FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday 1st December 2008 – Online consumers in 2008 continued to spread the word in terms of their shopping experiences using online reviews, blogs and message boards. Indeed the brand opportunities of social sites such as Facebook is set to continue further to a recent report by ComScore stating that Facebook has now overtaken the BBC to become the UK’s most visited website.
However, many online retailers throughout 2008 continued to ignore their online customer service levels which led to negative brand impact both in terms of brand loyalty and ultimately on sales. The Society for New Communications Research said in a recent survey that 90% of all customers choose firms based on previous customer care experience. This experience could well have included important factors such as free delivery, continued communication of offers via focussed e-mail marketing campaigns and good old fashioned surveys.
As the continued growth in social media highlights – people are keen to have their say in their chosen brands. E-Strategy, one of the UK’s leading online retail marketing specialists predict that both these factors will need to be addressed by online retailers in 2009 in order to maintain customer acquisition and loyalty.
Eddie Bent, Managing Director at E-Strategy explained, “2008 has created many opportunities for the online retail sector and we have continued to see an average uplift in consumer purchases of 25-30% for the majority of our clients. The online marketing and Search Engine Optimisation processes have played a fundamental part in this success as has our continued support to improve customer service, improve online sales opportunities and streamline ordering processes.
A recent report stated that the average shopping cart abandonment rate is about 50%* which represents a huge potential loss of sales. Whilst it can be expected that every website visitor will ultimately convert into a sale; online retailers need to analyse their ordering processes constantly to ensure that the buying process is as intuitive as possible.
2009 is set to be a year where social networks will continue to drive sales and investment through advertising revenues, publishers and news sites alike are changing their models to meet the demands and opportunities offered.
Clare Rayner of ARC-Retail, a leading UK retail consultancy who providing consulting services to the UK retail, wholesale, leisure, hospitality and CPG industry sectors added that e-tailing was possibly one of the more optimal routes to market, both on the pure profitability and “green” points of view. It is well publicized that retail rentals have been spiraling upwards so pushing more sales through transactional websites is very cost effective, when it removes the need for additional store presence. Carbon footprint is becoming a consideration for the informed consumer, so could multi-channel retailing herald the new way to be green? Retailers who have an efficient fulfillment operation, and who utilize existing transport routes, are saving on the “green-costs” of operating a store and enabling consumers to save on the fuel costs of going out shopping…
But there are other less transparent costs such as the management of the reverse supply chain. It is well documented that returns through non-store based retail channels are significantly higher than in-store. The impact of this increase over recent years, as consumers have shifted their preference to the convenience of the online purchase, has lead to the increased need for reverse flow processes and practices. Whilst these are costly processes in their own right, is the cost of reverse logistics to retailer outweighed by the cost of operating stores, and in terms of both carbon footprint and hard cash? Does the low-cost front end sales process of the alternative channels to market out-weigh the higher cost of after sales service?
Adri Kraa, Head of IKEA Shop Online! explained at the ARC-Retail Conference in September this year, that having a transactional website is really no longer a matter of choice for the retailer. Adri recently undertook some studies with the Henley Management College on the benefits of customer loyalty, and the results were compelling. The levels of customer loyalty had a direct bearing on retention, conversion, frequency of visit and basket size - so ultimately to the bottom line. As he explained, the Henley study proved that Multi-Channel retailing strategies can directly improve customer loyalty, and that associated performance improvements can be measured.
Adri explained how consumers today have different expectations than they might have had in the past. Retailers who acknowledge this and who focus on fostering loyalty will be the winners. Fundamentally a Multi-channel retailing strategy could, when implemented right, enhance customer loyalty.
It is understood that the web is the source of most pre-purchase consumer research regarding product, price and promotional offers. Although a transactional website alone is not the answer to all the retailers’ prayers, it is an absolute must have in a world where visiting the shop is like visiting the show-room, to browse, experience and interact with product. The point of purchase decision itself may have taken place in store, after many hours of research on the web, but the website serves the most convenient method of transacting the sale for many consumers.
The continued convergence of online retailing and social networks in 2009 will also enable brands to continue to understand their customers’ demands across the web, handheld devices and all things digital. Steve Furminger, General Manager of the award winning bespoke website design and build agency Bluhalo added “At Bluhalo, we work with search engines, blogs, forums and all aspects of social media to help develop the online brand reputation for our clients. As Clare pointed out – a multi-channel retailing strategy is now a must have. As consumers are getting more and more web savvy it’s not just about building an attractive website. 2009 will see continued growth in key areas such as the need for good customer services and online customer satisfaction. Retailers will be more at the mercy of the message boards and forums as they will become more main stream over the next twelve months as the forward thinking brands adopt UGC as a central discussion point to their brand. Bluhalo’s team have developed a progressive digital programme in 2008 and this has included blogs and forums as a minimum as we see the digital medium offering great opportunities for retailers to improve their relationships with customers.
Moreover, the need to develop sites that are optimized for SEO still needs to be improved, we recently published an article on our website that showed that less than 30% of Fortune 500 companies in the US are search engine friendly, Those companies that do not adopt this requirement by the end of next year will find themselves at a disadvantage”
The forthcoming twelve months will see successful retailers focusing on clear purchasing paths to help convert visitors to customers, whilst empowering their customer base to be ambassadors across the plethora of message boards and networks. Continued great offers such as free postage and seasonal promotions will also help convert those who had previously “sat on the fence”. But what will become of Paid Search and the sales opportunities offered via this medium – this is still a conundrum for many as costs continue to spiral despite the brand opportunities on offer.
Notes to Editors
E-Strategy Ltd was formed in 2001 and has since worked with over 350 clients and gained over 250,000 first page positions for its clients. It’s passion to deliver quality results whilst building strong relationships with its clients has enabled its team to become one of the South West’s leading SEO and Online Marketing Agencies attracting clients from all over the UK and Europe.
Sam Gilson 0845 838 2396 email@example.com
01803 500 109
Clare Rayner 0870 803 1238 firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Furminger 01252 701111 email@example.com
*Source: Coremetrics via davechaffey.com August 2008 – courtesy of E-Consultancy
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