This week the BRC and KPMG reported that online sales of non-food items grew by 8% year-on-year in January 2017, taking with them an increasingly higher proportion of the sales in comparison to the high street.
Andy Burton, CEO of e-commerce systems integrator, Tryzens, says that now is the time for retailers to review, analyse and enhance their eCommerce websites ahead of a bumper year for the sector. “Innovative technology is bringing lots of exciting opportunities to retailers. The challenge for 2017 is to decide which opportunities to embrace to better satisfy consumers and boost business models,” he said.
According to Burton, the five key areas for retailers in 2017 are:
- Back to basics
With so much innovation it is easy to lose sight of the basics. The most successful retailers in 2017 will invest more in evaluating their offering to make sure customers can quickly find what they want and have access to the most straightforward payment and delivery options. There should also be plenty of relevant promotions (such as loyalty schemes, personalisation and content) to motivate shoppers to return to your site time and again.
Savvy retailers will also put more effort into assessing whether their online offering works well on all devices, and in harmony with their physical stores.
- Real-time analytics
Top retailers will do more to proactively monitor what is happening across their channels and back end systems and make use of this data to improve their business model. It is time to set business goals and benchmark your performance with industry norms, by using the latest in dashboard technology to collect a raft of other real time data about the content and functionality shoppers have used. Retailers will also use predictive analytics in the online store to help them understand how different kinds of consumers interact with their site, products and offering. This will enable them to send targeted promotions, optimise consumer experience and understand more about the relationship between frequency of purchase and customer lifetime value.
- Back office systems
E-commerce has the potential to completely revolutionise the effectiveness and profitability of your entire business. Pursuing a single view of stock and a single view of the customer across physical and online stores is fast becoming essential. In the future, systems will be fully integrated (increasingly in real-time via middleware) to support all channels and enable flexible and innovative ways of serving and interacting with the customer, while improving profitability. For example, extending the visibility of stock and deploying ‘smart logisitics’ options to calculate the optimal order for a specific customer, will reduce the cost pressure of deliveries and returns.
- Mobile first
According to Adobe, 41% of online spending in 2016 was transacted via a mobile device. 2017 will see dramatic improvements in the mobile shopping experience and not just ensuring a site displays correctly on any device. To stay ahead of the competition, retailers will invest in simplifying mobile interaction to drive both online and in-store sales, and better optimise to ergonomic features and behaviors. Touch driven navigations, biometrics for payment authentication and location based events will start to emerge into the mainstream. This includes innovations such as being able to pay for items via mobile instead of queueing, or alerts for staff that a “click and collect” customer is coming to pick up their order.
- Prepare for chat
While retailers will continue to make use of convenient, live online chat services to answer queries, in future, we will see more chat services using chatbots. Chatbots help customers complete common queries themselves, such asbooking appointments with in-store stylists and gathering information about what customers are looking for. Brands will benefit from reducing the volume of incoming common queries to human assistants. Brands need to be thinking about how they may be relevant to their business.
Burton concluded: “The opportunity to innovate and differentiate in retail is huge. 2017 will be a great year for the customer as retailers dedicate more time and money to improving the shopping experience.”