Ah, the land of eCommerce. What once was a place where online retailers bought gobs of PPC ads, cornered the market on display inventory and tried to outwit Google for prime page rank, has now become over-shadowed by laser-focus on AOV, LTV, COA and CPM. Oh and trying to figure out how to leverage SnapChat, Vine, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and the myriad of social sites and memes sprouting up every day. The land grab for the retail consumer is on. The eCommerce game has changed and the stakes are higher than ever.
The reality is that most eCommerce businesses are sucking wind at the new game. Why? They are focused on the wrong things and flushing money down the toilet like it’s nobody’s business. When your business growth slows down, it’s time to examine everything and figure out why. But it’s often easier to throw money at a problem than to actually diagnose the problem and fix it. What would your investors, shareholders and customers say about that? Lamesauce. Dumbsauce. It’s time to get real, people. Put aside your media buying spreadsheets, your acquisition funnel strategies, your KPIs and your fancy agencies. eCommerce success is about getting down and dirty. It’s about 3 secrets which seem so basic, but are missed by so many companies as they land-grab for new customers. Get down. Get dirty. Get real. Here we go.
“We have an acquisition problem. A retention problem. An engagement problem. A loyalty problem. A ___ problem.” You have no idea how many times I hear these phrases spoken from the mouths of incredibly smart, experienced C-level people. The reality is they don’t have what they think they have. At the core, they have a customer problem. They do not know who their customer is. I mean really know. Beyond a lead form. Beyond an email address. Beyond a customer survey. Who she really is. Where she lives, where she shops (yes, gulp, you have competition), how much she buys, what she expects in terms of service, how she uses devices and technology, how she makes purchasing decisions – all of the deep customer insights that tell you who she is so you can deliver an experience she will love and come back for over and over and tell her friends about. These insights drive brand awareness, smarter media buys and prioritize what you build and how you deliver it. Building a customer-centric business is not easy and it’s more than just words on a mission statement or bullets in a board deck. It’s getting in the weeds and deciding who she is today, who she is tomorrow and how you are going to delight and surprise her every time.
“We just need to buy more banners and PPC ads and conversions will grow.” Sorry, friends, but the days of “spray and pray” advertising are over. I am actually not sorry to see them go at all. Buying ads and hoping customers stumble across them in their online travels is a waste of time and money. Ad retargeting, geotargeting, online personalization and the myriad of hyper-targeted ad plays have changed the game. Today we know way more about shoppers and visitors than ever before and it’s up to marketers to get smart about how to use that data to deliver relevant content in context. I’ll bet you a steak, your customer has shopped someplace else via a competitor’s app because it was more convenient and in context with their immediate needs. User experience has long been thought of as a “website or a UX thing.” Digital commerce is all about experience. User experience transcends all facets of how your customers interact with your brand – online, mobile, social, service, email, offline. You name it. If I need a new pair of strappy sandals right now, am I going to wait until I get home, log on to my computer and then shop? Hell no. By then, my 10 year old is watching a movie on my computer and I have probably forgotten and moved on to something else. People want to be able to explore, browse, buy and share when they want, where they want. Don’t make me wait, know what I need when I need it. Serve me relevant content in context and it’s not an ad. See where I’m going here? Deliver context and watch conversions soar.
“We need to focus on getting new customers, not writing blog posts or updating a Facebook page.” Yeah, I get it. You want to focus on the real bread and butter aka the customers who are going to buy something and fall in love with your brand and keep experiencing your awesomeness. But the bread that they want is the channel and the butter they want is for you to engage them – beyond sales emails and automated marketing messages. The tendency is to hit consumers over the head with offers and discounts and promo codes, but what does that mean for your brand? It’s all too easy to become just another low-cost, get-the-best-deal retailer. Once you’re that guy, it’s tough to shake it. Don’t you want to be more valuable than that? That’s where a killer content strategy can boost your ecommerce engine. Offering your customers great content across channels becomes a premium service you offer for free. You can craft your brand as a trendsetter or thought leader and share content of all shapes, types and sizes with your fans. What types of content would engage your customers? Where would they want to read it? How can you build content and syndicate it across channels? Content is about context. Context is relevant and convenient and right now. Where you serve the content is just a channel, so figure out the content strategy first and then the channels will work themselves out. Companies that build great content build great customers.
Want to hear more about how the trends in digital commerce are changing the game? Mark you calendars. I’ll be leading The Future of Digital Commerce: Content, Context + Experience session at the MITX FutureM conference on Friday, October 18th. I am in the midst of assembling a rockstar panel of digital marketing leaders who will share their predictions and trends for the future of eCommerce and the shift to all things digital. More to come soon as details unfold. If you’d like a coveted spot on my panel, send me an email michelle (at) growthstreetmarketing (dot) com. Hope to see you there!
Michelle Heath is a marketing consultant with Growth Street Marketing and the former CMO / VP of Marketing at Currensee and Matchmine. You can find this blog post, as well as additional content on her blog located here. You can also follow Michelle on Twitter (@michelleheath) by clicking here.