Transitioning from selling business-to-business (B2B) to direct-to-consumer (DTC) isn’t an easy decision for manufacturers. But as experts predict record numbers of brick-and-mortar stores will continue to close, the time has never been better to make the leap to selling online.
The Move to Direct-to-Consumer Commerce
With the rise of digital commerce, it’s easier than ever for consumers to go straight to a brand’s website when they want to buy a product.
Many consumers are already visiting brand websites and want to make a purchase. For instance, BrandShop’s 2018 Consumer Preferences Survey found that if given the option, 87% of consumers would buy products directly from a brand online.
No doubt the pandemic has accelerated the move to online shopping for many consumers. In fact, an August 2020 study, “DTC And The New Brand Loyalty Opportunity,” revealed that in the past year, nearly 55% of consumers have used DTC channels to purchase consumer packaged goods (CPG) or nonperishable items they use on a regular basis.
Driving this trend is millennial shoppers — 67% report using brand-run websites and stores to purchase CPG products. And interestingly, many shoppers (70%) plan to continue these new habits even once the pandemic ends.
While CPG businesses have led the way launching DTC ecommerce websites, manufacturers are still hesitant to make the investment. In fact, as of 2018, only 54% of manufacturers stated they want to sell online directly to consumers.
Advantages of Investing in DTC Ecommerce for Manufacturers
Selling DTC offers several advantages for manufacturers — beyond simply creating an additional revenue stream.
1. Make your products easier to find and purchase.
With a DTC website, you have the opportunity to reach even more potential customers that are ready to buy your products. A Retail TouchPoints survey found that 33% of shoppers consider a brand manufacturer’s website as the most influential resource when researching a potential purchase.
Instead of potentially losing the sale because the customer can’t buy from you online, with a DTC ecommerce store, you can allow the customer to buy right away.
2. Gain control over the customer experience.
Selling DTC gives you control over the entire customer journey, from the moment someone lands on your website until the product is delivered — and beyond.
You can create customer-centric experiences on your website, such as recommending products based on recently viewed items. You can also send emails to gather feedback on how they like the product or send tips for how to use the items they purchased.
3. Capture first-party customer data.
The majority of data manufacturers receive is filtered through retailers and is mostly related to transactions. However, when you sell directly to consumers, you can collect a wide range of first-party data on their behaviors.
Combined with the transactional data from retailers, as well as your own website, you’ll now have a better understanding of your customers. Leveraging this data, you can make strategic business decisions on everything from product development to packaging and pricing.
How to Plan and Execute a DTC Ecommerce Strategy
If you do decide to take the plunge and launch a DTC ecommerce site, the good news is that you don’t have to start planning from scratch. We’ve put together a handy checklist of things to do that will help you solve the most common challenges you’ll face.
Learn More About How to Sell DTC
Selling directly to consumers doesn’t have to be an impossible task for manufacturers. With a clear strategy for working with your retailers, flexible technology for ecommerce operations and a plan for back-office logistics, you can successfully launch your DTC website.
For more expert DTC tips and tactics, download our complete guide: How to Take Your B2B Brand Direct-to-Consumer.
In 2020, everything was a piece of cake.
Crocs. Toilet paper. Plants. Pizza. They’re all literally cake!
The viral meme showing seemingly everyday objects sliced down the middle, revealing them to be hyper-realistic cakes lit up the internet.
This brief moment of comedic relief was a welcome distraction in a year of ceaseless doom scrolling, but it also served as an important reminder: you can’t trust everything you see online.
While a misleading Buzzfeed video won’t bring any harm to your life, there are plenty of internet deceptions that can cause real damage. Phishing emails, social media scams and fraudulent online stores steal personal and financial data from hundreds of thousands each year, resulting in identity theft and billions of dollars in losses. In 2019 alone, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 467,361 fraud reports totaling $3.5 billion in losses.
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, cyber crime evolved further. In a March 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned of impending virus-related fraud schemes such as phishing emails from the CDC claiming to have information on the virus, and from other government institutions claiming to need personal information for stimulus checks. They also warned of online scams selling counterfeit personal protective equipment like N95 masks and gloves.
