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3 brick-and-mortar lessons for e-commerce

3 brick-and-mortar lessons for e-commerce

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By Rob Christian, senior vice president, Retail Experience, MyWebGrocer

It's an occupational hazard within the retail sector: Lessons learned in the market are usually learned the hard way. Adding insult to injury, there is a very low margin for error, particularly when changing course in the business does not correlate with shopper demands.

The good news for grocery retailers is that decades of lessons learned via brick-and-mortar initiatives for category management and shopper marketing can be applied to e-commerce with relative ease.

So why isn't this happening at a faster pace? There are two main reasons.

First, CPG brands have been slow to react to e-commerce and have failed to make the necessary investments. Second, in an effort to react quickly to e-commerce competition such as Amazon some retailers are rushing to "band-aid" solutions, rather than building capabilities that enable a customized user experience and the ability to harvest invaluable customer data.

With that in mind, here are three basic lessons from traditional commerce that can fuel e-commerce success.

1.    Reward, surprise and delight the Customer. For brick-and-mortar, it was called the "shopper experience." In the digital age, it's called the "user experience." But the fundamentals are the same, and nothing should change when it comes to how grocers manage the process and craft their marketing strategies.

"Perimeter store" strategies deployed for physical locations can be easily mimicked for e-commerce by creating a digital version of a "store within a store." It's incumbent upon grocers to duplicate in e-commerce the same experiences consumers enjoy within the physical location, such as pet clubs, baby clubs, wine shops, cheese shops and other experiences catering to a wide swath of consumers.This can only be accomplished with a powerful and flexible e-commerce solution.  
2.    Leveraging the data. Brick-and-mortar stores, of course, provide a trove of data for retailers to analyze and leverage. But online analytics takes things to a whole new level, enabling retailers to track shopper behavior after the shopper actually purchased something. AI and machine learning add to the power of e-commerce by generating more granular data retailers can use to sharpen their customer-targeting strategies. The insights generated by this data can drive more robust shopper loyalty programs, as well.  

3.    Monetization. It's been the norm within grocery retail for many years: CPG brands will pay dearly to get an edge on competitors via assortment, promotion, display, position, and data, all of which improve consumer targeting. The monetization model for e-commerce is no different. From a practical standpoint this means electronic offers replace direct mailings; search engine optimization replaces shelf position and digital advertising replaces conventional print advertising.

CPG brands are waiting to spend on these tactics, and it's up to grocers to package and sell these capabilities. Again, in order to create opportunities for CPG brands online, grocers need a platform that can deliver. CPG brands stand to benefit by working with retailers who are providing online platforms with more sophistication where CPGs can build a powerful online presence with shoppers. Without the commitment to building out the ad/media side of things, the retailer e-commerce journey will be a lonely one, financially.

Applying brick-and-mortar lessons to e-commerce is more straightforward than one might think. What's less clear is retailers' commitment to making the changes necessary to drive online sales and expand CPG relationships. Smart retailers are taking action now to ensure they are still around in the future.


Topics: Customer Experience, eCommerce

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