The world of online retail is changing and evolving. As the nature of the internet evolves and new technologies emerge, so do the ways brands can engage with customers through digital channels.
Traditional methods of getting products into the hands of customers – like shopping malls and retail stores – are being replaced by new digital channels.
New technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and the like, make it much easier for customers to research, compare, and transact business with brands they love.
While many traditional retailers are struggling to keep up, those who embrace the changes ushered in by new technologies will have an opportunity to grow, thrive, and succeed in a new way.
To better understand how online retailers should be approaching their Big Data and what they can do with the valuable information they’re gathering, let’s look at how traditional retailers interact with customers and how new technologies like graphs can transform that experience.
Why Are Customers Researching Products Online?
The most popular and simplest form of e-commerce is searching for the product that you want and clicking on the first retailer that populates the screen. Once you’ve made a purchase at that store, you can continue searching for the product you came in originally for, and click to make another purchase, and so on.
While this process is simple and convenient, it doesn’t provide the full experience that online shoppers are looking for. For instance, say you’re searching for a dress and the first two or three results are all different brands and none of them are a happy medium between affordable and high-quality. You’ll end up choosing one that fits perfectly but costs a little too much.
If you’re a customer and you’re doing your research online, you’re likely frustrated because you don’t have the full picture of what all the different products look like, how they work, and what quality they offer. You want to have accurate information to make the right choice. You don’t want to just choose any old product that looks or claims to be good enough.
What Is A Data-Driven Approach To e-commerce?
To combat the above scenario and provide customers with the best possible shopping experience, online retailers can use a data-driven approach to e-commerce.
With a holistic view of a customer – including their demographics, psychographics, and transactional data – brands can personalize their offers to the individual and build long-lasting, trusting relationships with their customers. Through predictive analytics and in-depth research, brands can find the right products for customers based on their interests, past purchases, and other factors. This allows them to maximize the value of every conversion, while decreasing churn and increasing revenue.
This is an important concept to grasp: without a clear view of the individual customer, it’s difficult for a business to understand which products they should be selling and which ones they should avoid, putting the company at a disadvantage.
How Do Online Customers Research Products?
The way customers research products online has changed significantly in the last few years. Back in the day, people would visit a website, perhaps look at a few product images, and perhaps make a purchase if they found something they liked. Nowadays, with advanced techniques like product comparisons enabled by machine learning and natural language processing, customers can explore dozens of products at a time and make informed purchase decisions quickly.
Online customers have grown accustomed to seeing multiple options and wanting to make the right choice. When a customer finds a product that seems perfect for their needs, they don’t want to be constrained to just one option. They want to find out more about the product and make a fully-informed purchase decision.
In a world of online shopping, customers research products in many different ways. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
For years, the preferred method of customers who want to research a product was to type in the keyword, followed by the model number, and then click on the first result that came up. After that, they’d have to go back and forth with the retailer to get a better price or attempt to order the product.
While this process is still sometimes necessary due to limited availability and some vendors actively trying to hide the fact that they’re out of stock, it’s certainly not the most user-friendly experience. Especially since so much time is spent in negotiating the final price – and missing out on other products that the customer might have been interested in.
That’s why so many people are turning to comparison shopping websites. Through these platforms, customers can easily search for the product they want and get an idea of what other retailers are offering without having to go back and forth with the seller. In some cases, the comparison shopping websites will even do the searching for you and present you with a list of products that seem similar to what you want and have the best price tags attached to them. If you want a top-notch product that you’re not finding at any decent price anywhere, comparison shopping is a great place to start your search.
Not all of your research needs to take place from the comfort of your home. In some cases, customers will even visit brick-and-mortar retailers just to leave a review after they’ve made a purchase. This is especially popular amongst people who buy luxury items and want to leave an honest review in the event that someone else wants to buy the same item. In some cases, people will even leave a review after they’ve made several purchases from the same retailer.
Though this seems like a simple and obvious method of getting information, many people avoid leaving reviews because they think it’s not worth it. However, the more reviews you have, the more information you have about the product. If you’re deciding which television to buy, for example, you might want to read all the reviews because they can tell you a lot about the product’s quality, reliability, and even how it affects the sound quality, depending on which one you select.
Demographics And Tracking
Online retailers can also glean valuable information from customer’s demographics and digital footprints. Through these platforms, they can get a sense of the kinds of products their customers want and need, as well as how to market and sell those products to the right audience. For example, if you run a clothing store, you might want to look into the demographics of your customers to find out what styles they want and need and what types of products you should be stocking.
Each of these methods of getting information has its benefits and its disadvantages. While comparison shopping websites and reviews can help customers make better decisions about what products they want and need, sometimes they can leave out important details that might sway a customer one way or the other. Additionally, leaving a review or posting on a comparison shopping website can sometimes be time-consuming, depending on the amount of information you want about the product.
What Can Online Retailers Do With This Data?
With all of the different ways that customers are researching products online, what can online retailers do with this data?
Well, for starters, they can segment the data so they have a clear idea of what is and isn’t working for certain products. With this information, they can make informed decisions about what products to pursue, drop, or modify, based on actual, individual customer behavior. Additionally, through advanced techniques like artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can increase the efficiency of their customer acquisition and conversion processes, ultimately increasing revenue.
All of this would be useless if customers couldn’t find exactly what they’re looking for, however, which is why brands often end up in a never-ending cycle of trial and error, resulting in constant customer churn and unproductive resources. With a data-driven approach, this is no longer necessary because informed decision making is possible, resulting in happier customers and increased revenue.
This data can also be used to develop better marketing and sales strategies, one which utilizes both traditional methods like TV ads and expensive magazine spreads, as well as more innovative platforms like SEO, social media ads, and email marketing campaigns, taking into account what is and isn’t working for certain products.
Whether you’re a business owner, a marketer, or somebody who just wants to understand the world of Big Data and how it can affect their business, everybody needs to understand what is and isn’t working for their business.