By May, the IC3 had already received around 320,000 fraud reports, close to 70% of the previous year’s total.
Because of all the risks that come with sharing personal information online, many people are careful about who they do business with. In particular, consumers are wary of purchasing from unfamiliar websites.
In one survey, 92% of U.S. consumers said they have concerns about sharing personal information when shopping on ecommerce websites they haven’t heard of before.
This presents a problem for ecommerce retailers, particularly for those who are just starting out and haven’t built brand recognition yet. If a visitor comes to your site for the first time and deems it too risky, they won’t become a customer. And after all the marketing effort that went into getting visitors on your site in the first place, that’s the last thing you want.
Assuming your goal is to convert as many visitors to your site as possible, it’s key that you develop customer trust.
Why is Customer Trust Important in Ecommerce?
When you walk into a brick-and-mortar store for the first time, you can identify definitive reasons to trust the business and feel comfortable shopping there right off the bat. You might see an employee at the register or stocking shelves, letting you know that there’s a person to talk to if you need help. You can physically touch the items for sale and inspect the quality before you decide to purchase. You might also see other customers shopping and making purchases, indicating that other people trust the business, too.
But the online shopping experience is different. You can’t see the people running the site, you can’t see if other people are shopping there, and your interaction with the products for sale is limited to photos, videos and written descriptions.
The lack of trust signals you’d see in person means there’s much more uncertainty when it comes to shopping online — and much more at stake. Will I receive my order as promised? Will they take my money and run? Will the quality of my purchase meet my expectations? Will my credit card be safe? Will my email be spammed? These are just a few of the many questions that may run through customers’ minds if they don’t fully trust an ecommerce website.
The Effects of Customer Distrust
With so many options easily accessible to them, online customers can simply abandon a questionable site in favor of one they trust more. And they do – nearly 70% of carts are abandoned on average.
The most common trust issue causing cart abandonment is the concern about business legitimacy, concerns about the security of credit card information and order fulfillment also top the list.
Abandoned carts unfortunately mean lower conversion rates, as well as wasted ad budget and marketing effort that was used to bring in visitors.
Beyond conversion issues, customer distrust can lead to negative reviews and word of mouth, both online and offline, which can be even more difficult to repair in the long run. With so many channels available for customers to report a poor experience, from social media to online reviews sites, negative perception of your brand can spread faster and reach more people than ever before.
Building Ecommerce Trust With Trust Signals
The in-person shopping experience has many more barriers to entry than the online shopping experience. You have to get in your car (hopefully your gas tank is full!), drive to a store (hopefully there’s no traffic!), and, if there’s a global pandemic going on, put your mask on before entering (hopefully you remembered to bring it!). After walking around the store, if you don’t like what you see, you now have to go somewhere else, and you’ve wasted time and effort.
The beauty of online shopping is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. You can hop around from site to site quickly and with nothing to lose. If you don’t like what you see, you can simply close the tab and move on.
Shoppers are now being even more selective than ever with their purchases. Since the pandemic, 41% of US consumers have become more mindful of where they spend their money to make sure that limited budgets are well spent. So if your site doesn’t make a good impression immediately, you’re at risk of losing out to another that does.
The good news is that trust signals can help you make that positive first impression. Trust signals are elements of a site that make customers feel reassured about their shopping experience. They indicate to the customer that the site is a legitimate business and reduce perceived risk of making a purchase. With trust signals, you can make up for the benefits of shopping in-store that would otherwise be missing from the online experience.
10 Trust Signals to Use on Your Online Store
When you sell things online, you’re expecting customers to trust that what they see is what they’ll get. Instead of asking them to do this blindly, you can include trust signals on your site to prove that your business is legitimate and secure. Here are 10 ways to incorporate trust signals in your online store to create confident and loyal customers.
1. Include customer reviews across your website.
Customer reviews can be effective trust signals for ecommerce.
No matter how great your product photos and descriptions might be, a first-time customer knows you have an incentive to sell and may suspect bias. Displaying customer reviews is a great way to say, “Don’t take our word for it; see for yourself what our customers think.”
This allows new buyers to verify your claims themselves — and often learn even more details along the way, like whether the color is the same in real life as it appears in the photo, if the product is made to last, or whether an item fits comfortably.
