5 Growth-Critical Strategies for eCommerce Professionals

2019 is over and here we are in 2020…a whole month into 2020…Yikes!

Now I’m no Fortune Teller adorned in silk, and my ‘crystal ball’ more closely resembles a well-worn Mac book Pro. But I say stuff the tea leaves, here are the ‘trends’ I believe will have the greatest impact in 2020 and beyond!   

Me on my Macbook Pro!

Now just to set the record straight, here’s what you won’t find in this blog!

  • Wishy-washy advice such as ‘look-out for the explosion of social commerce’ or ‘here’s how to double your profits with Facebook advertising’. My focus is on smart-marketing, not come and go trends or quick fixes!
  • Platform or tech-stack specific strategies. I want to look at the strategies that best equip you to make these investment decisions instead!

The following strategies will form the basis of a successful approach and fuel the future of eCommerce to:

  • Adapt and grow sustainably  
  • Hire and maintain a highly talented team  
  • Increase the impact of your team and output
  • Minimise resource waste without sacrificing the quality of product or experience
  • Capture the hearts, minds and wallets of your customers  

And of course, I’ll be kicking it off with my favourite subject: Customer Experience (CX).  

Forget 5-year masterplans, it’s time to shorten the strategic roadmap!  

Forrester describes a Customer Experience (CX) program as ‘A plan that guides the activities and resource allocation required to deliver intended experiences that meet or exceed customer expectations in accordance with the goals of the organisation.’  

Wow! A total mouthful that was!

So why do most Customer Experience (CX) programs fail? I’d put it down to three reasons.   

  1. CX is a departmental thing, not a systemic thing. Plans start out great then it gets lumped with the customer service team and ta-da! We’re CX-focused. Utopia.  
  2. The strategies are too high-level. A list of principles or initiatives with no plan driven by in customer insight and totally riddled with bias from the loudest voices.  
  3. Gamified or single touch CX measurement which leads to a flawed or biased result or outcome. What do I mean by that? Well, do you ask your customers for feedback ONLY once the product has been delivered? If you do, you’ll have flawed insight!

Now making the necessary systemic changes to review and optimise your CX strategy takes time. BUT there is one thing you can start to bring into your practice now that will help you make the changes faster than ever before.   

Step one scrap the cumbersome five-year plan and replace it with the agile approach. This is what today’s most successful companies are doing and it’s helping them move faster and achieve more than ever before!

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90-day strategic plans and goals are the new norm. It is just long enough to excite ambition and yet short enough that your team can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

By ditching the one to-five-year plans you allow imminent customer needs to lead your strategy and help your team remain focussed and accountable.

Start now:  

  • What can your team achieve in the next 90 days that will enhance the customer experience? It’s time to get granular with your strategic roadmap! What can you change in the next 30, 60 and 90 days? 
  • Review your approach to CX, ask yourself, how much do we care? Who is responsible for Customer Experience? It should be something you systemically, as a whole business, from marketing to customer service train in and optimise for. Remember, CX = The entire sum of your customer’s experience with your business. 

Read: How to Champion Team Focus with 90-Day Growth Goals

The ROPO Affect  

Queues, out-of-stocks, contactless payments, omnichannel. Ugh, I’m frustrated already. – Omni Channel, Shnomni Channel… 

With all this chatter about online retail it is easy to overlook how dominant brick and mortar stores still are, and consequently, overlook how we engage these customers. Are we really using our stores to their full potential?

We’re talking unified commerce here people. An essential strategy to start taking seriously in your roadmap. If you want to survive in the future of retail start thinking about what you have and what you need to create a unified commerce strategy. 

I think Cue’s infamous work in creating a truly unified commerce experience is the best example of how successful and important this project is for omnichannel retailers.

CUE Growth-Critical Case Study

In recent years, Cue has shifted from traditional bricks-and-mortar retail to a unified commerce strategy that integrates its online and physical channels to give customers personalised and frictionless experiences across three brands, eight online stores, 240+ physical stores, concessions, shoppable screens and a customer care team. No easy feat!

They now have 35% of their online orders picked up instore and even more impressive, 80% of their online orders being fulfilled in-store.

So why can’t this be a “one day” or “we kind of do it” strategy anymore… Well, according to Barilliance, 88% of shoppers research online before making a purchase. Behaviour marketers have dubbed ROPO: Research online, purchase offline.  

Source: Moz

Becoming aware of this customer behaviour is one thing, actively devising a strategy to support it, well that’s your competitive edge!  

Today’s customer will be researching online to compare prices, check for online-exclusive offers, read reviews and research product specifications.  How will you engage them at these touchpoints? People want choice these days, convenience is a buying consideration, it’s not always all about price. 

