Make it easy for your customers – an approach to e-commerce

Published 30 Oct 2017

Some of the biggest challenges with e-commerce for many people are its complex structures and multiple platforms and suppliers. We recommend keeping things simple. Build a solid platform around three pillars: a set of goals, data-driven marketing and good customer experiences.

Online retail is growing by more than 20% every year, and there is much to suggest that this growth will continue. Online turnover of goods, services and travel products in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland now exceeds NOK 400 billion (Dibs). According to Gartner, more than 80% of businesses turning over more than USD 100 million will have established an e-commerce division by 2020. Equally interesting: by 2025 half of them will have vanished. 

Goals:

The basis for key decisions and directional choices in any digitalisation process

  1. The organisation needs to set itself clear goals to strive for
  2. Everyone involved must know and accept why changes are happening

In addition to the obvious business-critical ambitions the goals help define, they also help create the necessary commitment and ownership of the processes. Your e-commerce goals must start in Excel and should primarily concern sales and figures. One task that is often underestimated when defining the goals is ensuring that the key targets are cross-functional. Briefly put, they must be defined in consultation with the management team so that they are consistent with the company’s business-critical goals. The KPIs must also involve all relevant departments: sales, marketing, product development and the operational organisation.

The choice of technology defines the platform’s limitations and opportunities in the long term
If you believe me when I say that the customer experience is one of the most important criteria for success, then you should think seriously about which technology you choose. API-driven architecture gives you a more robust and scalable platform for the future. You must also allow for new functionalities such as augmented, virtual and other realities that could prove crucial in the times ahead. According to Gartner, 30% of all online surfing will take place without a screen – as early as 2020.

By setting out clear goals, you will get an idea of the resources you will need for the different phases in the cycle. Your ambitions go hand in hand with your investments; although the two do not always correlate, they are still inextricably linked, somehow. However, it is unwise to make the wrong choices just to save money in the short term, especially when you know you are making the wrong decision. It can be a good idea to revisit your goals if you are ever tempted to make a short-term decision.

”Once the IT, sales, marketing, logistics and product departments are looking at the same dashboard and chasing the same goals, your customers will see things improve dramatically from then on.”

Resources are key – including human resources
Now it is important to pay attention. How do we design the organisation? The answer is: it depends on your goals and level of ambition. One important decision is how big a part IT should play in the implementation and operation. There is not one single model or one organisational design that fits all, although there is a clear trend towards hybrid or accountability models within e-commerce.

This brings us to one of the key issues surrounding organisational design: being able to unite different resources in cross-disciplinary teams. They must focus on the goals – together and simultaneously. How the organisational structure looks on paper is less important than the culture you create and the tools you equip your organisation with. Once the IT, sales, marketing, logistics and product departments are looking at the same dashboard and chasing the same goals, your customers will see things improve dramatically from then on.

Data-driven marketing:

Critical to being able to constantly drive new and existing customers to your store to make a purchase

This is the very essence of the good customer experience. Those who are successful have deep insights and know what the customer wants. Whenever I ask someone involved in e-commerce what their most important sales driver is, the answer is usually a long list of marketing activities. The list is both long and difficult to disagree with. It contains robust content, influencers, email, personalisation, speed, inventory management, SEO, ads, multi-channels and dashboards, to mention but a few. Those who are genuinely good and successful at this optimise their own operations with the goal of understanding their customers better while also getting stuck into some of the activities listed above, all based on a never-ending flow of new analyses and hypotheses. 

The mentality should be to conduct numerous experiments and formulate ambitions which turn into prototypes, which over time become deliveries and tests that must either be scaled or optimised because natural law and green arrows dictate it. Or they will be scrapped. This is known as design thinking.

”It should evoke emotions and even be fun while also solving a problem or desire. Ideally without the customer having to make much of an effort.”

Good customer experiences:

Make it easy to be a customer

I do not remember where I first heard this mantra, but it is much more relevant today then just a decade ago. The reason for that is that we are seeing much more democratisation than ten years ago. If you are in retail, you must be able to create an outstanding customer experience and make it ultra-convenient to be a customer – again and again and again. It should evoke emotions and even be fun while also solving a problem or desire. Ideally without the customer having to make much of an effort. When mobile BankID arrived, it revolutionised people’s lives because it removed friction. When Ruter (management company for public transport in Oslo and Akershus) launched its ticket app, everyone could travel on public transport more easily and without friction. 

Retailers should organise their operations to remove friction, help customers so they don’t run out of the things they need, maybe solve a social problem in the process, and generally continue to make customers’ lives easier.

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