Ecommerce stores commonly include customer reviews on:
- Product pages
- Product category pages
- Reviews pages
Product pages are one of the most effective places to include customer reviews, because that’s where customers are looking to find details about individual products. A standard way to display them is to include the star rating near the top of the page and linking that to the full reviews section in a lower area, like Skullcandy does on their online store.
Including star ratings accumulated from customer reviews on product category pages can be helpful to customers because it gives them a quick side-by-side view of the most highly rated products.
Customer reviews and testimonials can also be displayed on homepages to help show first-time visitors that the site has a good reputation.
Standalone reviews pages are useful for ecommerce sites that have a limited product line, like LARQ water bottles. They have a reviews page linked in their site’s main menu, allowing customers to see the most recent reviews from verified buyers.
2. Make your return and exchange policy easy to find.
Because they can’t physically inspect products in person, one of shoppers’ big fears is that their online purchase won’t meet their expectations. A fair return policy can help eliminate some of the customer’s perceived risk of buying a product they haven’t seen before.
But you can’t alleviate that fear if customers don’t know about your return policy. If you only include the terms of returns on your FAQs or shipping policy page, you’re creating extra work for customers to find it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t include the information there, but you need to ensure that customers have easy access to it when they are in the heat of the decision-making process.
Give customers a push to click the add to cart button by including a snippet about your return and exchange policy on product pages, like Solo Stove does.
Tips for effective return and exchange policy placement
No need to go into detail when mentioning your return policy on product pages. You likely have product description copy taking up important real estate. Instead, use a short statement like “Free Shipping & Returns” (if returns aren’t free, include an asterisk). Make the statement clickable to open a module or page with the full details of the policy. Additionally, display the text in a color that stands out from the rest of the text on the page.
3. Display contact information.
How many times have you found yourself frustrated while shopping in a store because you couldn’t find a staff member to speak with when you have a question? Missing contact information on a website can make the online shopping experience just as frustrating, and some consumers even perceive that as a potential sign of fraud.
Making your site’s contact information readily available solves this problem by showing that there are real people behind the scenes who are easy to get in touch with.
At a minimum, ensure that your site’s header includes at least one contact method so that shoppers can easily find it no matter what page they’re on. Many sites include a link to a contact page, but displaying a phone number or email address can be a more direct way to build trust.
Red Stag Supplies displays their physical address in their site header, along with a contact email address, business hours, and a phone number that can be clicked to start a call.
Tips for displaying contact information
When choosing a place to display contact information, don’t forget to consider how shoppers on mobile devices will find it. If you don’t have room for additional text in your mobile site header, include contact information in the menu.
Additionally, including a live chat is another great way to help customers get in touch with you. Give the live chat experience a personal touch by including the name and photo of the operating agent.
4. Add trust badges.
In the same way that restaurant grade signs displayed in shop windows show customers that an establishment meets government required safety standards, trust badges, also known as trust seals or trustmarks, show online shoppers that a website has been verified or evaluated by a third party.
There are a number of different ecommerce trust badge providers offering a range of verification services proving that a website:
- Is a legitimate or accredited business
- Does not contain viruses or malware
- Collects and stores data securely with encryption
- Does not send spam
Depending on the provider, your site may have to pass certain requirements before it can display those trust badges. Though it may require more effort on your part, it’s always better to use badges that your site has to earn because it shows visitors that you didn’t just pay for the right to display them.
Tips for adding trust badges to your ecommerce site
Choose a trust badge provider that helps you address a range of customer concerns, and display them throughout the customer journey on your site. TrustedSite offers a suite of certifications and trustmarks that are designed to be placed in the stages of the ecommerce journey where customers commonly drop off, like the shopping cart and checkout.
The Shoe Mart conducted an A/B test and found that TrustedSite trustmarks generated a 14% conversion lift over a competing badge.
Be sure to use trust badges that are high resolution, easily recognizable to your visitors, and link back to the provider’s website to prove their authenticity.
5. Have an SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate is a global website security standard that enables encryption between a browser and server. It’s important to install an SSL certificate on your ecommerce site to ensure that when customers enter sensitive data, it’s transmitted securely, with less risk of being intercepted by a malicious attacker.
