Technology and globalisation are forever changing the way we do business. The good news is that Australian business was ranked at the top of The Economist’s and eBay’s inaugural index that tracks G20 nations’ preparedness for the global online trading boom. While this is great, not all local retailers know how to go about boosting their online sales or identifying the right technology to achieve this. In fact, where to start is the biggest issue for many.
To get the most from the booming digital marketplace, you need to be willing to embrace an end-to-end approach to how you do business rather than compartmentalise the digital component. If you do, there is a big opportunity to drive higher sales and promote stronger customer loyalty. To take full advantage, here are five key areas you should focus on to really be successful:
Make Online a Priority
Compared to other markets, Aussie retailers still have more to do to integrate bricks and mortar stores with online channels. With digital technology for business growing more than 20% a year, the most reliable strategy for retailers is to embrace e-commerce while using stores as the hub of an omni-channel shopping experience. Competition is tougher than ever in the digital age, with customers able to ‘go shopping’ anywhere in the world (even while they’re in your store) just by picking up their phone or tablet – so thinking carefully about a consistent in-store and online experience is really important.
Be Personal -- Get to Know Your Customers
Keeping spreadsheets of customer details was once thought to be "customer relationship building 101." Today, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is the most effective way of managing your customer details. By segregating them by product, geography and even demographics, the more you can effectively target them with personalised marketing for products or services that are likely to be of interest.
Open the Conversation
It’s one thing to manage customer details, but far more important to interact with them in the ways they want to interact with your business - and usually at a time that suits them. In other words, for successful retailers, gone are the days when the ‘closed’ sign on the shop front door meant a missed sales opportunity. Email, social media and SMS – have replaced that sign, so that you can always be ‘open for business’. Using these tools enables you to build a digital relationship with your customers 24/7. However, it’s important to remember that just as more traditional means of communication carry legal requirements. So do SMS, email and other electronic messaging. As such, when you extend your communication with customers, don’t forget there are still some legal obligations.
The Socially Savvy SME
It’s relatively easy these days to make noise on social media platforms, but there’s a lot more to it if you want to establish an online presence where customers are connecting on a meaningful level with your brand. While Social Media is a simple and cheap way to build direct links with your customers and the wider local community, it also has the potential to extend your customer reach and brand visibility well beyond your immediate geographic location – and with people who are most likely to be interested in your products or services.
Social media needn’t be daunting. Fundamentally, it’s about having genuine conversations with your customers, just as you would in-store or at their premises. Think of it as word of mouth for the 21st Century. Consider the conversations you’d have in person and encourage those conversations in social media: put effort into providing the best possible answers to customers’ questions and keep people up-to-date with what’s happening in your business.
The key is to choose the best platform for your business that connects with your audience –most commonly, LinkedIn for professional services, Instagram for visual merchandise, Twitter for creative industries or Facebook for socially-connected consumers.
Customer Oriented Online Presence
The best way to make yourself known to customers is via your website and social media page(s). As a rule of thumb, always make sure your online presence is designed with your audience in mind. Clearly explain your products and services and include easily updatable content so that you can remain fresh and reflect your latest offerings and specials. Customers are often looking for simple details –Where are you? When are you open? What do you have in stock? What’s on special? Where and how fast do you ship? Can they complete an order online? How can they pay? What have other customers said about you?
Of course online in today’s world mostly means smartphones and tablets. A huge number of customers are now using these devices to look for products and services – and often do comparisons while they are in your shop! With this in mind, it has never been more important to have a website that is optimised for mobile and tablet devices and to have a ‘click to call’ link.
These digital strategies and tools are the keys to help you boost online retail sales by reaching customers and suppliers around the world, and keeping pace with the ever-evolving world of digital marketing. The most successful businesses are already taking advantage of the great opportunities available online, and this will fuel their success into the future.