Start now: Develop a unified approach to the ROPO effect 

Ask yourself, how clear is your vision for what unified commerce looks like to your organisation? 

  • Take stock. And no, not product stock. Tech and team stock to understand the capabilities of what you have, which systems talk to each other and ultimately what you need
  • Audit your current customer experience journey and ideate improvements. Don’t just blindly dive into unifying experiences across your business without first validating what your customers actually want
  • Create a project steering committee… This leads me to the next trend!

Cross-Functional Capabilities = Your Competitive Edge 

Of all the strategic avenues that a business can explore, Marketing 2020 identified ‘building marketing capabilities’ as the most important.  

Why are cross-functional capabilities so important in 2020?

Well, let’s go back to our ROPO effect. After reading this article you’re thinking to yourself,

‘Well s**t Alita, you’re right, we need to make improvements and we really don’t have a clear vision about this in our roadmap. I need to talk to the CEO or board about this.’

You get the go-ahead, you start your work and SUDDENLY you hit a roadblock. You realise that your project needs specific specialised skills that you simply don’t have and as a result your program fails. It’s disheartening, to say the least!

Fast forward to you having a different team set up with a structure that supports cross-functional capabilities. Instead of competing for resources, cross-functional teams collaborate to optimise use of time, money, and effort to improve customer satisfaction while helping to meet organisational goals. 

But how do you get there? A capability-building program.

A capability-building program offers growing teams a safe environment to understand and experience new creative ideas, tools, technologies and frameworks for campaign development.

Beyond that, it gives leaders the opportunity to decrease execution times, remove bottlenecks of work getting stuck with one person and delivers a platform for self-organising teams. Hello efficiency! Hello passionate teams! 

Why is this so relevant in 2020? Because the benefits beyond revenue growth are substantial;  

  • Retain and happy and motivated pool of talented team members  
  • Break free from the business as usual mentality and learn to expedite your solution design 

Start now: Perform a skills gap analysis on your team. What skills do you need? Do you have? Or could you bring in-house? Are we outsourcing things we don’t need to? And, what should you hire for?

READ THIS: The Essential New Business Practice – Slowing Down to Speed Up

Agile…Not Just for Dev-Teams 

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘Agile’.  

Most use the word not truly understanding that it’s a methodology. Some might even have heard bad things about it “Agile” doesn’t work. To which I say, then you’re missing a step… but more on broken agile another time… This is about how to use it systemically. 

The Agile Methodology is defined as, ‘a type of project management process, mainly used for software development, where demands and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organising and cross-functional teams and their customers.’  

And let me tell you this…it’s not just for dev-teams!  

Agile is truly transformative. The structure promotes greater campaign creativity and flexibility. It allows teams to expedite solution design with timelines and efficient processes for review. It keeps teams accountable, and more importantly, provides the team with a feeling of accomplishment at work!

Start now: Do your research in-house! Find your strengths and weaknesses across the 4 areas of Agile (collaboration, delivery, reflection and improvement).

Be honest, literally ask yourself, ‘Where to we shine and where do we fail?’, (Collaborate. Ask your team). From there you can start to grow what you’re good at and work towards remedying what you’re not. 

Mar-Tech Adoption  

There’s a total smorgasbord of Mar-Tech options available to retailers these days, and just like a tourist at a hotel breakfast buffet, marketers have got full stomachs…’I really wish I didn’t help myself to that last serve of tech-investment.’ 🤢🤢

I detailed in my piece on Linked in about the transformation of Mar-Tech, for the first time in a very long time, there’s been a global decrease in MarTech spend. CMOs are finding themselves with heavy investments in their tech stack and realising they might only be using 10% of it…but paying for 100%. 

They don’t know whether they’ve got any crossover in capabilities AND they might not have the skills and time in-house to capitalise on what they’ve got. 

In my opinion, CMOs need to invest in internal capabilities to maximise their MarTech investments. It’s no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ —they’re crucial. If you’re talking strategy without them, how can you drive your agencies, marketers or developers properly? For a start, there’ll be a complete disconnect between your strategy and your output. 

Start now: Audit your current tech-stack and ask, are we making the most of our current solutions? What problems are we trying to solve today and how can I use my existing tech stack to build a solution? 

Conclusion  

Now evidently, I could write a novel, potentially twelve on the retail trends that have caught my attention in recent months, but we haven’t got all day.  

Remember this, 2020 will bring a tidal wave of opportunities for growth, innovation and investment. Before you get caught up in rat race ensure your foundations are strong. Stop wasting money, make the most of who you’ve got and what you’ve got.


If you want to discuss any of the ‘trends’ discussed in this blog further book in a time to chat with me here.

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