In 2018, Google Chrome began labeling any site not using an SSL certificate as “Not Secure.” When online shoppers see that red warning symbol in their browser, they lose trust in the website and are likely to abandon it. Ensure that customers see the secure lock symbol in their browser when shopping on your site by purchasing an SSL certificate.
Tips for getting an SSL certificate
SSL certificates can easily be purchased from a number of sources. You can even get one for free from Let’s Encrypt. Be sure to pay attention to the expiration date of your certificate. If it expires, your site will be marked as “Not Secure” until you renew or purchase a new certificate.
6. Design the site experience for the customer.
The user experience of your ecommerce website can make or break a customer’s decision to purchase. If they run into frustrating design roadblocks while perusing your site, customers will question the trustworthiness of your business. But if you design your site with the customer experience in mind, you can wow shoppers and keep them coming back for more.
Ensure your site doesn’t contain these design mistakes that can hinder the user experience and jeopardize conversion rates:
Slow-loading pages: Shoppers expect your site to load quickly. In fact, 53% of mobile visits are likely to be abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. Optimize the performance of your pages so that customers can easily access your site without giving it a second thought.
Poor responsiveness: If your site isn’t as easy to navigate on mobile as it is on desktop, a large portion of visitors will be frustrated and discouraged from making a purchase. A mobile-first design approach is worth consideration.
Low resolution images: If your site displays images that appear grainy or unclear, visitors may question how professional your business really is. Using crisp, high resolution images will give your site a more polished look.
Tips for designing a great customer experience
Always keep in mind your customers’ goals and the hurdles they go through to achieve them. Revelry knows that brides and bridesmaids have tons of wedding planning to do, so they aim to make the dress shopping experience as efficient as possible. They offer a home try on service so that bridesmaids can be sure they are happy with the style and fit of their dress without any risk. They also have a “See Colors IRL” page that displays a feed of dresses photographed in different settings so that shoppers see the true colors before buying.
7. Provide detailed information in the product descriptions.
Having excellent product photography is important, but photos can only communicate so much information. You can’t look at a photo of a couch and determine if it will fit in your space. You can’t look at a photo of a bluetooth speaker and know if it’s compatible with your smartphone. Products descriptions allow you to fill in those gaps with the nitty gritty details so that customers can decide if your products fit their needs.
Burrow knows that one of the top priorities of their customers is to find furniture pieces that will fit in their home, so the first section of their product descriptions is devoted to dimensions. Following that, they go into more details about the piece and its key features. By addressing many of the concerns that come up when purchasing a new couch, Burrow helps customers build trust and gain the confidence to buy.
Tips for detailed product descriptions
You may find that your product descriptions end up quite lengthy once you start adding more details. To make the information easier to navigate, divide the copy into sections and include shortcut links to each so that shoppers can easily jump to the section that most interests them.
8. Include social media links.
Including links to your social media profiles is another great way to increase your credibility. When visitors view your social accounts, they can see your follower count which implies that other people are also interested in your business. If you’re actively maintaining your social channels, they’ll also see how your audience is engaging with you and get a sense of the attitude towards your brand.
The best place to display your social media links is in your site footer. Design the icons to match your site’s theme, instead of using the standard colors of each individual logo. Bliss World uses a fun two-color gradient that fits their brand style.
Tips for displaying social media links
Make sure that the social media accounts you link to are active. If customers see your last post was from 2 years ago, they may wonder if your business is still in operation.
9. Write a clear About Us page.
An About Us page gives you the opportunity to tell your customers who you are and what you stand for, and can encourage them to stay on site longer rather than leaving to do research elsewhere.
Spend time crafting the messaging on your About Us page so your brand’s voice really shines through. Include information about your company’s history, values, and any work you do in the community. Adding a bit about your employees and their roles is also a nice way to make your company seem more human. Ensure that your About Us page is linked in your main site navigation and footer.
Di Bruno Bros use their About page to share the story of their beginnings as a modest Italian market and inspire fellow cheese lovers with their passion for their craft.
Tips for creating an about us page
Don’t forget to include photos! Photos from your company history and of your team will show visitors that you’re an authentic and transparent company worthy of their trust.
