E-Commerce has been a runaway success, and it keeps on advancing. This is precisely why the challenges facing companies with regards to strategy, conceptualisation and implementation in the online world must be taken seriously. So, here are ten significant problems and their solutions.
Over 40% of all stationary purchases are prepared online. Depending on the industry, online revenue has already increased to over 50%. In the B2B sector, online revenue is currently fluctuating between 25 and 33%.
One thing is certain: you can no longer avoid professional e-commerce platforms
This is certainly true in sales, but also in the field of consulting. The digital world does not just represent another branch, but rather the largest display window for retailers and service providers there has ever been!
The following tips are here to support businesses when it comes to making important e-commerce decisions.
1. Consulting expertise instead of simple access to the warehouse
Wondering why your online shop is only experiencing slow growth, and may even be losing market shares? Harsh but true: nowadays, anyone can sell products online. Numerous service providers are lining up to provide you and your staff with technical support. It’s fairly cheap to get your hands on solutions for sourcing, sales and shipping (e.g. sales and shipping via Amazon). This enables entire shop systems to be operated in the Cloud (e.g. Spotify). However, success in this area requires more than just the right technology.
Conditions, availabilities and delivery deadlines can be easily checked online. Your customers are aware of this and expect an appropriate service. The consultation and delivery process can be made much easier by transferring it to the web – provided that you actually make your expertise available to customers!
2. External instead of internal perspective
On the path to a purchase decision, your customers suddenly lose their way and veer towards the competition2. Caution: Your customer does not think in channels. Their aim is to find the information they need right now and in this context, the supplier only plays a minor role. Many businesses are not aware of the steps taken by interested parties before they become paying customers.
The analysis of the customer journey provides us with clarification. The customer journey describes all the touchpoints that the customer has with the company and forms an integral element of customer-oriented marketing.
The procurement of information begins with the awareness of a product and, in an ideal scenario, ends with the use of the service.
However, this is not achieved solely with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Customers will visit your website several times, see a printed ad or obtain information in a face-to-face consultation before making a purchase decision.
3. Everywhere commerce instead of mobile, tablet & desktop
Customers’ needs develop in a vast array of life situations. E-commerce enables them to address these needs at any time and in any place – at home, in a restaurant, at the building site or on the road. But how do you reach your customers in these situations, when an order or consultation can take place immediately?
Amazon provides us with a nice example: The Service Innovation Dash Button shows how an order is realised precisely in the very moment that the customer’s need appears. From a technical perspective, language and gestures are becoming increasingly more significant than the keyboard. Systems such as “Siri” (Apple) or “Alexa” (Amazon) are springing up everywhere and consumption has been omnipresent for some time. Swiss suppliers are also jumping on the bandwagon. Commerce everywhere!
4. Dissemination instead of self-promotion
Your customers don’t need another online shop and further access to the ERP system? An alternative approach is provided by a sort of e-commerce ecosystem. The solution moves away from the simple buyer-seller-platform – it offers additional applications from third party providers. These not only encompass products, but also creative and playful content.
At Aboutyou.de, developers and retailers can submit apps for the platform’s app store, and then gain a share of the revenue by means of commission.
Switzerland is also home to some trailblazing solutions. One example is Galaxus, which is on track to becoming a warehouse, and benefitting from interesting growth effects in the process. Or Ex Libris, whose white label solution provides media to a range of Swiss platforms, enabling them to scale their own highly efficient purchasing and logistics processes at the same time. Coop and Swisscom have collaborated to launch Siroop, thereby creating a cultural, technological and communicative milestone! Fulfilment by Amazon relieves retailers of the entire fulfilment process. The employees at Brack.ch are so competent in their own infrastructure and processes that the transition to e-commerce enabler is a logical step. Using their own processes as a basis, Brack will operate both the entire future e-commerce logistics and all sales platforms for the Intersport brand.
5. Microservices instead of monoliths
Nowadays, speed and flexibility are the most important advantages to have over your competitors. New customer demands, the rise of the mobile internet and the increasingly shorter innovation cycles3 present companies with a real challenge: creating an organisational and technical structure that is both fast and agile. The complex e-commerce applications that are still found at the back-end of many international companies' websites all over the world pose enormous obstacles on the path to innovation.
Zalando, Amazon, eBay, Netflix, Google and Uber are all ahead of the times: They use microservices. This architecture concept comprises small processes that are managed separately from one another and communicate via standardised interfaces (APIs).
Instead of a single monolithic application that contains the entire business logic, a flexible network of microservices takes care of all complex operations. The advantage: developers can work on small function units without having to understand every single line of code. This increases the quality, as well as improving subsequent tests and adjustments, and permits technologies and processes that are no longer linked to desktop browsers and smartphones. Competitive advantages can be rendered profitable more quickly and efficiently.
6. Personalisation instead of one-size-fits-all
These days, if you work in marketing, there’s no avoiding the topic of personalisation. Search the web for a certain topic and it’s not necessarily the most relevant articles that appear first; rather, you’re increasingly presented with the articles which best match your personal profile. But visitors still end up leaving most websites without buying anything. The potential of personalised processes and offers still has a long way to go.
