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In today’s state of ecommerce, marketplaces are becoming the norm for up-and-coming online sellers, and brand awareness rests almost wholly with legacy brands.
There is nothing wrong on the surface with marketplace success. In fact, the benefits are numerous for smaller shops: you get to cast a wider net to an audience already in shopping mode and increase your chances of attracting the 45% of shoppers who start their product search on Amazon, not Google.
For more established brands, however, a consumer’s marketplace preference isn’t necessarily a positive attribute. Marketplace sales are often singular purchases, reducing overall brand AOV, and they rarely offer much of a brand experience other than their own. After all, if you purchase something on Amazon from, say, J.Crew, it’s likely you’ll remember the Amazon experience — not the J.Crew one.
That’s a huge miss for brand marketing, and for brand analytics. Amazon and other marketplaces keep customer data to themselves, making it more difficult for individual brands to form one-to-one relationships with customers based on their browsing and purchasing habits. In that way, brands lose out on customer loyalty and lifetime value.
The question for savvy, scaling brands is this: how do you successfully become omnichannel –– and marketplaces are big part of that –– while still increasing customer loyalty, AOV and brand awareness?
It’s a tricky task — and Kevin McKeand, director of strategic business development at Bigcommerce, will be explaining the following six tactics in more detail at this week’s ThinkGlobal Retail conference.
In all, it comes down to one thing: making your on-site customer experience as convenient and cost-effective as possible via scalable sourcing, trusted payment gateways, reliable shipping and optimized multichannel selling.
Cost-effective, Scalable Sourcing
Online B2B revenue is expected to reach $1 trillion this year, and then $6.7 trillion in the next five years. What’s fueling this? International ecommerce, which is opening up the doors for B2C merchants to source quality products with higher margins, allowing them to successfully scale their catalogs and increase their customer base. With more product availability, your business can utilize marketplaces as A/B testing grounds for market demand, ultimately helping you to build a high-quality, high-selling catalog on your own site.
One company playing a major role in this is Alibaba — a B2B directory, of sorts, that removes the middleman between the merchandiser and the factory. Now, all online businesses can compete in the same way the big box retailers do — by having successful and compatible working relationships with their sourcing agencies. This allows for increased margins along with quality control.
International Selling and Trusted Payment Gateways
You can’t control the checkout experience on a marketplace, but you can control it on your own site. And, if you’re currently losing sales at checkout, think about this: four of the top eight reasons why customers abandon cart deal directly with the payment solution provider SMBs choose.
This is a huge issue, especially as brands look to open their businesses up for international commerce. Customers must trust the payment provider your business offers, and that payment provider needs to be able to update their software in accordance with rapidly changing consumer checkout preferences (i.e. mobile optimization, accepting varying currencies, etc.). Partnering with a payments processor that is trusted and innovative will help you to close sales on your own site more efficiently, making marketplace usage an additional revenue outlet, rather than your customer’s most convenient shopping touchpoint.
Once such accountable payment processor is Paypal powered by Braintree. If you are unfamiliar with Braintree but have used Uber, you paid for your services through the Braintree API. This means that Paypal powered by Braintree is mobile-ready, and can dependably process hundreds of thousands of payments simultaneously in a way that is convenient for both the business and the customer.
In addition, more than 30 million people worldwide trust Paypal for their payment processing — making it the most trusted payment processor in the world. Not a bad partner to have as you scale your audience size to include the international customer base.
Reliable, Transparent Shipping
First things first, shipping isn’t just about offering free shipping. Retailers also need to make sure their goods get to their customers on time and in a brand positive way.
What do we mean by brand positive? Well, the delivery method of packages is now part of the brand experience. Subscription service BirchBox actually used videos of their customers opening up packages to grow their YouTube base and ultimately reach scale — moving out of the startup space and into the established business realm. Warby Parker did something similar with their “try five, one buy” service which allows customers to pick out five pairs of glasses that the company will then mail to you. Their box clearly describes the return process and even encourages customers to share pictures of them trying on their glasses with a specific hashtag. Warby Parker customer representatives will then help them make a decision.
In all, packaging is crucial — but so is the amount of time that it takes your package to get where it is going. For most retailers, delivery is a service they outsource to the likes of USPS, UPS and Fedex. Online retailers often have entire teams dedicated to making sure the shipping label is correct, the boxes are packed properly and that they get to a pickup area as soon as possible so that the items arrive in the expected amount of time. Indeed, there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to shipping that online customers do not fully see.
Because of this lack of insight, when a package shows up a day late, the customer sees it as the brand’s fault. Worse, no amount of beautiful packaging will change the way someone feels about not getting an item when they were told they would get it. This hurts your customer lifetime value and is why it is crucial to team up with shipping experts like Endicia and ShipperHQ.