10. Keep your promises.
Offering a product guarantee or warranty can help customers feel more at ease purchasing from your site knowing that they can exchange or get a refund if they aren’t satisfied.
Camelbak offers a “Got Your Bak Lifetime Guarantee” covering all their products for defects. Hyphen Sleep offers a 100 night trial with a 20 year warranty.
Whatever promise you make on your site, the most important thing is to keep that promise. Customers will be quick to write a negative review if they feel like you didn’t do what you said you would, which can damage your reputation and discourage new customers from trusting you.
Tips for keeping your promises
Don’t hide the details of your guarantees and other promises. Create a dedicated section of your help center or FAQ page that includes the fine print, and link to it whenever you mention the promise on your site. This way, customers won’t be upset or surprised to find out their purchase didn’t qualify for the guarantee.
Tips for Using Trust Signals Effectively
Adding trust signals to your site requires careful planning and consideration for them to be effective. Keep these tips in mind when working to build trust with your customers.
1. Be transparent about customer reviews and feedback.
Even if you have an outstanding product and exemplary service, it’s inevitable that you’ll receive negative customer reviews on occasion. It’s impossible to please everybody.
Your instinct may be to remove the negative reviews or comments, but that’s an untrustworthy practice that can actually backfire. If your site only displays positive reviews, customers may question the authenticity of the reviews and the credibility of your business.
Instead of deleting bad reviews, take the opportunity to demonstrate proactive customer service. If you made a mistake, own up to it and ask the customer how you can make it up to them. If there was a miscommunication, offer an apology and do what you can to resolve the issue. If the customer was actually in the wrong, thank them for their feedback. It’s always better to take the high road when it comes to customer service, just be sure to consider how you can prevent the situation from happening again in the future.
2. Moderation is key.
There is such a thing as too many trust badges, so be careful not to go overboard with placements. Displaying too many in one area can look cluttered and may cause visitors to doubt your site’s security or legitimacy.
Limit trust badges in any one area to no more than three, and make sure each trust badge is sending just one discrete message. For example, in the checkout, you may want to have one badge that addresses payment security, one that addresses your returns and exchanges policy, and one that addresses concerns about identity theft. Whenever possible, conduct A/B tests to ensure you’ve optimized trust badge placements for increased conversions.
Building trust on your ecommerce site doesn’t happen overnight. That’s because there’s no single plug-and-play solution that will address each and every concern of online shoppers.
When working to increase trust, it’s best to take a holistic approach. Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and think about how they view your site at each stage of the customer journey. Use trust signals to address concerns as they arise and guide shoppers through each step.
With each trust signal they come across, customers will shop with confidence knowing that your site is legitimate, secure, and, if you play your cards right, not actually a cake.
Retailers get back what they put in when it comes to the holiday season. If you can keep up with the monumental demand and outshine your competitors, you’ earn enough sales for a sizable nest egg going into the new year. But what about after the holidays? Is your job done the moment the clock strikes midnight on New Years?
Even though you’re tired, the post-holiday season is still an important time for sales and customer appreciation. The trouble is that you’re not the only one who’s exhausted — your customers may want a break from shopping too. That’s why you have to alter your selling strategies in January and February to accommodate the needs of the post-holiday shopper.
5 Post-Holiday Ecommerce Strategies to Try
Below we list the 5 best strategies for increasing sales after the holidays. Start implementing them now so you don’t get caught by surprise with a “long winter.”
1. Follow-up emails.
First and foremost, you want to prioritize your email campaigns. You’ve likely acquired some new customers and subscribers during the holiday season; start contacting them immediately. Chances are they’ll still be excited about their recent purchase in January, so emailing them then will leverage that positive first impression into a more long-term relationship.
You don’t have to send them anything extravagant. A simple “Thank You” email will suffice: it shows you care, even after accepting their money. It also reminds them of the shopping experience you provided; holiday shoppers often bounce around from store to store, so your shop may have been buried in their memories, especially if it was their first time.
But what about all those visitors who never completed a purchase (likely a majority of your traffic)? For them, abandoned cart emails work well if they have any uncompleted orders. Abandoned cart emails have excellent conversion rates — according to data from Barilliance, they have a 10.7% conversion rate.
