As E-Commerce Grows in Influence, Marketers Must Evolve to Stay Competitive


e-commerce-holiday-retailRetail online commerce sales are predicted to increase significantly as a percent of overall retail sales in the next five years.  In a report titled “US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2015”, Forrester Research predicts that US online sales in the 2015 holiday period will grow by 11 percent over online sales realized in 2014.  Overall, Forrester cites online to be 10 percent of non-food retail sales.  Moreover, researchers at the New York University Stern School of Business, in a study sponsored by IBM named  “Retail 2020” , are more bullish, describing ecommerce (online) as continuing to challenge the business model for most brick and mortar retailers and predicts online commerce sales will reach $500B or 20 percent of non-food retail sales, a 100 percent increase, by 2020.

It’s reasonable to assume that if your online sales are not growing as fast as the market, you will be losing overall share. With 2016 quickly approaching, now is the time to look at what you can do to improve the growth rate of your brands’ online sales.

As you consider how to maintain and grow your share of the online commerce market, here are four key areas to re-evaluate and one crucial action you can take to more fully leverage your web, mobile and social commerce sales.

1. Better leverage email to significantly increase traffic to e-commerce channels

Most retailers acknowledge email as the single-most effective tool for driving traffic to e-commerce.  How well are you utilizing this tactic?  Are you leveraging email for a continuous dialog with the customer based on the actions they take or simply using it to blast product offers?  What do you know about your customer and how well are you using data about them to drive interactions?  Have you integrated data about customer demographics, preferences, behaviors and purchases into a central repository? Do you know when and in which channels they shop within your brand?  If you capture all that data about the customer and transform it into a continuously updated dynamic customer profile, your email cadence and content will become timely and your interactions will become meaningful dialog vs. one-way messaging.  As your customers’ positive experience with your brand grows, so will repeat online sales.

2. Improve the relevancy of online offers

Smart marketers understand that consumers take a journey when interacting with your brand and each person’s journey is unique.  Your challenge is to create offers that resonate with every customer at each step along their journey when interacting with your brand.  Depending on the capabilities offered by your marketing technology, it is possible to create a rules-based framework for interaction, and an optimized response to customer actions which enables you to respond at the appropriate time and with the appropriate offer.  While gauging the appropriate time is dependent on the technology, creating the best personalized offer is completely dependent on leveraging deep insight about your customer.  This is only possible through the capture and transformation of the customer data that helps pinpoint where the customers are on that journey.

3. Better utilize mobile to exponentially increase online sales

Mobile commerce offers the tremendous potential for increasing online sales because it allows customer offers to be localized, personalized and easy to transact.   The immediacy of mobile requires not only the most up-to-the-minute data, but the ability to leverage it in real time.  This can only be accomplished with the type of rich, multi-channel dynamic customer profile outlined earlier.

4. Leverage social interactions to increase online sales

Social channels, even without a direct link to sales, are a critical component of brand advocacy, online reviews and recommendations. Few would deny that the shopping experience is becoming an online social experience that can greatly influence a sale, particularly for those customers who shop online almost exclusively.  Leveraging social data to tap into that journey is becoming a requirement for marketers who need to rapidly grow online sales. Social can strongly influence the offers they make and the channels they select for communication.  Adding social data as part of a rich, dynamic customer profile is becoming mandatory.

To succeed in this transformative age of digital marketing, marketers must:

  • collect and transform their customer data into an ever-evolving, dynamic view.
  • continuously collect that data from all sources of customer information – anytime and anywhere.
  • leverage the customer’s profile to inform the offers, cadence and channels that optimize interactions with them during the lifetime of their customer journey.

Harnessing your data is a transformational action and necessary to keeping pace with the growth of online sales.  Where are you in the journey toward that 360-degree, dynamic customer view?

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