- Amazon is the biggest beneficiary of this trend
- Gabriel Coelho-Kostolny says that to maximize revenue, retailers should focus on delivering a beautiful experience that is also reliably fast
- SEO used to be a keyword game. But the game has changed
- One crucial and often overlooked component of the online and mobile retail experience is customer support
Despite the fact that the economy is strong and American consumers are shopping in full force, traditional brick and mortar retailers across the United States are continuing their nosedives into bankruptcy.
This so-called “retail apocalypse” began in 2016 when major retailers began shuttering their brick-and-mortar locations by the thousands. Sears has fewer than a third the number of retail stores it had ten years ago. Walmart just closed 63 Sam’s Club stores. Macy’s closed 68 stores last year and J.C. Penney closed more than 100. Payless filed for bankruptcy, and half of the malls in the U.S. are predicted to close by 2023. To date, 4,000 physical stores have been affected and another 6,800 will close in 2018 more closures than we’ve seen since the recession ten years ago.
Why? Because Americans continue to do more and more shopping online. The figure has been creeping up every year, and now consumers do more than half of their shopping online.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon is the biggest beneficiary of this trend. Morgan Stanley just predicted that Amazon could become the world’s first company worth $1 trillion and it’s already achieved more than double the market value of Walmart.
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Indeed, by 2021 Amazon is projected to make up half of the online marketplace.
Retailers may well feel like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, but all is not lost. Here are a few tips to stave off the apocalypse.
Get Seamless Across Devices
If you’re a 21st-century retailer, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you already have a website up and running that provides an amazing shopping experience for your customers regardless of whether they are using traditional desktop computers or mobile devices.
But you may not realize just how critical it is that your website loads quickly, and is easy and intuitive to use. A study from digital performance management company SOASTA found that optimal load time to achieve peak conversion and revenue ranged by device from 1.8 to 2.7 seconds. Google found that more than half of mobile site visitors will leave a page that fails to load in three seconds.
Gabriel Coelho-Kostolny, Director of Product Marketing at digital experience company Instart Logic, says that to maximize revenue, retailers should focus on delivering a beautiful experience that is also reliably fast. The website must adapt gracefully to different browsers, device types, networks and screen sizes, providing the best possible experience for every customer.
“Tools like Blue Triangle and SOASTA help retailers measure their customers’ experiences while digital experience management platforms like Instart Logic make those experiences better,” says Coelho-Kostolny. “The most important thing is that a retail site is beautiful, easy and intuitive to use, and fast we process 12 billion transactions per day, so we can see clearly that site performance and conversion are directly related.”
Get In Front Of The Right Customers
SEO used to be a keyword game. But the game has changed.
Nowadays, Google uses RankBrain, a machine-learning artificial intelligence system designed to answer queries based on search history and context instead of simple word matches. Google isn’t even using keywords as a primary directive anymore. This provides an opportunity for brands to use SEO as a marketing tool, but it requires that they are optimizing in the right way.
“Today, SEO is about finding the right customers it’s not just about showing up in the search results, but about getting your brand in front of the people who are actually looking for it,” explained Dave Chaplin, CEO of SearchDex, an SEO-optimizing agency that specializes in ecommerce. “It’s about making connections. Your website which is where your brand lives now must be SEO optimized for discovery. Think about it this way: if a brand is the way a company behaves, then 21st-century SEO is all about brand-building. It’s the first step in building trust between a product and a consumer.”
Make sure your brand is providing valuable content across the web that makes Google “find you” for customers who are seeking your products and services. In this way, a brand is being built on search more than on messaging: content can’t be king without a position in the court.
Make Support Easy and Intuitive
One crucial and often overlooked component of the online and mobile retail experience is customer support. Just as customer service is a key differentiator in brick-and-mortar retail, how a brand handles their online and mobile customer service can be a defining factor in whether or not their customer experience is succeeding.
Consumers don’t want to have to leave an app or site they’re on to call or email customer support. Instead, they want instant answers via instant chat a mode of communication they increasingly prefer to others.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that customers dread contacting support. So look for solutions like chatbots that help resolve issues in-app, via chat as quickly as possible. If you’re going to implement bots, however, ensure that they’re efficient and effective at solving problems, and have an option for customers that require deeper levels of support.
The Only Way Out Is Through
As Macbeth, Robert Frost and Jack Donaghy have all said (albeit, with different phrasings): the only way out is through. If retailers are going to survive the retail apocalypse and the Amazon takeover, they’ve got to take digital transformation seriously. The good news is there are plenty of well-tested technologies that are proven to help.
Date: Feb 13, 2018