Especially for the holiday season, shoppers tend to abandon purchases if they can’t afford it, find a better deal elsewhere or just simply get distracted by everything going on during those weeks. Abandoned cart emails are a gentle way to remind them, and since a lot of shoppers receive cash over the holidays, some will be able to pay for orders they couldn’t have before.
Source: Really Good Emails
2. New sales and promotions.
Our next suggestion is similar to the strategies implemented during and before the holidays: offer timely sales and promotions on the most in-demand products.
Of course, which products you discount and by how much are subject to change. A customer’s mindset can change after the holidays, so your sales and promotions should reflect that change.
For one thing, you’ll want to clear out any unused inventory. It’s always hard to predict what your best-sellers will be before the holiday season, and it’s better to err on the side of too much than too little. Even the most seasoned retailers can overestimate their needs, and you don’t want hard-to-sell inventory clogging up your warehouses and adding to your overhead costs.
Your first promotion should be aimed at getting rid of your unsold holiday stock. This is a pretty standard practice in retail, and customers have come to expect it — a lot of shoppers even hold out on buying gifts for themselves until after the holiday rush, waiting for sales just like we describe here.
For this reason, you’ll also want to focus less on gift products and more on individual products. Keep in mind that after the holiday season, many people concentrate on their New Year’s resolutions, as such products for self-improvement like exercise equipment or how-to books might be great to sell.
But in any season, holidays or not, it’s good to have contests and promotions that your shoppers can participate in directly. For example, Solo Stove — who sell fire pits, grills and other such outdoor equipment — have an ongoing contest for customer stories and photos of their outdoor adventures. This isn’t about generating more sales per se, but it does wonders for building a community and strengthening their brand image as an authority on outdoor gatherings.
3. Analyze sales data.
Not all of your post-holiday sales strategies are new techniques and proactive campaigns. One of the smartest things you can do after the holiday seasons is reflect on the year and reevaluate your operations. And the answers you’re looking for are almost always hidden in your sales data.
The holiday season doesn’t just bring in a bunch of new shoppers and sales, it also generates a lot of sales data. You can see, in no uncertain terms, which products were the most desired, which marketing campaigns produced the most leads and which promotions got the most attention. You can use these statistics to make better, more informed business decisions going forward.
You improve the performance of specific products. Say you’re getting a lot of traffic on one particular individual product page, but not a lot of sales. This can mean that there’s adequate demand for the product, but something else is getting in the way — maybe the sales price is too high, or the shipping price, or you don’t offer the right color choice.
Just be careful about which analytics you listen to. For example, one common mistake when evaluating your marketing campaigns is to focus solely on traffic when a more telling statistic is conversions.
Think about it: if you get 1,000 visitors from your Facebook ad, but only 5 of them actually complete a purchase, that’s not good. However, if your Twitter ad only brought in 100 visitors, but 20 of them purchased, that’s an excellent conversion rate. It seems your Twitter ad landed in your target audience, whereas your Facebook ad wasted views on shoppers who just weren’t a match.
4. Segment customers.
The other use of analytics is in customer data. Although not as easy to cultivate as sales data, customer data can help you understand which demographics enjoy your products the most, as well as section-off some particularly problematic customers.
The practice of grouping your customers based on commonalities is called “segmentation.” Based on the abundant customer data you’ve collected over the busy holiday shopping season, you can more accurately sort customers in a way that lets you improve communication with them.
For example, if you have a group of customers who always buy electronics, you can segment them and send them a special email with only electronics products. If you have a group of customers who are teenagers, you can send them messages with more casual language and youth-oriented products.
Segmenting customers can work both ways, as well. There are certain customers who tend to return products over and over again, no matter what. If you can isolate these customers from the data, you can essentially “cut them off” from news about sales and promotions, or ban them from your store altogether. You’ll never know until you check the numbers.
5. Encourage exchanges over returns.
Last, don’t forget about the biggest problem with the post-holiday season: returns. Nothing kills your holiday cheer faster than the wave of returns following the season, and you can never quite trust your early sales data until all the returns are processed.
