Midsize Madness – What integrations your Small or Mid-Size eCommerce business needs for maximizing customer value

In my previous blog post, I had delved into the integrations for eCommerce Startups. In this post I talk about integrations pertaining to eCommerce SMBs, specifically from the perspective of evolving priorities and goals between SMBs and Startups? While the prime focus of Startups leans towards new customer acquisition, SMBs are saddled with the additional goals of customer retention and growing the AOV (Average Order Value) as well. The technologies and eCommerce integrations discussed below are some key enablers that go a long way to help achieve the above goals.

Loyalty Programs

Apart from providing a reason for customers to buy from your eCommerce website, Loyalty Programs also provide a lot of customer data - both transactional and behavioral. The data collected via the loyalty programs helps segment customers, customize rewards, and also helps personalize the user experience in the eCommerce website.

Loyalty programs could make use of or implement Gift-Cards, Membership Cards, In-Store Discounts, Personalized Offers etc. The main way by which loyalty programs help the eCommerce SMB is by helping retain the existing customers. It is relatively far more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain one.

SMBs retailers who have a brick & mortar presence could use location based push notifications (using geo-fencing & beacons) to further enhance the loyalty programs. Microfencing technologies from companies like GeoMoby can help push the right messages, notifications and offers, based on the location of the customer in the retail store.

One important thing to note is that it's not just the high-value customers who are to be focused for loyalty programs; they should cover the entire spectrum of customer segments for enhanced growth.

Loyalty programs can also be extended with Referral programs where customers earn points or benefits (like discounts) for every referral that successfully results in a purchase.

Re-Targeting / Re-Marketing

Retargeting is one of the ways by which remarketing can be done. Other ways include - Mobile Ads, Mobile App Engagements, Mobile App Install Ads, Interactive Ads, etc. Retargeting usually involves following up on a registered customer by various channels (email, mobile etc.) when he drops out of his cart.

With today's technology, cart dropouts or even site dropouts can be now re-targeted to win back the customer even if the customer has not entered his email ID in the eCommerce website. Google Adwords, Facebook, and Twitter are some of the retargeting platforms that can be leveraged for this purpose. If Google Analytics is already being used in the website, then remarketing can be easily enabled right from within the Audiences section under the Remarketing option in the Admin page. In Facebook, you'd need to create "Custom Audiences" and while in Twitter you'd need to create "Tailored Audiences" under the "Audience Manager" section.

Retargeting can also be used in conjunction with Loyalty Programs to target loyal customers with tailored offers, invite-only / VIP deals, etc. For other casual visitors, retargeting is mostly effective if done quickly; this is because "Recency" of the customer is an important factor. It is also the first parameter of the RFM model (Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value) that is widely used to segment eCommerce customers.

Tools such as Grey Ferret provide customer segmentation features based on the RFM model that can be used to create highly effective & customized segmentations of user profiles based on the needs of eCommerce companies.

Cross-Selling & Up-Selling

The motive for cross-selling & up-selling should be to help customers "understand" the value that they'd get by considering the accessories and alternatives. Once the customers perceive value, they become "returning customers". Thus providing a better customer experience using cross-selling & up-selling helps improve customer loyalty as well; apart from increasing the AOVs. It is to be remembered that the primary goal should be improving the customer experience and not increased AOVs.

Cross-Selling can be used to sell products related to the previous purchase done by the customer for e.g., A retargeting email could be sent to a customer with an offer on accessories for the mobile phone purchase he made earlier.

In Up-Selling, it is recommended that the upsells are not abhorrently costlier than the original product. Up-Selling should also take into the customer personas/segmentations that are created using tools like Greyferret.

While cross-selling & up-selling are great tools, they can also end up spoiling the customer experience and reducing AOVs if overdone. To ensure that cross-selling & up-selling work effectively, the recommendations should be fine-tuned to display

  1. Only relevant products w.r.t the original product
  2. Only products within a reasonable price range
  3. Only products that are relevant to the customer's segment

Omnichannel Features

Omnichannel retailing is seen as a natural progression from Multichannel retailing. What Omnichannel has in addition to Multichannel is the integration of all channels' digital touch points to seamlessly share information and to provide a consistent experience across all channels.

Some of the features that are considered useful by customers are - Email discounts, Flexibility in ordering, fulfillment, & returns (online, in-store), Cross-channel inventory display, Smartphone based self-checkout, etc. Apart from these, one of the reasons why eCommerce SMBs should pay attention to omnichannel capabilities is to be able to provide a personalized experience that is consistent across all channels. This will also greatly help in delivering the brand experience effectively.

One of the biggest challenges to omnichannel implementation is the difficulty in uniquely identifying the customer across multiple channels. Some of the ways by which this problem can be mitigated are by means of - Loyalty programs (using Membership Cards), and GeoLocation/GeoFencing/Micro-Location/Micro-Fencing (using Beacons & Mobile Apps),

Summing Up

Apart from the above listed integrations, it is imperative that eCommerce SMBs take a serious look at - security (PCI compliance, system/network hardening), content marketing (for SEO, brand awareness, etc.) and emerging channels (Social Media, VR etc.). Not all eCommerce SMBs are the same; so the integrations required for each of them might vary in kind and scale. And in the scenario that the scope of new integrations or upgrades is quite expansive, SMBs must also be open minded to consider a complete replatforming initiative.