Keeping up with the big guys: 10 challenges shaping retail ecommerce   

by Maarten Jansen
While most retail sectors have taken a big hit since the pandemic, the shining exception is ecommerce. Shifting to digital isn’t just good business: it’s a matter of survival. Customers have come to expect convenience and a seamless purchasing experience, and those expectations are here to stay. Fueled by fierce competition, the ecommerce landscape is evolving rapidly, and it isn’t easy to keep up. Based on our experience, here are today’s biggest challenges for online retailers:

#1 Cybersecurity  

It’s the number one enemy of ecommerce retailers: security issues that can lead to spam, viruses or data theft. Customer data is precious, and the trust customers need to part with it is priceless. Full protection is in order, and there should be no corners cut to make sure the site is safe. It’s important to get expert help to make sure servers are managed properly, data transfer is protected, verification processes are ironclad and content management systems are bulletproof. Having a strong payment system and a strong customer verification system using security features help to keep fraud in check.

#2 Meeting customer expectations

It’s a fact we’ve all come to terms with: customer expectations are higher than ever. We can thank the big players like Amazon for raising the bar on shipping and selection. So what is your average-sized ecommerce retailer to do? The answer: leverage the added value of being a smaller player and make it personal. Retailers are challenged to customize the customer experience as much as possible to stand out from the big names and build customer loyalty.

#3 High quality customer service

Yes the competition is fierce, and just offering the right product at the right price alone is not going to cut it. Customer service is another way to claim a piece of the pie. Response time is an important factor here, as is the way the customer is treated. Above all, customer service has to be highly convenient. This includes giving customers as many different ways as possible to get in touch and get the support they need. A quality chatbot can cover a lot of issues, but social media, email and phone support should also all just be a click away.  

#4 Attracting the right customer

It’s back to business basics, with a twist: who is your target audience? Not so easy these days, where understanding your target audience is more complex than it used to be. Yet understanding demographics and customer motivations is essential to targeting the right audience. This takes both adequate persona mapping on the side of the retailer as well as deep research into customer behavior to validate assumptions.  

#5 Converting leads

OK, so you’ve got a lot of site traffic. And then? Having a lot of visitors isn’t enough to keep a business going: they actually have to buy something. Understanding why this isn’t happening will make or break a company. User experience issues are crucial here: customers will become quickly frustrated with a page that won’t load properly or a button that doesn’t work. A well-functioning site is essential, but so is a company’s understanding of their position in the market, from how they score compared to the competition to brand loyalty.

#6 Shopping cart abandonment

The term alone provokes feelings of despair: so close, yet so far away! Figuring out why customers are lining up items in their cart, only to click it away is vital to ecommerce success. Time to pull out all the stops to crack the case. This can mean hiring testers and getting their feedback, making sure the checkout experience goes smoothly and doesn’t ask too much from the customer either in data or effort, and making sure customer questions are answered easily. The key word here is frictionless: finalizing that sale should simply be a breeze. If this doesn’t do the trick, there are also strategies to lure them back via smart email marketing.

#7 Digital marketing strategy

If a great ecommerce website appears in a forest and nobody is around to see it, does it make a sale? Nope. Building an effective digital marketing strategy is key to getting that much-needed traffic. This includes knowing your target audience, as well as having a deep understanding of brand communication. It’s also essential to have a plan with clear KPIs to track progress and make strategy adjustments.

#8 Inventory and fulfilment

Managing inventory and fulfilment is key to having a smooth-running ecommerce operation. Something not in stock when it’s supposed to be? We’ve got a problem, Houston. Proper analysis of sales data is essential to understanding how fast things are flying off the shelves. On the other side, the fulfilment process needs to ensure that orders are processed efficiently and customer expectations for speed of delivery are met. This is an operations issue requiring constant vigilance – as always, driven by data.

#9 Data collection  

Speaking of data, it’s safe to say that it is everything. Analyzing customer behavior and targeting customers effectively depends on how data is collected and analyzed, and AI can be a huge support in this. Data collection, storage and processing at scale is crucial for machine learning, which is also necessary to customize and personalize the ecommerce experience. The challenge is collecting data safely and preserving customers’ trust.

#10 Finding the right tech partner

Sound like a lot to juggle for ecommerce retailers? The truth is, no enterprise can do it alone. Having the right tech partner is key to building a successful ecommerce business. Whether it is the CRM system, inventory management software, or payment solution, ecommerce businesses rely on solid tech partnerships. A good tech partner knows your industry, has a great track record, and gives businesses the feeling that they truly get what they are all about.

What developments are ecommerce experts predicting for the retail landscape in 2023? We’ll publish an article about key trends for the coming year shortly, so stay tuned!

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