There are some expert strategies on preventing returns, but most of them require preparations before the holiday season even started. If you’re reading this after the start of the holiday season, it may be too late to change your returns policy or update your reverse shipping logistics. But you’re not completely helpless.
Your best bet is to have your customer service team encourage exchanges over returns. For starters, you’ll need actual staff to process returns, rather than an automated or third-party service.
Once you have your team ready, train them in the top techniques to win over even the most irate customer. The best customer service techniques have been discussed before, so review them again if you’re unfamiliar. As soon as your staff can speak to customers on their level, the customers may be more open to suggestions, possibly changing their return to an exchange, a win-win compromise that benefits both parties.
This works even better when you give in a little; look at how Burrow offers the first exchange for free, framing it as a concession so that the customers feel they’ve gotten the better deal.
True, the holiday sales spike only happens once a year, but with the right planning and preparations, you can at least make the party last longer. The post-holiday season isn’t the shopping apocalypse it may seem — a lot of people just received cash gifts and want to spend them as soon as possible. Tap into this often-ignored sales period to squeeze every last drop out of retailers’ “most wonderful time of the year.”
2020 was a challenging year for, well, everyone — but retailers suffered the particular challenges of shutting down or restricting in-store shopping. That left some stores without ecommerce capabilities without a revenue stream.
While vaccinations are slowly becoming available, many consumers will likely remain unable or hesitant to shop in-person through much of 2021.
A New York Times article reported that experts suggest thinking about day-to-day life in terms of an individual “risk budget” and to continue wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings when possible even after receiving the vaccine.
“Scientists said they were waiting to learn many things before they would feel comfortable doing more high-risk activities, like how many people wind up being vaccinated, how long immunity lasts (after vaccination and after infection) and whether the virus evolves,” the article said.
You need to prepare your business for an increasingly digital world — and that world doesn’t have clear boundaries between it and the “real” world. The two will continue to meld and augment each other. It’s vital to develop an omnichannel marketing strategy to ensure your customers can reach you on their terms.
What is Omnichannel Marketing?
Traditional retail relies on in-person sales. Ecommerce relies on selling online. Omnichannel selling takes both of these approaches and more to ensure a seamless shopping experience across all sales and marketing channels.
An omnichannel approach can include all or some of the following:
- Brick-and-mortar stores
- Ecommerce websites
- Social media accounts
- Email marketing
- In-app purchases
The Importance of Omnichannel
McKinsey reports that three out of four American consumers have tried a new shopping behavior during the Coronavirus pandemic. More importantly, most of these people plan to continue these behaviors, even after the pandemic ends.
Failing to engage customers across channels and devices can weaken your position and cost you sales. Taking an omnichannel approach ensures this doesn’t happen.
Five Ways to Master Omnichannel Marketing in 2021
Retail marketing strategies must be tailored to suit your particular audience. However, there are some general omnichannel marketing methods that nearly all retail businesses should implement.
1. Get to know your buyers.
No marketing strategy is effective without understanding the target buyer. You need to identify who this buyer is to know what messaging most suits their needs.
Start by researching your target buyer personas. These hypothetical shoppers are your ideal customers, and they will be the most responsive to your marketing.
Follow these steps to find your personas:
- Review your customer database to identify similarities in geography, age, shopping habits and more.
- Collect detailed information from your customers to see what brought them to the store and which channel they use the most.
- Look over your products’ cost, quality and purpose to see which segments of society would benefit from them the most.
After you establish your target audience, you need to connect with them where they spend most of their time.
Social networks continue to be handy tools for this. Each social network serves a different purpose, so think carefully about where you will invest your time and energy. For example, if you want to reach a young audience with an interest in fashion, Instagram is much more effective than LinkedIn.
2. Optimize your digital presence for mobile.
Data from November 2020 shows that 53% of all web traffic came from mobile devices. With so many mobile apps built to connect us with one another, this should not be a surprise. However, too many businesses fail to consider how many people use their phones for online shopping.
If your website is not mobile-friendly and offers a poor user experience, you will come across as unprofessional and outdated. Worst of all, you will lose sales.
On top of refining your website, you need to optimize all digital marketing materials for mobile devices as well. For example, many businesses send out long emails full of large images and graphics. Not only are these messages slow to load, but they’re hard to read thanks to poor formatting.