Endicia easily integrates with your online store backend and USPS. It allows you to purchase postage and print shipping labels right from your control panel, and provides real-time shipping quotes to shoppers on your storefront. This is a big win for the 56% of shoppers who abandon carts because of surprise shipping costs. With Endicia, that is simply not an issue.
For those looking to sell internationally, or those who are based internationally, both those businesses and those customers have very different shipping issues. For instance, in Australia, the wide swath of land between cities like Sydney and Perth (a 41 hour drive if you were wondering) causes massive shipping disruption. Not because of the distance though. After all, driving from New York City to L.A., in comparison, takes an average of 42 hours.
The difference in Australia is that the geography between Sydney and Perth is, for the most part, uninhabitable, which means there are no warehouses closer to varying locations and shipping rates are often exponentially greater for those making cross-country purchases. Plus, when it comes to international commerce, you need more than USPS to help you get packages to the right location. Think Australia Post, Canada Post and the like.
Third-party shipping vendors like ShipperHQ work with USPS, UPS, FedEx, Australia Post and any other international delivery service. Plus, the service gives you a fully customizable rate calculator that adjusts based on a customer’s delivery location. In other words, you can customize shipping rates with advanced surcharges, discounts and rate structures at a country, state or postcode level.
Shipping might not seem like a cornerstone of a successful omnichannel experience, but when you are selling through marketplaces and the only experience the customer has with your brand is in how their product arrives — you must optimize for that touchpoint.
Did you know that 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing?
Digitally savvy consumers on the web are simply tired of being sold to. They are sold to in their Facebook feeds, on their way to work via billboards and NPR ads, at work with various partner merchandise, at home via Netflix ad promotions or merchandise placements within their favorite TV shows, as John Stewart and Stephen Colbert so often mocked.
Seriously, we live in an ad-consumed environment, and with the advent of the Internet of Things, this is likely to only get worse. So, how do you pull in new customers without annoying or bombarding them? The answer is inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is the process of utilizing SEO, blog posts and your social media accounts in order to pull in customers who have a similar world view as you. Instead of pushing them down a funnel, you pull them through with relevant content that serves their self-described needs — rather than forcing a product on them that is ultimately useless to their overall wants or desires. Inbound marketing is the practice of cultivating a loyal customer fan base — and this increases your customer lifetime value, meaning that every customer you win has a higher AOV and repeat purchase lifetime.
All of this together means that yes, inbound marketing is absolutely worth it. What do you need to get started? Well, you need a website and a blog, social media channels and someone to manage it all. But, if you’re saving upward of $80,000 by switching from on-premise to SaaS ecommerce technology, then you have the money to spend. Better yet, inbound marketing platforms like Hubspot are inexpensive to begin with, and serve scaling online businesses best.
How is this an omni-channel strategy, you ask? Simple: once you get a customer, inbound marketing ensures they remain a customer. By increasing the lifetime value of those who checkout on your own site, you can focus on tactics to pull in additional customers through your marketplaces.
Optimized Social Advertising
No question social commerce is primed to take off and brands will have to adapt. Getting strategic about which products you sell on social versus which you sell on store is key to brand recognition growth, the ability to harness loyal customers and build your customer lifetime value.
What is likely to be the best scaling strategy for brands utilizing social commerce, and all of them should be, is to both sell specific products online while also utilizing social network advertising to push customers back to your site to purchase there. For instance, if a customer buys a pair of shoes from your brand on Facebook, you’d want to retarget that customer with ads featuring either similar items or complete-the-look items — and require them to come to your actual site in order to purchase.
Yes, your brand will need a combination of both tactics here in order to be truly successful in the omnichannel environment. Product ads, however, can help to take the A/B testing out of social advertising, optimizing your ads for the highest possible ROI return. And, if you’ve already ensured a high customer lifetime value via the previously mentioned strategies, your brand will be sitting pretty.
Automated Multi-channel Operations
Finally, how do you make all of this work in an omni-channel environment? Well, you need inventory syncing, for one. After all, if you’re making sales across the web at various touchpoints, you need to make sure that you actually have what you are selling in stock, and that another platform purchase hasn’t put you between a rock and a hard place when it comes to order fulfillment.
The best way to scale this process for a growing business is to automate it — and third-party provider Channel Advisor does just that. Channel Advisor essentially syncs your data across all of your channels in order to ensure that you have the item in stock and are ready to ship out to that customer — no matter where they purchased.
This type of multichannel management is what will set you apart from the up-and-comers in the industry, and prove that your business is truly a lean, mid-market operation.
We’ve covered a lot of strategies here, many of which most SMBs don’t automatically associate with omni-channel success. However, in order to earn the highest possible customer satisfaction and brand recognition, every single possible touch point you have with a customer needs to be seamless, intuitive and interesting. By ensuring that these six tactics are optimized, it won’t matter where a customer purchases your product. You’ll ultimately be bringing them back to your website via innovative marketing strategies and intelligent advertising that keeps your brand top of mind for the customer and ever-growing in the mid-market sector.
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