Even when the economy slowly recovers post-COVID, shopper habits will likely have changed permanently. More consumers are going to be heading online first for their shopping needs, meaning dwindling demand for brick-and-mortar locations.
The digital-native retailers are naturally better equipped to survive in this new normal, whereas many traditional stores that are often small businesses, are left scrambling to come up with a digital-first strategy.
After all, without the ability to transition at least a portion of their business online, the long-term survival prospects for many small to medium sized businesses seem tenuous.
But with the right strategies in place, the digital transition can be done. For those in a race to go online, now is the time to remain agile – put customers first and double down on customer retention.
Here are what I believe to be the three critical focus areas that must be tackled today to ensure future success, post-COVID in an online retail world.
Online companies must employ a range of marketing strategies to get people to visit their website or install their mobile application. Digital strategies like search engine optimization (SEO), engagement through social media, etc. can help to build awareness of your online presence.
For small to medium businesses today, the best strategy is not how to get more traffic that lands on your site one time, but rather how to build more engaged relationships with the existing customers.
Increasing the repeat visitation of your existing customers is far more cost-effective and easier than acquiring new ones.
The economic models overwhelmingly favor the investment in retaining a customer over acquiring a new one. In fact, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
Ultimately, companies that do well will leverage digital tools to build direct relationships with their customers, address issues like revenue loss caused by cart abandonment and address customer retention pain points.
Successful customer retention heavily depends on creating a shared experience and helping customers feel that they are part of your story and a community.
In a sense, customers are paying for your brand story as much as they are paying for the actual product or service. Again, businesses should leverage the right digital tools to create this shared experience.
For Evino, the top South American wine app with more than 600,000 customers, success in ecommerce is all about relevancy, meaning using personalized push notifications to engage customers in their online community to drive higher conversion rates.
Evino credits push notifications for converting over two thousand online orders on their app. This proves that being part of a community and creating a shared experience brings about a sense of urgency that drives action.
The rise of social media and search engine advertising has undoubtedly created much hype around the concept of microtargeting.
However, for most small to medium sized retailers, while personalization is important, hyper personalization is neither realistic nor necessary. In fact, getting caught up in the race to hyper personalize can quickly become a trap when not done well.
In the ecommerce era, well-targeted, as well as poorly aimed messaging, has just about touched everyone.
Successful and much more scalable personalization is more about creating target personas and then focusing on offering unique experiences for each persona.
Take gaming company LBC Studios as an example – they focused on improving gaming experience and player satisfaction by targeting users who are already active players and sending them a notification when they have reached a new level in their game called Hempire.
The key in curating this personalized customer experience for LBC Studio is maintaining customer loyalty, rather than blind micro-targeting.
Amazon is another great example, a leader in early personalization with “collaborative filtering” enabled general merchandising, which led to bigger basket sizes, however they’ve avoided micro-targeting and awkward user experiences.
As an industry, retail has been going through a digital transformation well before COVID hit. The pandemic set the transformation on overdrive and made it imperative for all businesses to adapt now in order to survive and thrive.
Fortunately, a growing arsenal of tools is available to help retailers promote website visibility, retain customers through shared experiences and tackle revenue killing issues like cart abandonment.
Josh Wetzel is Chief Revenue Officer of OneSignal, a customer engagement platform for push notifications and in-app messaging. He has a two-decade career building digital commerce and software businesses, with leadership stints at eBay, PubMatic and Bazaarvoice.
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