In a post-Covid world, many of today’s consumers are shopping online. What this means for retailers is utilising e-commerce to maintain their customer base, while simultaneously attracting a new one. But building an online presence isn’t as simple as a website name and some product imagery, e-commerce is a whole new ball game. To engage with consumers, retailers need to know who their customers are, what platforms they’re using, and how they are spending their money. Not only this, features such as QR codes, mobile apps, AR, VR, chatbots, and personalised emails need to be explored to enhance the customer’s online experience even further. As the digital world continues to grow, retailers need to follow suit.
The Register chats with Accenture NZ Managing Director, Ben Morgan, on the advantages of online retail, how to get started and where he sees e-commerce heading in the next ten years.
What are the advantages of e-commerce in comparison to traditional retail?
For consumers, the big advantages of e-commerce are the flexibility and transparency that it provides. With e-commerce channels, price comparisons between retailers are easy to make and consumers can shop at their convenience anywhere, anytime.
Retailers also have a lot to gain through the rise of e-commerce channels. Instead of carrying a lot of stock in prime pieces of real estate, larger retailers can instead offload this to distribution warehouses for their online orders to reduce costs and delivery times.
The big advantage for retailers is through the collection of customer data. Buying items online means that retailers are able to gain an insight into your purchasing history and preferences, allowing them to email you about tailored promotions or companion products.
How can a business get started in e-commerce?
To get started in e-commerce, businesses should first consider who their target customers will be and the channels that they use so you can advertise your offerings on these platforms.
The size of your business will have a bearing on the e-commerce solution that is best for you. Small and medium-sized enterprises might want to get started using popular platforms such as Shopify, Wix or Squarespace.
Larger firms might require their own customised e-commerce platform. While leading brands will also have dedicated apps that can offer added features to mobile users such as augmented reality, so potential customers can see how products would look like on them or in their homes.
How does marketing tie in with e-commerce?
Investing in e-commerce offerings provides businesses with an abundance of customer data that can be used by marketers to better target new products and promotions. In return, customers receive offers that are most relevant to them and their interests.
If a customer has not placed an order for some time, they could be enticed back with a special promotion such as a product discount or reduced freight costs. These sorts of actions can inspire shoppers to come back to your business, or be used to cultivate greater customer loyalty.
Accenture NZ Managing Director, Ben Morgan
Where do you see e-commerce heading in the next ten years?
Many Kiwis gained experience of e-commerce during level 4 lockdown, and that familiarity and convenience will build acceptance of e-commerce channels. In the short-term, we expect to see continued growth in e-commerce offerings, especially among staple products such as groceries, clothing and takeaway foods.
Longer term, we will see bricks and mortar stores take on a more complementary role to e-commerce channels. These stores will be less about selling product, and more about immersing prospective customers in the background, production line and ethos of the company. Recently we have seen an example of this trend with honey producer Comvita, who opened up a Wellness Lab in Auckland for people to learn more about their product, where and how it is sourced, and host honey tasting events for potential customers.
These retail spaces will exist to provide customer experiences that cannot currently be replicated by e-commerce platforms. Advanced e-commerce offerings already allow customers to personalise products, provide 3D images and even use augmented and virtual reality to help visualise how the products will look in individual settings or fit on the customer. But there are some things such as touch, smell and taste that technology is likely unable to replicate – even within the next ten years.
Do you think over time more people will turn to online shopping than in-store?
Over time we will see more retailers invest in digital technologies for both in-store and online channels to integrate their shopping experiences.
Integrating digital in a physical space could see QR codes placed near displayed products for customers to scan to learn more about how they are sourced, or watch a video of them in use.
Users of e-commerce platforms might also be invited to watch live-streams of in-store product launches or witness their pre-ordered products being packaged and distributed.
The use of digital technologies will create a seamless shopping experience for customers, irrespective of whether they choose to shop in-store or via a store’s e-commerce platform.