Imitation is better than innovation

There’s no need to trail blaze when planning your e-commerce channels and strategy for your physical stores, simply learn from the best practice that’s out there, says Kevin Sparks, commercial director at FACT-Finder.

It’s always great to innovate. It can help to take your business to the next level and create a real point of difference against your rivals. However, if you’re developing your retail business online, don’t be tempted to run before you can walk.

You’ve built your brand on the high street and that’s currently where your strengths lie. So before you dive into the complexities of e-commerce, remember that there’s a lot of innovation out there already that you can leverage, allowing you to focus on making sure you’re correctly aligning your online and physical presence, which should both truly reflect the visions and values of your brand. Creating this unified customer experience should be your primary goal and can really help you steal a march on your pure play rivals.

Use the knowledge base of leading e-commerce players in order to lead as many people as possible through the three stages of the online purchase:

  1. Visit – going to the online shop
  2. Product discovery – finding the desired products
  3. Checkout – address registration and payment

Product selection is particularly important. Customers must be able to find the products they want quickly and easily but each will have a unique requirement and behaviour in doing so. For example, those using the search function already have a very good idea of what they want and therefore speed and relevancy is paramount to them during their search. This is great for the retailer as they have twice the purchase rate of visitors who only use a site’s navigation. To make choosing products as easy as possible, implement a powerful search solution – especially if you offer a wide range of goods.

As far as navigation goes, a study FACT-Finder commissioned recently confirmed a lot of what we confess to already know but many still don’t do. Such as, positioning filters for after search navigation on the left hand side. Its also important to use clean clear categorised design within the primary navigation and make good use of intelligent learning from your customers to dynamically reorder navigation menus.

Having taken the time to implement strong search and navigation tools to help customers find what they want quickly and easily, many sites neglect to take the same care and attention on the purchasing function. This is a major mistake, as a poor user experience here means a high online shopping trolley abandonment rate, not because people don’t want to buy but because they find it too laborious, annoying or not secure enough.

To avoid this, during check-out it’s vital to create trust and not leave any questions unanswered. Show an overview of all chosen items, including the latest delivery date. Provide free shipping over a certain amount, offer various payment options and state explicitly: “Third parties will not be given access to your data”, as well as additional elements explaining your data protection policy in more detail.

These are just some of the fundamental but key factors that will help you create an effective online shopping experience for your customers, but there are lots more out there, and some specific to your product offering and market, so do your homework, ask the experts and make use of what you have learned.

However, first and foremost, whatever best practice you borrow, remember, “be true to yourself and your brand identity”. Existing customers are already acquainted with you offline and will have a certain trust and understanding. You should, as far as possible, make sure you recreate the same distinctive feeling online.

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