Home > Channel Strategy, Customer Experience, Online Sales > Future sales tactics for e-commerce

Future sales tactics for e-commerce

In a previous post I described the brief but vivid history of eCommerce. What will the future look like? Something that  I find interesting to watch is the increasing professionalism in the industry and how it manifests itself in new great features, site structures and designs. There are tons of landing page optimization experts, great designers and information architects out there that make our online experiences better and better and helps channel shift to the web. However, most of the work is made based on the current concepts and not really addressing the weaknesses of the web channel compared to e.g. in-store experiences or call centers.

Example of converging shopping experiences

Picture of me building a converged multi-channel shopping experience

If we think about the differences and strengths and weaknesses between typical channels, traditional web, (mobile – although some don’t treat that as a specific channel), call center and in-store, a few major things comes to mind.

A few key weaknesses I see in a traditional web channel:

  • Lack of personalization, ability to consult and understand true needs and motives compared to a face to face or over phone situation. Algorithms rarely beat a “what’s most important to you?” or similar question a salesperson in a store would ask to present just the right product for you
  • Unable to answer “long-tail questions”, those millions of minor objections and uncertainties that can block a sale. There just isn’t room to display or a business case to create all that content that a savvy call center agent could answer within seconds
  • Hard to meet other emotional needs, such as lack of trust for online financial transactions in certain demographics, ability to touch and feel before purchase or just the plain old need to get your choice confirmed as a good choice by another human
  • Lacking ability, processes and budgets to try out what works from a store managers perspective. Sure A/B testing is great, everyone talks about that they should, but many don’t do it (yet)
  • etc etc

A few key strengths:

  • Overview, overview, overview. Try to get an overview of hotels locations and rates for any brand in London over the phone, and then compare to getting that displayed as a map. It’s like the difference between the weather forecast on the radio and on TV.

    Example of overview of hotels in London

    Example of overview of hotels in London from octopustravel.co.uk, try explaining that over phone

  • Ability to quantitatively and continuously measure the objective “in-store experience”, time spent, exits, click maps, browsing patterns etc etc. Quite hard to do in-store. Call centers sometimes have ok logging but not near the granularity you can get on the web
  • Meeting rational needs, every detail of every product or process can be shown. Real people rarely know if that wardrobe is 236 or 237 cm (but they can help you measure)
  • Always there for the user, no opening hours
  • Perceived price (belief in good deals online)
  • etc

So what can we make of this? I think the future tactics will be based on addressing the weaknesses and leveraging from strengths by three main means.

First the increased professionalism of online sales will put requirements on platforms from an internal perspective. The product or sales managers will be forced to work more actively and learn from their retail counterparts on experimenting with layouts – main difference being that online is much better equipped to monitor and adapt in real time. So in short much more flexible systems, with more or less built in A/B testing capabilities and bigger organizational investments in working actively with the content, offers, pricing and site structures.

Second I believe that the web will facilitate the interactions with humans, cross channel initiatives will be key to take the experience to the next level. Good examples of that are click to chat and click to call with immediate responses (no lame “we’ll call you back within 48h”, it should take seconds to respond). This is not unusual although not yet common practice. There are a bunch of products out there offering call and chat, check out e.g. ATGs Live Help, Talisma, eGain.

However the next step within live help might be to give the online sales staff ability to approach online visitors proactively, the same way a salesman in store can approach you to ask if you need help. If so you can initiate co-browsing and get more consultative service and personalized selling. There are some cool new products out there that look promising e.g. check out Vergic. (Swedish press release with a pilot client here) Will be interesting to see what will happen, and how fast it will happen.

Third i believe that the social features is key to give that human touch. Companies such as bazaarvoice can show stunning numbers on how much those reviews and ratings actually helps persuade.

What did I miss? Mobile?

  1. April 3, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Har surfat i åtskilliga timmar efter denna upplysningen!
    Tack och bockar!

  1. January 20, 2011 at 12:40 am
  2. February 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm
  3. April 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm

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