I believe this robust growth will impact the e-commerce sector in three significant ways: faster processes for retailers and customers, increased competition due to direct price comparison and perpetual customer migration.
We must face these challenges if we are to succeed in the fast-paced e-commerce world. My approach is actually to take customers down a gear – to slow down the speed at which they use the internet. For one thing you lower the potential stress involved in looking for a product, which makes for a more enjoyable user experience. For example, if you can get prospective customers to stay on your site longer, you generate higher customer retention and a direct competitive advantage.
Advertising without the advertisements
These days, everyone is always talking about sensory overload. We are constantly bombarded with information, and as customers we are overwhelmed and even numbed by it. This is particularly true of advertising messages that don’t always get through to their audience – or don’t come across the way they were intended.
Gone are the days when online advertising meant randomly placing a simple banner on a bunch of websites. Now the name of the game is to find ways to make internet users conscious of the advertising messages – to understand the opportunity being presented to them so that they make a conscious decision to consume it.
I’m not simply saying you need to be smart about how you sell an advertisement.
I’m not simply saying you need to be smart about how you sell an advertisement. I’m saying you need to produce messages and content that by their very nature contribute to stimulating and satisfying customer needs. The ad should not only be seen as advertising but also as something that adds value to their lives.
The internet is full of different approaches and attempts to advertise without actually advertising – viral video clips that include a specific product, DIY instructions that call for specific materials and editorial content with shopping tips, to name but a few. All three approaches pick up on my basic premise of slowing customers down so they make a conscious decision to consume the content they value – not just be inundated with a stream of sales propaganda.
Entertainment keeps customers coming back
Fierce competition is ubiquitous in cyberspace. Even the most inventive communication strategy or even entire business model will attract copycats before you can blink an eye. This sometimes even optimizes and improves upon the original ideas and concepts. The sharpest competitive edge is keeping the customer’s attention. We mustn’t allow competition to come down to a price war.
It’s all about achieving something that is quite elusive: getting customer to feel the urge to seek out the retailer themselves: And the reason need not necessarily be a specific need or a search for a specific product. As I explained above, the key is the quality of your content. For example, blogs are very popular with firms, who use them to communicate editorial content. What you find is that the more specific a blog’s theme, the more it guides customers and shapes their expectations.
I use the example of a blog because it is by nature a medium for constantly creating and communicating unique content. First the regular publication of quality content helps to create a bond between the customer and the company. Then the blogger is seen as expert in that particular field. The customer develops a feeling of trust, which reinforces the bond with the company.
Consumption was yesterday – today it’s all about participation
Another essential aspect is customer activation and mobilization. Every customer that speaks positively about a company without solicitation is worth their weight in gold. E-commerce has great potential when it comes to creating opportunities to interact with customers and for customers to interact with each other. Customers can act as advertising vehicles and become catalysts for rapid organic growth.
Social networks and forums are excellent examples of this type of sales approach. Ideally, they afford the opportunity for a two-way dialog, the chance to contribute to and help shape decisions, as well as foster a public, moderated exchange between members. The content communicated should motivate the customer in particular to make their own contribution and participate in the dialog.
That’s infotainment. Advertisements that focuses on both customer-tailored content and customized communication channels. Creating new and unique segments and ways in which to get your message across – ideally in collaboration with users – contributes to customer activation, retention and loyalty. It is my belief that applying these approaches to e-commerce strategies will not only allow you to keep up with the rapid growth that characterizes online retail but will see you taking up the reins and leading from the front.
* Source: German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association
Experts discuss the future of E-Commerce at the Delphi Dialog