It goes without saying that life is getting faster. But in online retail, the issue of speed and the time it takes for shoppers to make decisions is changing more than just the pace of life. It is actually getting difficult for retailers to present the shopper with an offer before they’ve already purchased something. To move at the speed of digital time, retailers have to anticipate and be there with their offer, just as the impulse is forming.
Impulse shopping may have always been with us, but in the digital world, the time it takes to move from an impulse to a purchase, especially with one-click shopping, is making it the norm, rather than the exception. As consumers become more and more comfortable with online shopping, they are also becoming more willing to click quickly.
The challenge, then, is to anticipate. For instance, if a customer has just purchased a new pair of red shoes, other accessories may quickly follow. A red handbag, belt or scarf may suddenly seem like a good idea, as the shopper starts to assemble her outfit.
Customer data is crucial to accurate anticipation in online shopping. In a real-world shop, the salesperson is trained to look for cross-selling opportunities. Accessorizing is an obvious next move after a shoe sale. But in the online world, how do you see and seize the opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell a customer?
Data is part of the answer, but customer data must also be able to trigger rules. For instance, there might be a rule that when the red shoes are purchased, it will immediately trigger the display of ads for matching red handbags and belts. Sometimes correlations between items might lead to an action, such as the purchase of a pair of skates AND a hockey stick might trigger the presentation of other “hockey” sports equipment.
This has all become very familiar behavior for big e-commerce sites such as Amazon. But how do smaller retailers manage these kinds of tricks?
The key is to start with data integration.
Your marketing, inventory and web site systems have to be talking with one another. The very large e-commerce players can afford to have multiple systems with custom APIs and workflows to integrate them. But this is beyond most SMBs. It is better to start with something like Systum, which is built around a single database shared between the various modules for marketing, inventory and the web site.
With a single, integrated database, you can have a full perspective on your customers. Not just knowing their recent shoe purchases, but their likelihood to buy again, their price sensitivity, even their likelihood to respond to display ads on the website vs. email or social media offers.
In the ever shrinking window between when an impulse strikes and a purchase decision gets made, your goal is to be in the right place at the right time, with the right offer at the right price. That’s what successful online retail is all about — anticipation. And you need an integrated, 360° view of customer to do it well.