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).
Ecommerce is booming business. According to the latest figures from BeCommerce, people spent more than 534 billion euros online in Europe together in 2017. And the ceiling is far from having been reached. Figures are rising year after year. But what do ecommerce companies have to take into account if they want to become future-proof? Everything is about the right content, personalisation, relevant data, integrations and a user-friendly UX.
Despite strong sales figures, there is still a lot of work to be done on most web shops. We still see some stumbling blocks. Today’s customer has a lot of choice. If he doesn’t immediately find what he’s looking for, he simply leaves. In just one click. To tackle that, you need to pay extra attention to connectivity, the right channels and the customer experience. Each customer must have the feeling that they are getting a tailor-made offer. That personal experience is very important. Just like the context.
The trick is to offer your customer a relevant product with the right channel at the right time. Good integration between online and offline is therefore a real priority. Plus, everything has to stay recognisable. As a customer, you should not get the feeling that you are on completely different website when you click through from the site to the web shop. You also need to get the same feeling for each type of device. Many ecommerce companies still have a lot of work to do when it comes to that.
‘Content is king’. It may sound like a cliché. And it’s not about volume but about relevance. It’s all about content. From the introduction text on the website and the photos and product descriptions you use in the web shop to the message after your purchase and the personalised mailings. It is so important to keep your texts up to date and to be on the same page in all respects.
The same goes for design. Simple navigation in combination with enough white space takes your web shop to a higher level. There are still too many ecommerce companies that pay too little attention to the UX. They think as marketers and not as customers. Do you sometimes get frustrated when you buy something online? Then make sure that your customers don’t get the same frustrations in your web shop. A third quick win: don’t spam! Make sure your content is relevant. Don’t send out any e-mails to your customer base every now and then. That is counterproductive.
What is your customer looking for?
Turning a potential customer into a real customer is one thing. Binding the customer in the long term is a lot more difficult. Relevance is again the key word here. Big data makes things a little easier for you. Analyses and relationships allow you to show relevant offers and engage customers.
A competitive price and fast delivery are decisive for many online customers. But engagement is just as important. A study shows that involved customers are 23% more valuable. In order to turn a normal customer into an engaged customer, personal interaction and fast follow-up are essential.
The future? Full integrations
Online or offline? Some claim that they go hand in hand. Other swear on offline and are heavily committed to user experience. A good mix is of course the best. You could say that a butcher does not necessarily need a website. But we all use Google. Someone who does not exist online? We find that odd. On the other hand, there are a lot of companies that only exist online – from retailers to financial institutions – and are doing extremely well. In the future, it will only become more important to make the boundary between online and offline as thin as possible. That connection is the biggest challenge.
The future is fully integrated. With the big players, you already notice that there is a lot of attention for that. Yet, that connection costs a lot of time and money. You will have to be prepared to invest. Keep in mind that everything evolves very quickly. If you wait too long, the competition will already be ahead of you.
More attention for customer journeys
If there is one buzzword for marketers, you’ll soon hear the term ‘customer journeys’. In principle, it is nothing more than a visualisation of the purchase process of a customer. The way in which a customer comes into contact with you, navigates through your web shop, the way in which he pays, possibly leaves feedback afterwards and … returns.
The difficult part is that a customer journey is unique for each customer. If we want to buy a smartphone, the way to the effective purchase is undoubtedly different. One person may look up everything in advance via Google and read expert reviews while the other person surfs to his or her favourite online store, requests the top ten and puts a device in the shopping basket. The trick is to offer each customer the right product as quickly as possible. So personal experience pops up again here. Depending on the available data – explicit or implicit – a lot is possible. Which browser do you use? Which searches have you already performed? How do you behave on the site? Do you click straight on to a particular brand or don’t know yet what you are going to do? What did you buy it in the past? Which filters do you use?
If you compare those results with similar profiles in the back-end, you can quickly present the right devices. But beware, the customer journey does not stop after the purchase. After all, you want to offer the right accessories after purchasing a smartphone and make sure that that one customer returns. If you know that 100 customers who bought ‘smartphone x’ also purchased a power bank, it is relevant to send a mailing with offers of various power banks.
There is no doubt that data will only become more important in the future. It is important to collect the right data. Not only to distil relevant information, but also in terms of data privacy. Data that does not improve your customer journey is of no use to you. On the other hand, machine learning, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are also extremely important. For instance, it is very easy to order cinema tickets via Google Home or Amazon Alexa. You simply say which movie you want to watch. Not only do you get your digital tickets via your smartphone, your device also lets you know at what time you need to leave to be on time. It also takes into account the current travel times and, if necessary, the weather conditions. Chance of rain after the film? Then you get a message that you should not forget your umbrella. That’s how far it goes. And faster than everyone expects.
It’s just incredibly important that ecommerce companies fully integrate. Today, you receive notifications by segmentation, but in the future you will receive personal messages on an individual level. Online, but also offline. Going to a supermarket nearby? Based on your purchase history and needs, you will then be presented with personal promotions. As long as your customer feels that that information or promotion is relevant, he or she will also give permission to share data. In short, the customer needs a clear answer to the question “What’s in it for me?”. If you manage to formulate the right answer, you’ve won.
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