Six of the best digital retail strategies for 2017

Photo by Douglas Bagg on Unsplash

Does your retail business sell online? If so, how are you performing in the constantly changing digital marketplace? This week we’re taking a look at six of the best digital retail strategies to help you to stay on top of your e-commerce game this year:

Mobile First for online stores 

Over the past three years online activity has shifted from PC to mobile, with the majority of web users now preferring to browse via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. But despite this mobile sales only accounted for 30% of online sales.

John Surdakowski, founder and creative director of NYC-based digital agency Avex Designs suggests that this was partly due to people using their phones for socialising and contacting people, and their computers for ‘serious’ stuff, like work and shopping.

In addition to this, many retailers simply weren’t ready for the mobile marketplace. But now this trend has started to reverse. Savvy retailers have refined their mobile offer, heralding a ‘mobile first’ approach – acknowledging and preparing for the fact that the majority of future sales will be mobile transactions.

Social Marketing for Social Engagement

Social media marketing is flourishing. More and more retailers have cottoned onto the fact that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts make it much easier to display and attract attention to their products than other more complex online platforms.

However, Sudakowski warns that posting pictures and discount codes is no longer enough to tempt buyers. The competition on across social platforms has become intense and not everyone is seeing every post:

“To give you a sense of the scale of this problem from an e-commerce entrepreneur’s point of view, consider that many posts are seen by 16% of a company’s fans or fewer. As your following grows, that number could shrink all the way down to 2%!“

There are solutions to these problems. Surdakowski recommends that you post images and videos rather than text as these get around 15 times more likes or shares. Use things that will attract a response – such as a call to action – and make sure you study your social media insights and analytics to see what works and what doesn’t and tailor your campaigns accordingly.

Create engaging content

Sometimes your customers know exactly what they want and go directly to your site. But more often than not, they have a problem that needs solving – and sometimes they’re not even sure what it is that they are looking for.

The most successful e-commerce retailers are already onto this – and they tackle it by creating useful content. Blogs, videos and whitepapers that don’t just draw attention to their products but also give insights to steer potential customers towards the best solution.

User generated content is also invaluable. Online reviews and positive social posts make shoppers feel confident and comfortable, increasing sales and reducing returns.

Video Demos and Reviews 

According to recent research, 73% of shoppers are more likely to buy a product after watching a short clip that explains it first. So the effect of video on a retailers website could outstrip any traditional online marketing methods such as SEM/PPC (Pay per click advertising) and SEO.

Video product reviews – whether created in-house or submitted by satisfied customers – demonstrate the value of a product in a more significant and transparent way than simple marketing spiel.

Retargeting – Try, try again

Retargeting is a process whereby retailers track their visitors and their behaviour using cookies and invite them to come back and take another look at their site via adverts which appear on other websites that they are looking at. Some retailers report that retargeting has helped them to double or even triple their sales and conversion rates over time.

Of course the process is not simple and Surdakowski asserts that the devil is in the details with the following advice for anyone considering this trend:

  • Be subtle: don’t simply ask them to come back and finish their order.
  • Be careful in your approach. How much are you willing to pay for each ad? These are usually pay-per-click (PPC) so set a realistic budget.
  • Segment your campaign with time-sensitive discounts and targeted reminders.
  • Limit exposure – to reduce the ‘creep factor’ where your customers might feel like you are following them around the net, from one website to another. If they see too many ads you’ll scare them away and they’ll most likely take their business elsewhere.
  • Study your analytics to see what works and keep a close eye on your bottom line.

Buyer Loyalty is Better than New Custom

Many traditional marketing techniques have developed into digital equivalents. For example, viral marketing has become the online version of good press. And in the online marketplace, word-of-mouth is replaced with online reputation.

Retailers are waking up to the fact that it is easier and more cost-effective to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones. Engaging with their customers and placing emphasis on customer service and trust will create brand advocates.

By actively pursuing ways to attract repeat trade – such as loyalty discounts, engaging newsletters and special online events for existing customers – they can expect to see a significant positive impact on sales. According to figures, people who have made a successful purchase from a particular online retailer before are far more likely to place bigger and more frequent orders in the future.

Certainly a lot to think about in terms of online sales – without even beginning to consider the added layers and effects of omnichannel. The key here seems to be constantly monitoring user activity and results and staying agile in response to these rapidly changing trends. If you’ve got an online store we’d be interested to know your thoughts on these topics and whether you have been implementing any of these strategies on your own e-commerce site. Use the comments section below if you’d like to share your views.