Many retailers are regrouping after disappointing holiday sales. While the numbers were lower for many traditional retailers, that only paints half of the picture.
E-commerce sites are continuing to gain market share as shoppers move from the store to the computer. According to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, U.S. retail e-commerce sales increased 15.6% in Q3 2016 over Q2 2016. One of the biggest sites to capitalize on this trend is Amazon. According to Internet Retailer, Amazon captured more than half of 2016 holiday sales. Retailers are seeing a shift in how and when consumers shop and what they expect from sites.
When it comes to e-commerce it seems to be Amazon vs. everyone else. Amazon’s dominance is well documented; they have more than 300 million active users who rely on the site for everything from everyday essentials to TVs. In addition to changing the shopping experience, Amazon has changed shopper expectations.
Amazon’s customers have come to expect free and fast shipping, detailed product descriptions, and thorough customer reviews. This leaves traditional ecommerce sites struggling to compete and match the high bar Amazon has set. While traditional retailers have an uphill battle, there are several ways that brands can entice shoppers to gain an edge. Here are seven tips to not only compete, but win against Amazon.
Fill the Product Page with Details:
In our most recent survey of 1,000+ consumers, insufficient product information topped consumer irritations both pre- and post-purchase. More than 43% of shoppers were irritated by poor product descriptions when researching products. A product not meeting expectations was cited by 21% of shoppers as another top post-purchase irritation, tied with size and fit. Retailers and brands must comprehensively describe the product and/or service. If selling apparel, improve product descriptions by including fit and size information as part of a review form.
Cultivate trust through authentic and transparent reviews
Customers won’t typically be swayed by any one review, positive or negative. Average star ratings allow shoppers to get a sense of the overall customer experience, with nearly two-thirds of shoppers citing reviews as ‘very important’ or ‘important’ aspects of their purchase decisions. Shoppers will go to Amazon if they don’t find enough reviews for the products they are considering.
Use Reviews and Q&A to improve products and information:
Reviews and Q&A give brands and retailers a direct line to consumer feedback. Allowing shoppers to ask questions helps to make sure you are meeting their expectations and they are getting exactly what they signed up for. This takes some of the risk out of online shopping. Reviews can also alert the brand or retailer to flaws in a product that can be fixed to satisfy consumers.
Add Consumer Submitted Videos and Images to Product Pages:
Ask customers for images and videos and display them on the product and category pages: 88% of consumers specifically look for visuals such as photos or videos submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase. Allow purchasers the opportunity to submit their own images to curate content from real customers—meeting customer demands for more information and managing purchase expectations.
Welcome Negative Feedback:
Shoppers are suspicious of a squeaky clean rating and want to be trusted to make their own judgments on others’ bad experiences. Of consumers, 82% specifically seek out negative reviews and consumers are most likely to purchase a product when its average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. Accept the negative feedback and take steps to correct it publicly when it makes sense. Use negative reviews to improve product descriptions and to improve poor performing products.
Redefine Loyalty and Reward Advocates:
Consumers who are passionate about a brand or product are highly valuable. Ease and loyalty top the list of reasons why consumers choose to start shopping on a retailer or brand website, with 48% stating it as the top reason. These loyalists will not only purchase on the site, they will be brand advocates willing to answer Q&A and provide detailed product reviews. Amazon’s Vine program identifies loyalists not by spend, but by content generation, offering free samples to members to write reviews. Identify advocates through both content generation and by spend. Of consumers, 33% want free products as a reward for loyalty. Retailers and brands should offer samples to generate reviews, photos, and images. Take this a step further and identify content from verified buyers or associated with free samples, which shoppers cite as the most important factor in building trust.
Leverage physical stores:
Many retailers have assets that Amazon is only starting to build: physical stores. Retailers and brands should leverage physical stores not only as a revenue channel, but also as a way to display and drive content. In its Seattle area bookstore, Amazon displays star rating and review excerpts for books using simple shelf tags. Brands can also include reviews in their mobile app to influence the in-store experience. Retailers can generate reviews from in-store purchases by emailing loyalty program members post-purchase, asking them to contribute reviews, photos, and videos.
Matt Moog is CEO of PowerReviews