Solution: Personalisation is the key to presenting every customer with content and products that are tailored specifically to him or her. This may happen across the entire platform and all sales channels. The important thing is consistent implementation: what good are perfectly coordinated offers if individual components are sold out? Want to drive customers out of your shop? Well, that’s how you do it: There’s nothing more frustrating than a half-hearted attempt at personalisation.
7. Inbound instead of outbound marketing
When it comes to acquisitions, many companies still rely on pure luck. A promising sector, prominently placed ads, purchased addresses and the customers come flocking in – that’s the dream. However, good old outbound marketing is not the most effective marketing method for online shops.
Inbound marketing focusses on four actions: attract, convert, close, delight. These four points aim to generate visitors and leads, and turn them into customers. Tools such as personalisation, lead scouring and marketing automation are essential to this process. In accordance with the notion that “customers are predictable”, content that speaks directly to the target group is purposefully published. As a result, you are giving the customer added value in the decision-making process – even BEFORE the first sales activity!
8. Self-organisation instead of hierarchy
One of the main tasks of a hierarchy5, 6, 7 is the management and optimisation of the daily processes within a business. Yet this form of organisation is falling victim to criticism more and more frequently. It’s deemed cumbersome and appears no longer capable of keeping up with the demands and speed of the modern world of work.
If hierarchies are replaced by self-organisation, employees make all the necessary decisions themselves. Management simply provides them with the tools they need and creates a structure that allows for this working method. Companies often make mistakes because they cling to outdated structures and processes. One thing is for sure: digitalisation is a revolution. It offers unprecedented opportunities for interconnecting products and creating new, complex applications.
9. Key performance indictors instead of data tracks
KPIs make successes and development tangible and comparable. When it comes to reports that management wish to utilise to make their work more transparent, logical and comprehensible, data and numbers which can be evaluated are of huge importance.
Processes can be improved when they are measurable. You should view every process as a progression of activities which can be converted into KPIs. Furthermore, key performance indicators should be seen from an interconnected perspective, and evaluated in the same way. This requires uniform tracking across all channels.
The objective of analysing marketing investments is the improved management and overview of all activities. Those whose practice efficient marketing controlling not only measure KPIs, but they also compare these with past values. This enables the target-oriented adjustment of the marketing strategy. But: every analysis is useless unless it’s followed up by a practical reaction!
10. Virtual instead of real experience
Speed and flexibility are now the most important advantages to have over your competitors. This is also true of changing customer demands, e.g. when a need appears in a new location, such as prior to the arrival at a holiday destination or before the purchase of furniture in store. In this context, the concept of Virtual Reality (VR) is a pioneering trend.
With the assistance of smartphones and VR glasses, future airline passengers will have access to panoramic views, which match the current position and the country that they are flying over at the time. Tourist attractions and other exciting places along the way can be explored via 360 degree videos and photos. Passengers can even get a virtual glimpse inside the cockpit of the plane. The dream of flying has never been closer!
Thanks to Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality, shop visitors will be able to see how that lovely piece of furniture would look in their own home. Until now, people have been reluctant to buy furniture and household appliances over the internet.
These are only a few examples of how swiftly customer arenas are expanding. All of a sudden, there are ways of attracting customers at new locations.
Domestic protection is passé
Do we really stand a chance against all-powerful competitors and technology corporations? Domestic protection is passé in Switzerland – foreign businesses now barely bat an eyelid at currency, customs and language. B2B or B2C, online or stationary: those who focus solely on trading will come across difficulties in the future.
If companies welcome this digital future with enthusiasm and an effective strategy, and we ask ourselves what is it that customers want and need to be successful, then we’ve got a good chance of leading our businesses into a new era of innovation, growth and success.
- Expert testimonies, ‘Marktzahlen Schweiz’ (Swiss market data), Thomas Lang, Carpathia
- 10 Principles of Customer Strategy, Thomas Ripsam and Louis Bouquet, strategy + business 2016
- ‘Multichannel-Leitfaden, Anspruchsvoll für den Handel. Überraschend einfach für den Kunden‘ (Multichannel Guide, Demanding for Trade, Surprisingly Simple for the Customer), Jonathan Möller, foryouandyourcustomers 2016
- ‘Filter Bubble, Wie wir im Internet entmündigt werden‘ (Filter Bubble, How we are incapacitated on the internet), Eli Pariser, Hanser 2012
- ‘Reinventing Organizations – Ein Leitfaden zur Gestaltung sinnstiftender Formen der Zusammenarbeit‘ (Reinventing Organizations – A guide to designing meaningful forms of collaboration). Frederic Laloux, Vahlen, 2015
- ‘Umsetzung der Digitalisierung – Fazit 1.0 in der neuen Welt’ (Implementation of digitalisation – Outcome 1.0 in the new world), Roman Stöger, Organisationsentwicklung (organisational development), 2017
- ‘Das kollegial geführte Unternehmen, Ideen und Praktiken für die agile Organisation von morgen‘ (The employee-driven business, ideas and practices for the agile organisation of tomorrow), Bernd Oestereich and Claudia Schröder, Vahlen, 2016
- ‘Consumer Trends for 2017 – it’s that time of year again. Here’s the deal.’ Trend Watching, 2017