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GUEST COMMENT Key stumbling blocks to unlocking high-performance ecommerce and how to overcome them

Image: Fotolia

Image: Fotolia

An almost perfect storm of disruptive technology, demanding customers, agile competitors and shifting markets is bombarding organisations from all sides, making it perhaps harder than ever before for brands to stand out and stay ahead of the curve.

In this time of extraordinarily rapid change and innovation, the pace at which new technology is being developed is staggering. We’re only just scratching the surface of technologies such as AI and AR and yet they are already transforming how retailers operate and how customers purchase products.

These innovative new technologies and the way they are being used by forward-thinking organisations are also driving unprecedented levels of customer demand and expectation. Disruptive competitors are also harnessing emerging technology to turn traditional business models on their heads.

New businesses can bring ideas and products to market incredibly quickly, effortlessly disrupting long-standing organisations. This is especially true in the ecommerce space, where a rapidly growing market and new channels such as buying directly through social media, offer an attractive proposition.

New opportunities

As the old saying goes, the challenge brings with it opportunity. New technology may be disrupting traditional ways of doing things, but it can also be harnessed to provide true competitive advantage.

In the same way, instead of drowning data, businesses need to look at how they can capitalise on it. Every time customers interact with a brand they are passing on reams of information and data, telling businesses about what they like and don’t like. AI offers a way to wade through this data very quickly and can be used to create a clear picture of individual customer wants and needs. In the same way, AR can be used to help customers visualise products better to see how they will fit their unique needs.

Common mistakes

However, all too often, we witness organisations making the same key mistakes when it comes to ecommerce, which in turn hinders their ability to take advantage of the opportunities presented by market growth, changing business models and new technology.

These include:

• Treating ecommerce as purely a technology issue

Some organisations still regard ecommerce as just a technology consideration rather than a strategic part of their business. But to do this is to misunderstand the value that a well thought out and executed ecommerce strategy can have. Just treating it as a tick box exercise which focuses on the specific ecommerce platform is a short-sighted approach. Instead, organisations should take a joined-up approach to ecommerce, which also incorporates digital marketing, operations, fulfilment and delivery. Keeping each of these elements in silos will only hinder efforts to offer personalised and seamless customer experiences.

• Focusing on acquisition over retention

All too often, businesses put huge amounts of time and effort into acquiring new customers, but then take their foot off the pedal when it comes to retaining them. This is not only depriving organisations of key revenue, it is also stopping them from building up all important communities of brand advocates who become loyal followers and users of a brand. In addition, if all the focus is on finding new customers, then it is likely that not enough attention is being paid to overall customer experience, especially in terms of developing targeted and engaging content.

• Becoming over-reliant on one channel

Another common mistake we witness, is organisations becoming addicted to one channel or tactic. This is especially true when it comes to search and PPC in particular. There is no doubt that these are important elements in a digital marketing strategy, but just because one element, such as PPC, is delivering well, that doesn’t mean that there are not other routes that should be considered. Businesses should not be afraid to test new ways of working and routes to market.

• Not properly using data

The deluge of data can be overwhelming, but it also offers unprecedented insight not only into customer behaviour but also into how different elements of an organisation’s ecommerce strategy is working. Yet the majority of businesses are either not gathering, analysing and acting on data, or they are producing hugely in-depth and overcomplicated reports that can’t be understood by the leadership team and never translate into actionable plans.

• Ignoring the importance of benchmarking

Being able to benchmark performance against well thought out goals and objectives is absolutely key in enabling business growth. By doing this, organisations can not only see how their performance compares to their competitors, but they can also look inwards and see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. This, in turn, means they know where to invest in improving performance as well as areas to optimise further.

Developing strategies to overcome these stumbling blocks

Developing a true understanding of ecommerce and the role it plays in driving value for an organisation is vital to ongoing business success. A good ecommerce strategy can enable true personalisation, streamline operations and drive efficiencies. By taking an overarching, ongoing and measured approach, as opposed to a series of tactical campaigns, businesses should be able to identify gaps and weaknesses, highlight strengths and future opportunities and successfully measure and benchmark performance.

Importantly, having such a strategy in place will enable organisations to take a holistic view that covers everything from technology and delivery to user experience and social. We’re often asked which one thing organisations should be doing to drive high-performance ecommerce, but in reality, there is no one magic bullet, but instead a collection of aligned initiatives, all working along the same path towards the same goals.

A well thought out and executed ecommerce strategy has the potential to really accelerate business growth. Getting it right can seem challenging, but with the right advice and approach, all organisations can harness ecommerce to achieve their goals.

Author: Simon Hall, chief executive officer, 5XThinking

Image credit: Fotolia

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