For ecommerce players, the holidays season can be “make or break” in terms of annual revenue and sales goals. According to data from eMarketer, U.S. retail sales grew by 17.8% during the 2016 holiday season, with an expected climb of 15.8% during 2017. Ecommerce continues to account for an ever-increasing percentage of total retail sales, with massive increases in mobile-based spending. Retailers saw a 44% increase in mobile sales compared to the prior year, another trend that’s expected to accelerate as the phone continues to become the dominant transactional pathway.
For ecommerce players, the importance of the holiday season cannot be overemphasized. In order to meet or exceed goals, these firms need the right technology platforms and partners to help them exceed customer expectations. They need a reliable and mobile-friendly site, advanced customer analytics, CRM solutions, and other systems to work in concert to attract customers to the brand and make it simple for them to complete a purchase. Enlisting the help of an IT consultancy can cover each of these initiatives:
Managing Traffic and the Ensuing Complications
An experienced consultant will be able to recognize unreliable providers, and recommend a new course of action that will ensure reliable site availability during the holiday rush. They’ll also talk to the providers to ensure there’s sufficient room to scale for the spike in demand, which can be unpredictable when certain items “go viral” during the holidays. A “site unavailable” message during the busiest shopping season is unacceptable, and consultants can look at the underlying technology supporting the site to prevent a stoppage. Additional traffic can also put strain on the server, resulting in longer page loading times and shopping cart abandonments.
IT consultants will provide a fresh perspective and specifically the user experience as it pertains to reviewing and ultimately purchasing products. Every improvement that removes clicks/actions and streamlines the customer journey will benefit the conversion rate and boost sales numbers. They can also look at the site’s SEO data and suggest some holiday-specific initiatives such as SEO-rich landing pages. IT consultants will understand the latest SEO tactics and will use analytic tools to find not only the best keywords, but tweak the back-end technology to pull customers away from competitors and to your site.
Shifting towards Mobile
Designing the user experience (UX) to cater to mobile devices takes a keen understanding of how to blend clean and simple aesthetics with the right technology. A consultancy can guide your firm on developing a mobile website that makes the most sense for your customers, as part of what’s known as a “mobile-first” strategy Download the Mobile Guide by designing a desktop site to be mobile responsive.
An IT consultancy can implement such a strategy that’s tailored to your exact business. If for example you offer video entertainment services, then the design could lean towards visitors with a tablet-sized screen. If the site is a products-based ecommerce platform, then the design should enable fast decision-making and sharing.
Today’s consumer is mobile, so they want to find, select and transact the products as quickly as possible. Consultants will pull site data such as “average session length” and other metrics that will inform the UX design choices. They’ll understand the latest best practices for design, including the need for “tap-to-call” functionality and plainly stated value propositions. Consultants can provide guidance on “touch-based” design that accounts for the latest smartphones as well as older devices such as tablets that incorporate a stylus.
Consultants understand the power of data, and will suggest analytics platforms that can take all of the rich user-generated data and leverage it for customer segmentation. They can setup tools so ecommerce firms can alter their strategies based on real-time mobile user data, offer geo-targeted promotions, and correlate purchasing behaviors with smart cross selling.
In addition to a mobile-first site, it’s also vital to offer an application for customers that enable fast and accurate access to information, purchasing, exclusive promotions and more. These apps can also function as personal assistants while a shopper is in a physical store, by providing them with instant information about products. A consultancy is useful for keeping a firm consistent across its multiple channels, so there’s uniformity of messaging between the mobile app and the website as well as social and email messaging. They can check these various customer touch points before the holiday season to ensure there’s a smooth overall customer experience.
Embrace Data-Driven CRM
The companies that are repeatedly successful during the holidays are often those that get the right messaging to the right customers. They often accomplish this seemingly easy task by using a CRM system that’s powered by analytics data.
An IT consultancy that specializes in CRM can transform how a company looks at its customer base. They can build a CRM system that is able to maintain and distribute customer data in real time to all of the groups that might come into contact with the customer. So the chat specialists will have the same data access as the sales specialist in the store.
A CRM that is built upon quality data can also enable competitive advantages during the holidays. Firms can use the analytics to find patterns among the most profitable customers, and then tailor marketing efforts to groups that fit those demographics. A consultancy can offer insights into how CRM can turn leads into actual buyers, by creating a centralized repository of information; so sales staff can offer the latest product data and promotions. They can suggest the right CRM platforms that can manage multi-channel leads, guide leads through a life cycle, and integrate leads with other data sources to produce insightful reports.
The CRM platform should be able to track every customer interaction, whether it’s a survey filled out in a retail store, or an online chat session. The goal is to provide companies with a holistic view of every customer, and give staff the access to data so they can provide speedy and contextually relevant service.
Companies that take the time to improve their technology tools can gain market share during the holiday season. An IT consultancy can accelerate the pace of this process, by focusing on multiple issues at once, such as testing the site’s broadband, designing a mobile interface, and using CRM to drive conversions. Ecommerce firms that enlist the help of a consultancy can then redirect some resources to other revenue-generating actions, such as staff training and marketing research.
Visit www.tblocks.com to learn more about utilizing a qualified IT consultant before the full rush of the holidays shopping season.