What Online Retailers can learn from Brick & Mortar Stores (Part II)

By David Brussin

Special to the eTail Blog

If you didn’t catch Part I of this two-part post, click here to read about key strategies to improve conversion such as testing for seamless purchase flow, content targeting, geo-targeting and customizing content for convenience. In the second part, I get into online badges, shipping offers and email/website consistency.

Badging: Badges are effective digital reincarnations of the age-old merchandising strategy of calling attention to specific products within a range of goods. Placing specific badges – such as “Top Pick,” “New,” or “Besteller” – on appropriate products on a website can lead to an increase in conversion rate, average order value and add-to-cart rate. Further, retailers can utilize innovative new tools to determine predefined thresholds that will automatically badge merchandise, without any support from IT. In a great example of “agile commerce” we now see online retailers placing “Bestseller” badges on products automatically. In other words, website content is being curated by business rules such as: “If product is one of the 10 most frequently purchased items in the past 30 days, display badge.” This enables the site to reflect rapidly evolving customer shopping habits with very little effort. As a means of content curation that can draw on sources like social media and is easily paired with targeting that leverages both online and offline metrics (for example, showing different badges to visitors from different parts of the country), badging is a very powerful implementation of a traditional marketing tool.

Segmented Shipping Offers: Shipping is a key factor in online retailing. Any business that considers offering free shipping must proceed with caution, paying close attention to the effect on both the top line and the bottom line, overall revenue and net profit. With geo-targeting it is now relatively easy for brands to test and target their shipping strategy, ensuring the highest new customer acquisition rate and largest net effect on revenue. Smart companies are constantly testing a wide range of shipping promotions that include reducing or eliminating shipping charges based on distance from warehouse, distance from competitor’s stores, and location within a particular region, metro area, county, ZIP code, or state. For example, I have seen very successful discounted shipping offers that target website visitors from locations that tend to have lower conversion rates due to the presence of brick and mortar retail competitors.

Email to Website Consistency: It is crucial for retailers to effectively leverage the valuable customer information received through their marketing efforts such as paid search, display ads and email offers. These promotions drive website traffic that is already interested in a specific message or deal (e.g. a 50% off discount or clearance sale). Retailers can maximize the benefits from these promotions by echoing – or reinforcing – the original message throughout their site. In my experience, creating a consistent online experience for the customer (from the initial promotion to site checkout) consistently produces an overall increase in conversion rate and revenue.

Understanding the Success: As consumers use the web more and more for browsing and shopping, it is crucial for businesses to refocus their marketing efforts and capitalize on the traffic driven to their website. Learning from age-old brick-and-mortar strategies, contemporary online retailers must iteratively test messaging and offers to fully understand their customers’ preferences, then customize content accordingly. Further, it is essential for brands to have the appropriate tools and metrics to effectively leverage marketing research – beyond simply seeing that a particular campaign is profitable – to understand WHY it is successful and incorporate that into cohesive online marketing strategies across all customer touchpoints.

David Brussin is the Founder and CEO of Monetate, a provider of testing, targeting and content optimization for websites.