After decades of trial and error, product merchandising in brick-and-mortar shops has evolved into a refined and tested science, where retailers can grow their revenues through anticipating the needs and interactions of their customers.
Like a retail store, the Web is often the primary place where your customers engage with your brand, and retail strategies can often be applied to online channels. The online world can learn from the retail world how to create the “ideal customer experience” -- one that not only addresses how to more effectively present and promote your products online, but also encompasses the other areas like customer support.
A salesperson who is able to “customize” the customer experience for each individual who comes into their store will increase revenues and customer loyalty. Similarly, a Web site that can easily adapt to the evolving needs of your visitors and provide a relevant and personal experience will drive business value.
In order to do this, you need to measure and understand how you are interacting with your audience through your Web site and be able to efficiently alter the information that you create and present to meet customer demands as well as your business goals.
Here are four steps that will set you on the right path:
- Set your comps: Much like a retail store tracks monthly comparables, companies must define business impact goals for their Web site. Identify your business objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can track important benchmarks such as increased engagement on the site and higher sales conversions.
- Look toward technology: Offline retailers have the advantage of in-person interaction with their customers. Online, we need to rely on analytics to track your objectives AND help you get to know your customer, while using Web content management (WCM) systems to create and manage your online experience. The first step is to take inventory of what you have and determine what you need to do to augment your current technologies based on your business objectives. Make sure that your analytics tools provide you with all of your target data and that you have a WCM that is robust and flexible enough to adjust to your customers’ needs on-demand.
- Define your audience: Knowing your customer will help you deliver an experience that better matches his or her goals and intent when visiting your site. Retailers are known for developing comprehensive customer profiles and design their store accordingly. Technology is able to do something similar, using things like browsing patterns and sourced and historical data from CRM system repositories. Coupled with analytics, you can begin to develop better profiles of your buyer.
- Don’t Boil the Ocean: It is important to remember that basic changes can often make the biggest difference. Retail stores know that you can make a huge impact on the bottom line by changing the placement of sale merchandise displays, or combining items that complement use, such as displaying a shirt with a blazer. After you have evaluated your business objectives and KPIs, start testing various business rules and “display arranging,” all while monitoring the impact of the front and back end changes on your business goals.
Realizing that offline and online environments are more similar then you may think, will not only allow you to meet the needs of your customers, but also support your business goals. The right combination of planning and technology will empower you to put a long-term Web strategy in place that will ultimately help you build context-based experiences that your customers can come to expect.