The current COVID-19 crisis has created significant challenges to businesses no-one planned for or could think of in the beginning of this year. It forced them to find creative solutions to continue operating and fighting for survival in a matter of days. Of course, not all companies were impacted the same way, but those who had a digital experience were better positioned than others in responding to customers shifting massively to buying online. But even though, surge in demands, and disruption of supply chains created cracks in e-commerce and demonstrated the lack of integrated strategies between the digital and physical commerce.
So, how do you make the most of this situation moving forward?
Whether your company is using basic e-Commerce to supplement the physical presence or looking to build more robust/new capabilities, there are lessons learned from the COVID-19 and opportunities to seize. So, where to begin? What factors require consideration? What steps need to be taken to deploy or re-deploy eCommerce? How to introduce and manage change?
1. Revisit your Strategy
Based on the impact of Covid-19 on your business, revisit your strategy and take a long-term view, factoring in potential new threats, to build agility and to be more responsive to market changes. Conduct a competitive analysis to understand your market opportunities and how best to exploit them to revector where your intended market positioning should land.
Then obtain an understanding of your customers’ needs and desired buying behavior considering their new habits (The shift to buying online is here to stay). A customer-centric approach is more important than ever.
Ask yourself about the new role e-Commerce can play in your strategy moving forward and what level of integration of offline and online activities you should have. Assess the gaps between your company’s current eCommerce resources and performance capabilities and the desired strategic objectives.
Define the eCommerce requirements based on your recent experience from the current crisis; limited scalability of the eCommerce platform, lack of integration in supply chain activities, customer support flooded with requests and complaints etc. Also think about how you might better meet or exceed your customers' expectations in the future. This spans everything from your website content management, search and navigation, customer service and sales tools, personalization, product information management, order management and all the business user tools. Understand the solution marketplace in line with your requirements.
Establish a phased roadmap to first lay the proper foundation, selecting the required platform to integrate to the current systems, building on expanding / evolving site functionality, and then having a plan of continual optimization of the user experience.
Most importantly, a plan must also be instituted for change management across the organization, driven from the leadership on down. Misalignment can lead to competing priorities putting at risk the overall strategy and low adoption of even the best solutions.
2. Design the Customer Experience
In designing an optimal and a reliable customer experience, it is imperative to carefully understand the customer journey and to provide a solution that minimizes friction across the touchpoints of your company.
For true omni-channel commerce, the system design should enable a flexible foundation that enables one view of the following information across all touchpoints: Customers, Pricing, Product, Promotions, Orders and Inventory.
The flow of this information across systems enables a seamless user experience for customers whether they start the transaction online, on the phone with a salesperson or at a physical location. It provides channel flexibility. Sales and service representatives will need to understand the overall profile and purchase history with the customer to be able to provide personalized service.
A frictionless customer shopping experience makes it as easy as possible for customers to find and buy what they are looking for. Search and navigation are essential in helping the customers find what they are looking for with as little effort as possible.
The customer experience does not begin and end on the site and at the point of purchase. After orders have been placed, order management capability must support the ability to get the products to the customer as efficiently as possible. Supply chain, and fulfillment processes must be factored into the entire customer journey.
3. Focus on Execution
When it comes to implementation, do not try to ‘boil the ocean’ in the initial project with every possible feature and function. eCommerce system implementations projects are best done in phases to allow for organizations to be able to absorb the change happening to their business processes. One of the biggest gaps in ecommerce today is a lack of integrated processes that link together marketing, sales, logistics and IT to deliver optimum performance. In a quasi-agile methodology, breaking these projects down into sprints allow for better collaboration with all stakeholders involved, ensuring that adjustments are made in scope along the way in line with evolving business priorities.
Knowing that the initial phases are involved in laying a foundation, be sure to temper expectations from other key stakeholders regarding the immediate business results. These are enterprise programs that must be seen through to completion in a crawl, walk, run approach.
Ensure that this project is not being developed in isolation from the rest of the organization. Ensure that the stakeholders from the traditional business models are involved in the project and are included in the change being introduced at the end of the project. Ensure that those stakeholders are trained and comfortable with the solution well before launching to production.
The launch of your ecommerce platform is simply the first step. Unlike other systems, the eCommerce landscape is continually changing along with customer demand. Systems and organizations need to continually analyze and optimize the user experience to optimize growth.
Commerce systems are organic. Changes come fast to the market, and those companies that embrace this change will foster a test and learn approach as the future is not set. There are high rewards of rapid growth potential for those who embrace all that eCommerce has to offer.
Effective change management to drive adoption represents a far greater challenge over technology.
4. Align Metrics with Business Objectives
The first month of operation of the new Commerce site should have a normalization period, paying extra attention to the site in production. Despite ample user acceptance testing prior to go-live, it is always good to ensure that real customer scenarios work to plan. This is also the part of the evolution where the site merchandisers are learning the tools and experimenting with producing content.
Typically, after the first month, it is time to accelerate traffic generation to the site through increased marketing, drive conversions and get the system producing some real revenue.
Having the right marketing and analytics tools in place (and knowledge of how to use them) will allow you to continually improve on the personalized customer experience and performance of e-commerce units like traffic and site usage metrics, marketing metrics, financial metrics and others performance metrics.
One last thought
It is obvious, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the global economy in an unprecedented way and will change the way we do business and compete for the next decade.
Companies that choose to accelerate their digital transformation will capitalize based on these fundamental changes and will be better positioned; but the ones that won’t adopt the new ways might not survive. Contact us to discuss with our experts!
This article was written in collaboration with Pivotree