Instead, emails need to be easy to digest with small images and short text. Mobile users should be able to quickly scan the message and then click a link to your site.
All social media posts should be scroll-stoppers. This starts with high quality, captivating images. Instead of posting a photo of your product in a lightbox, try featuring an image of it in use, or positioned in an exciting environment. For example, if you sell outdoor gear, post an image of someone atop a mountain with your product.
Next, make sure your copy is attention-getting and readable. Emojis are perfect for catching someone’s eye, especially if they venture out from your everyday smiley face. Pair these with short sentences and plenty of line breaks, and your content will be mobile-ready.
3. Integrate all your shopping and marketing channels.
Everything is connected these days, so why use dozens of tools to run your business? With the right omnichannel marketing toolkit, you can manage your physical and digital presence in a single place.
Sales and Inventory Management
If you run a brick-and-mortar store and an online shop, your point-of-sale is the perfect place to run your business. For example, the Epos Now retail POS can track and process all in-person sales and sync with your BigCommerce account. Whether an item sells online or in your store, your inventory will automatically update on both systems.
Digital Marketing Presence
With the BigCommerce multi-channel solution, you can also manage your entire digital presence from one place. When it comes to selling, you can link your website with social media and leading ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon. As for reports, you can track all data from one location to simplify accounting and other key functions.
No social media marketing campaign is complete without the Facebook pixel. This helpful advertising tool tracks who visits your store, then serves ads to them on Facebook. Remarketing like this is perfect for encouraging someone to buy from you, and it helps you build a lookalike audience who may have similar interests.
Lastly, link your store with an email marketing platform to stay in touch with shoppers. With the MailChimp integration, you can follow up on abandoned carts, recommend products for existing shoppers and send out special offers.
4. Make every touchpoint count.
Never pass on an opportunity to sell a product or promote an aspect of your business. All marketing messages should end with a call to action.
Not every social media post should be an ad, but make sure to include easy buying options when you do feature a product. BigCommerce integrates with several apps that make this easy — with ContentPlum, for example, you can make shoppable Instagram posts to drive customers directly to your store.
Never send an email that doesn’t promote something or encourage the next stage in the customer journey. Something as small as a confirmation email can prompt the recipient to sign up for your newsletter or loyalty program.
Even negative interactions can be a marketing opportunity. If a customer has a complaint or wants to return a product, give them a discount or other incentive. A coupon or free item will prompt them to return to your store and buy more.
5. Use social media for more than sales.
Social media users are inundated with ads and sponsored content. Stand out from the crowd by making your brand accessible and relatable. Valuable content and communications will support your omnichannel marketing strategy.
Change up your feed by featuring user submissions or influencers with your items. Users will enjoy the authenticity of the content and will see it as more organic than generic product images.
Next, offer prompt support. Even if you redirect support cases to another platform, you are helping the customer resolve their case and providing real value. Moreover, fast response helps you avoid negative reviews.
If you do get bad reviews, however, make sure to respond respectfully and offer a resolution. Try to understand the customer’s concern and provide them with a replacement or a discount. You may lose the customer, but the quality of your response will show potential shoppers that you are responsive and dedicated to customer service.
In June 2020, an eMarketer article headline asked, “Is Omnichannel Retail Brick-and-Mortar’s Saving Grace?” As the pandemic kept brick-and-mortar businesses closed or operating at reduced capacity for much of the year, it certainly became clear that in-store-only businesses were at risk of catastrophic loss.
We don’t believe that fact heralds the end of brick-and-mortar, or that online storefronts are the only answer. We do, however, propose the importance of a holistic omnichannel strategy as both shoppers and retailers grapple with moving forward in “the new normal.”
To pursue the most powerful omnichannel strategy, you need to:
- Use customer research and social listening to get to know your buyers.
- Optimize your digital presence, whether it’s your website, your social media channels or your email marketing.
- Integrate all your shopping and marketing channels so you have a 360-degree view of your sales and inventory as well as your marketing across channels and devices.
- Make every touchpoint count, from social media to email marketing to customer support.
- Use social media for more than just sales — take advantage of user-generated content and leverage social for customer support as well.