Guest blog: Ramon Weterings, Regional Vice President Western & Southern Europe at Sitecore
Within my 20+ years experience in enterprise sales and sales management I developed a true passion for software, especially how it can help, transform or disrupt entire businesses and industries. I’m very excited about Digital Marketing, Analytics (descriptive, predictive, prescriptive), Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. Together with my team I want to help organisations harness the power of data to deliver a truly unique customer experience, build customer loyalty and improve results. I’m currently responsible for entire Sitecore business in Southern & Western Europe (Benelux, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Israel).
If you only focus on technology, you are not going to make it on the e-commerce market. It’s like buying a Ferrari and not having a driver’s licence.
Things are moving fast for e-commerce. Sales figures are rising year after year as consumer interest in online shopping continues to grow. Yet many web shops still have a lot of work to do to make the shopping experience user-friendly and personalised at the same time. Globally, there are several trends that are emerging.
1) There are still quite a few stumbling blocks
In the United States, e-commerce accounts for just barely more than 9% of retail sales. At first glance, this percentage seems to be low. That’s logical, many retailers were too slow to implement e-commerce and could not secure their market share. This is not any different in Europe. The BeCommerce Market Monitor 2017 reports that we all spent 10.05 billion euros online. Compare to 2016, this translates to an increase of 11%. But there is still much room for improvement. Shipping costs, delivery times and choice of delivery time appear to be the biggest stumbling blocks for many consumers to make their purchase online effectively.
2) The big fish are getting even bigger
Despite the fact that more and more small players are venturing into the market, the large web shops are still the dominating power. Take Coolblue and Bol.com. These Dutch e-commerce companies are also doing extremely well on the Belgian market. They are winning one web shop award after the other. The remarkable thing is that they both started out without a physical store. Meanwhile, Coolblue already has some physical points of sale and continues to be successful. Why? They have clearly understood that the customer is the most important factor and spare neither effort nor costs to deliver the very next day. In most cases, it also works. Some web shops even offer customers the option to deliver during the weekend or after 6pm. These are things that improve the customer experience. The result? Loyal, returning customers. Whether you can start your own business when faced with these market leaders? I think this is very difficult in this market segment. When it comes to customer satisfaction and pricing, it is difficult to compete.
It is therefore much better to differentiate. The big players have a very wide range, but they don’t have everything. It is therefore a good idea to focus on a niche market. For example, if you start a web shop with DJ material and you have a very large assortment and good service and delivery time, pricing is a little less important. That way, you can still make a difference. Another possibility to differentiate yourself is to position yourself as a price fighter in the market. Take Alibaba for instance. You often have to wait 6 to 8 weeks before you actually have the product you ordered. But it is worth the wait because you only pay one trifle.
3) Worldwide Wait
Time is money. Not only for a businessperson, but also for a customer. In terms of connectivity, we have no more to complain about today. WiFi or 4G is virtually everywhere. The loading time of a web shop can be tricky. A consumer simply leaves if his patience is put to too much of a test. A survey has shown that a millennial will wait a maximum of 12 to 15 seconds. If they can’t find what he’s looking for in that time, they will click away. When it comes to Generation Z, the number is even more striking: their patience lasts a maximum of 8 to 12 seconds. To serve this group of customers, it is therefore extremely important that you offer them relevant information. This generation grew up with technology, so using Google Search is the number one priority.
4) Responsive site or app?
This is a frequently asked question: do you need a separate app as a web shop? Or is a good responsive website enough? The bol.com mobile application is excellent. You can easily pay with it, share products and track your package. The notifications are even more pleasant than receiving countless e-mails. Still, it is not a must if you have a good responsive site, look at Coolblue. Also be aware that developing an app costs a lot of money. You have to have an app created for iOS and Android. That will soon rise to many tens of thousands of euros. You still have to be able to justify it to your CEO. Plus, an app is only useful if your customers use it frequently. An app that is not on the homepage of a smartphone is often forgotten.
5) Hey, Siri!
Today, more and more devices can be operated by voice. Is this also the next big thing in the field of e-commerce? It will mainly be a mix of artificial intelligence and machine learning. English, French or German are already well integrated. Sometimes things go wrong with Dutch and some other languages. But Alexa, Siri and Google Home will become ever smarter. They can even make suggestions themselves.
6) Use the right technology
The schoolbook examples – Amazon, Coolblue and Bol.com – are fully up-to-date and invest heavily in innovation and new technologies. It’s sort of the chicken or the egg story. If you only use technology, you won’t make it. That’s like buying a Ferrari and not having a driver’s license. It is particularly important to recruit suitable people and determine the right strategy. Technology is not the Holy Grail. It’s merely a tool that helps you to connect all systems and quickly generate a 360° view. Marketers can use it to achieve more goals.
7) Money and talent
Personalisation is extremely important. But lack of time, money and talent slows down integration. It is especially important to have the right business mentality and to understand the impact of the digital transformation. Everything evolves so fast. What used to be nice to have is now a must. Something that customers were satisfied with a few years ago is a standard today. Consumers are simply disappointed if they don’t get the same service or have no unique experience. It’s high time that managers became aware of this.
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