Seven details that deliver a great online shopper experience

As online growth slows, attention to detail and online shopper experience matters.

I’ve been working in-depth with a pure-play online retailer for the past two years. It’s a truly amazing private business built on passion for the product, best in class technology and data analysis, and led by a passionate curator with a passion for data. Our focus has been on linking best-in-class online technology with best-in-class physical retailing to create the best online shopping experience possible.

We shop websites and look at physical stores around the world and apply those observations diligently to the online offering every month.

Her business continues to grow, now in its sixth year of uninterrupted and profitable growth. But “the rising tide that lifts all ships” is slowing. Online sales growth, while still significantly higher than anaemic or weakening bricks-and-mortar sales, is starting to plateau worldwide.

A report published last year by IT research giant Forrester, entitled U.S. Cross-Channel Retail Forecast, 2015 To 2020, predicted worldwide online sales would grow by an average annual rate of 9.32% over the next five years, with Asia trending even higher. Well it’s slowing.

In Australia, while our year-on-year sales growth is good at 11.8%, the latest ABS stats for July month-on-month show it has just stalled.

The NAB Online Retail Sales Index declined by 0.36% in July, according to the latest seasonally adjusted month-on-month data. The revised trend estimate for online retail sales remains slow, currently sitting at below 1%.

We know that Australian shoppers have spent around $20.4 billion online over the last 12 months, which is about 6.8% of total spending at traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers. But will $20 billion a year will be the new normal?

So what are the seven key things an online retailer needs to stay on top of to create a great shopper experience and maintain sales and profit growth? Well, think like a bricks-and-mortar retailer who can see inside the minds of their shoppers while they are in the store and at the checkout.

Curation, presentation and entertainment matters just as much to an online shopper as it does in a store.

  1.       Screens are your shelves and aisles. Change the display of your products weekly, highlighting the promoted items with more than just a star or a promo flash.
  2.       Review the sales, price and shopper data daily; change something based on the data every week
  3.       Promote every single week, preferably on a Thursday. “Every Day Low Prices” has no place in online shopping. Shoppers are here to be impulsively entertained via price and promotion.
  4.       Measure new and returning customers’ reactions to promotional activity weekly. Change something every week to attract new shoppers, or to re-engage returning shoppers.
  5.       Be clear and targeted in your deep discount clearance; twice a year maximum. And if something needed to be cleared at a deep discount, don’t sell it again.
  6.       With every high value purchase, offer extra value, a gift with purchase or discounted relevant accessory.
  7.       Shipping terms are “competitive equality”. If the leader in your sector offers free shipping, so should you. Build your freight costs into your product price, and focus on curating great products supported by great service.

If you have time have a look at Catalin Zorzini’s, a boring sounding but hugely rich source of online shopping site information, especially its Top 50 Best Online Shops blog. It’s 12 months old but still very relevant.

Kevin Moore is a retail expert and the chairman of Crossmark Asia Pacific Holdings and Mirador Retail Technology. He is also the founder of TheRoadToRetail.


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