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The evolution of business is accelerating, and with it comes a catastrophic shift in traditional retail. Despite the unknown future of physical stores, e-commerce has proven to be here to stay. According to research conducted by eMarketer and Statista, global online retail sales are expected to increase reach $6.51 trillion this year. As we head into the new year, here are four tips for retailers to chart a clear course for success.
1. Understand what your customers want and need
Every market is competitive and if you can’t offer your customers exactly what they want, they’ll find it elsewhere. Moreover, Salesforce reports that 66% of customers expect companies to know their unique needs and expectations. Therefore, it is imperative to have a deep understanding of your customer’s needs and pain points in order to provide the right solutions.
To understand what your customers need, engage in social listening, that is, monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitor brands, and related keywords.
Social listening requires you to identify your target customers and find out “where they live online”. Is it on Instagram? TikTok? Find out where your customers are and then evaluate what they are saying. Customers will tell you what they want and need.
Another way to get a better idea of your customers’ wants and needs is to monitor customer reviews. Whether it’s business reviews on Google or your mobile app, reading reviews can help gauge how customers feel about your brand and its products.
Related: 5 effective strategies to grow your retail business
2. Understand your market like no other and leverage omnichannel experiences
You need to know your market inside out to meet the changing needs of your customers and stay competitive. That’s why you should first keep an eye on your competitor’s product launches, new feature rollouts, and other important activities. From there it is important to collect and analyze industry data.
First, you should be concerned with monitoring competitors. Competition monitoring helps you know what your competitors are doing – and determine what they are not doing. For example, say their customer base has a pain point that your competitors aren’t addressing. In that case, it presents a huge opportunity for you and your retailer to address that market gap and create a solution that helps you stand out from the competition.
Monitoring your competitors can also help you determine how they interact with customers. Let’s say retail companies in your niche are finding great success on a specific social media platform or with SMS or push notification campaigns. In that case, it can help you adapt and expand similar campaigns for your business into new outreach and marketing channels.
From there, you’ll better understand how to build a true omnichannel experience for customers. An omnichannel experience spans several customer touchpoints across channels to create a seamless, connected journey. If your competitors have a limited or ineffective omnichannel strategy, you can observe their practices and develop a better customer experience. And if your competitors have an excellent omnichannel strategy, you can implement the same elements in your approach.
Second, you need to analyze industry data to better understand current (and future) trends. Industry whitepapers, surveys, and case studies can shed some light on what’s happening in the ecommerce landscape. You can collect some of these assets from ecommerce heavy hitters (think Shopify), and get the rest directly from your competitor’s websites and other information channels.
Related: The future of retail is omnichannel
3. Build a team rooted in diversity and inclusion
a McKinsey study revealed that diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform competitors. So building a team and fostering a company culture of diversity and inclusion is essential if you want to start 2023 off right.
By bringing together a diverse group, you get a far-reaching set of life experiences and backgrounds. This can help you develop unique products and solutions for market gaps that other retail companies may overlook.
You can build a diverse team by changing your hiring practices. Look for individuals with different levels of experience, education, etc., and hire different team members based on how they can add value and contribute to the existing company culture. From there, foster a culture of inclusion by creating safe spaces for team members to express themselves. Safe spaces allow people to show their “full selves” by reducing risk in the workplace, which can help foster an environment for innovation and opportunity.
Another good way to do this is through advertisements. Always make sure your advertising team uses models, photography and content that are inclusive and not an afterthought. Diverse ads help customers feel represented and recognized and therefore more likely to shop your e-commerce store.
Related: Importance of diversity and inclusion for business growth
4. Keep it simple
It can be easy to overcomplicate things, especially when implementing several new ideas for your business. However, you should keep it simple. The sole focus of any business strategy should be the customer, and e-commerce is no different.
When marketing to your target audience, it’s essential to keep in mind that customers know when you’re not authentic. That’s why you need to approach customers honestly and openly by talking to them and making sure they feel seen and heard by your company. If your marketing campaign says, “We care what you have to say,” take the necessary steps to listen.
Once you’ve won customers with your marketing efforts, prioritize the customer and deliver a streamlined and cost-efficient experience. For example, this could mean developing an easy-to-follow purchase path or shortening the checkout process. From there, you can implement new ideas as they make the most sense in your company’s e-commerce journey for your customers and business growth.
Here’s my take: If you want to succeed in the retail space, start thinking about what your customer needs – where would they most like the experience to take place? Then make sure the experience takes place there. There are still many brick-and-mortar stores trying to compete with e-commerce, which is a losing battle. Change the game, find your competitive advantage and win in 2023.