by the end of 2022 (5 years ago it was only 10%). Couple that with skyrocketing customer acquisition costs, and the industry landscape is quickly becoming not only crowded but competitive.
“The e-commerce industry is expected to grow by almost $11 trillion between 2021 and 2025.” – Global E-Commerce Market Report
So how do you increase your chances of being successful at meeting and exceeding constantly changing consumer expectations? How do you deliver seamless, personal experiences for your customers and users? From small to large digital modernizations, we’ve identified seven key topics to focus on.
The 7 Topics Essential to Building an E-Commerce Ecosystem
1 | Trust: Privacy, Security, and Quality
Trust is the foundation of any long-term relationship — and customer relationships are no different. Building relationships digitally create extra challenges though. As online activity increases so do privacy and cyber security concerns. Privacy regulations regularly change, and your systems need to continuously adapt. Consider how you can simplify endlessly updating privacy standards and security protocols. Second, meeting customer product quality expectations is important in building and maintaining consumer trust. Every interaction gets a publicly visible rating that can make or break a business. Don’t look at digital ratings as a treat; leverage these tools to build trust with your current and potential customers.
- Secure Data Handling: Where is customer data stored? Who owns that data? What are the necessary security levels?
- Future Threat Assessment: Consider thinking ahead through horizon planning. What are the biggest cybersecurity threats currently and in the future for our company?
“If businesses want access to customer data, they need to do it in a way that builds trust.” – Shopify’s 2022 Future of Ecommerce
2 | Unify: Seamless Touchpoints and Interactions
Most customers are active across several different online channels, and they expect their experiences to be seamless. To optimize conversion and retention, make the customer journey as easy, reliable, and integrated as possible. Think about how a customer goes from Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or even TikTok, to the place where you want them to learn or purchase. Then, think in the opposite direction about how they are reminded of your offering when they move to a different website or online channel. Think about email follow-ups or pushing relevant news through social media.
- Multi-Channel: Your customers interact with your brand on many different channels, and they may flow between multiple in one journey. The smoother these transitions, the higher your conversion ratio. Which channels are relevant to your target customer?
- Journey Mapping: An effective way of identifying and visualizing the different touchpoints a customer has is creating one or multiple journey maps and bringing those to life with real-life examples.
3 | Personalize: Tailored Experiences
Personalization is a very powerful tool. When you use data like previous interactions, search history, consumer habits, and spending, you can create a digital experience that is tailored to your customer. Companies that create personalized experiences see higher conversion ratios and average order values.
- Data Management: How are you gathering data from your customers? Where are you storing it and how are you making it useful? What is most valuable to your customers? Can your business define where in the customer journey this value is/should be delivered?
- Behavioral Promotion Flowchart: A way to build the logic behind surfacing the right information, products, and services at the right time within the customer journey.
“85% of brands believe they’re offering personalized experiences, while only 60% of consumers seem to agree.” - Twilio
4 | Self-Serve: Empower Your Customer
Customers are becoming more tech-savvy and are accustomed to using e-commerce websites (e.g., Amazon.com). This results in customers expecting to be able to change their profiles, access their order history, and gain more information on specifications or prices, all without human interaction. When self-serve is done well, it speeds up and smoothens the process for the customer, as well as reduces the cost to serve each customer.
- Customer Preference: Conduct customer segmentation to identify which customers seek self-service versus those who prefer a sales or customer service-led approach.
- Retention: How will you retain a personalized relationship, and offer cross-sell, upsell, and promotional packages to drive loyalty and retention with customers if you don’t have employees directly interact with them?
- Monitor and Optimize: How will you monitor satisfaction and identify unmet needs and opportunities to do more for your customers?
5 | Optimize: Customer-Centric Services
When building an e-commerce ecosystem, it is easy to get caught up in trying to convey everything you offer including your company vision and values. The problem is that you can’t convey everything, and neither should you. Your customer should be able to easily find all information they need. You should see your digital domains and assets as pointers in a library. It should be designed for one thing: to deliver what your customer is looking for as fast as possible. Eliminate redundant text, too many clicks, and content that wastes screen space. Focus on value-add elements like good menu design and short yet clear navigation flows. Invest in getting to know your customer and their preferences and behavior so you can serve them better.
- Persona-Building: How well do you know your current and prospective customer base? Customer profiling or persona development will clarify differing needs and motivations and help you unlock customer value.
- Reveal Friction Points: Leverage service blueprints or value chain maps to reveal friction points and identify moments that matter to customers. This will help you prioritize and focus your investments.
6 | Connect: Centralized Data and Ownership
To make all the previous topics possible, you need valuable and actionable data insights. These insights come from combining multiple sources of data such as your website and social media channels plus even third-party vendors and brick-and-mortar stores. One of the benefits of online interactions is that it comes with a lot of data. This data is only valuable if captured in a thoughtful way that creates insights that can help optimize product offerings, website flows, wording, follow-ups, and targeted advertising to name a few.
- Capability Assessment: What resources and capabilities do you need to unify these data sources to create better business outcomes and data stories? For example, information architecture and data audits are powerful tools.
- Multi-channel: Consider all channels where your customers interact with your brand/products and decide how you can gather data from all these places in one location.
7 | Experience: Immersive E-Commerce
As online distractions and the number of companies competing for attention increase, the kind of experience you provide and the timing will determine success. Video has gained a lot of popularity but recent innovations like AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) change the game once again. Provide your customers with the smoothest, most efficient, yet enticing experience when they learn, imagine, and interact with your company, products, and services.
- Public Acceptance: Don’t forget that even though the innovations seem awesome, most customers seek familiarity in their experiences. Consider using novel tools in an appropriate way to elevate your customer's experience and not alienate them. One accessible option besides AR and VR is voice command capabilities that are now available on most devices and could be an innovative consideration when moving forward in digital commerce.
- Capability Assessment: A simple capability assessment can help identify where your company’s strengths lie and what can be leveraged to support great experiences.
“80% of customers consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services.” – Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer.
Digital interactions and e-commerce were accelerated during the pandemic and their importance in business is continuing to grow. By taking the time to assess your organization through our seven key topics you’ll get a good view of your company’s maturity and where investments need to be made.
Learn more about our Experience Design practice.