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How E-commerce Growth Stems From a Customer-Centric Approach

What’s pushing e-commerce growth in the modern era? We already know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for brands and retailers anymore. Gone are the days when ‘the right store on the right street’ was the only insight needed. The growth of online has opened up a plethora of opportunities to reach consumers, but equally, is also making the basket journey more complex. It is therefore becoming more difficult for brands to stand out from the crowd and capture attention and loyalty from customers. The secret to this is developing and maintaining a customer-centric approach when focussing on digital growth.

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Customer Focus and the Drivers of Change in the Modern World of E-commerce Growth

Sebastian Hamann, founder and co-CEO of Shopware, speaking at their recent Community Day,  gave some insight into what’s driving change, and outlined three pillars of change to consider. The first is behavior – as generations age and evolve so do their values and interests. An example of this is the rising interest in sustainability. A recent study from Deloitte showed that 32% of all consumers are highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

More than this, 28% of consumers have stopped buying certain products altogether due to ethical or environmental concerns. Not having a stance on such an important consumer trend is no longer an option and brands need to address these concerns with their products and processes, as it will help build a better connection with the consumer by aligning with similar values. 

The second and third pillars are business model changes and shifts in brand awareness.

Consumption today is shifting towards access to products and services rather than ownership. This threatens traditional business models and forces brands to modernize them so that they remain relevant to today’s consumers. On top of this, they must ensure they remain front of mind with consumers. This requires deeper thinking into how to better connect to consumers, maintain that relationship, and build a more meaningful and personalized experience that keeps them coming back.

Evolving Customer Focus Through Flexibility

The link between all three of these pillars of change is the consumer. Brands must primarily focus on a consumer-centric approach, truly understanding their needs and values and marrying this with their brand offering. By doing this they can create a perfect partnership between brand and consumer, fitting seamlessly into their life and where possible even improving it and making it easier. 

Gaining loyalty and the subsequent effect on the value of those customers (often calculated as a metric in itself – Customer Lifetime Value – CLV)   is what all brands strive to achieve. A brand wants the consumer to think of them as the only viable option, and they also want to ensure the customer recognizes they are getting the best value for the duration they are using their product. Focussing on a customer-centric approach is the best route to maintain this – but it requires flexibility. This is because the closer the brand gets to its customer base, the more it needs to adapt and expand the customer experience in line with those customer needs, and delivering this technically requires platforms to be pliable and extensible. It is no surprise that Open Source platforms tend to be more flexible and customizable, and therefore lend themselves well to this kind of challenge.

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A Customer Focussed Business in Practice

There are many ways brands can drive loyalty and customer lifetime value through a customer-centric approach. The first entry point for many consumers, which turns them from a browser to a customer,  is to purchase your product. Let’s say for a children’s brand, this could be purchasing bottle sterilizing equipment for a child. Once this transaction is complete the brand needs to keep the consumer engaged, and needs to give the consumer another reason to return and offer a continuing value proposition to them. It could be via offering valuable exclusive content like videos or tips on decorating a nursery or keeping your child entertained. Through this, brands can develop trust, which is after all the key ingredient of loyalty and customer focus, as well as providing multiple routes for this customer (and other actual and potential customers) to revisit.

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 Brands should think about how they can expand their offering beyond the traditional product; they should consider what else the consumer might need. If your customer has just had a baby and bought baby equipment, they might invest time researching for a baby carrier. Retailers can stand out by taking the hassle out of this by launching an advice service or guided experiences to help them make the right decision. With flexibility, brands can go even further,  – consider that many baby products, like the carrier, are only needed by parents for a maximum of a few months. Exploring rental options for certain products could rank highly with customers that are looking to save on large upfront costs. It is also another example of a brand pivoting away from a traditional ownership business model and moving towards an ‘access’ model for the modern age. 

Brands should consider who is buying your products and services too. The majority of consumers for childrens’ brands are parents – and we all know that the day-to-day life of a new parent can be exhausting. Delivering those extra benefits and rewards to customers to make them feel special, such as a discount for local relaxation classes that can be booked in-store too, can not only result in additional revenue but more importantly can turn a transacting customer into a brand advocate. 

Operating with empathy, and putting the customer at the heart of your service, is the best way to drive loyalty and keep them returning to you. This works across almost all sectors and is a strategy that can be adapted to new scenarios time and time again.

Customer Focus Is Success

In today’s ever more competitive market successful brands need a clear, detailed view of their target customer and must understand the trends, habits and pressures which shape their actions. Equally, they need to appreciate the broader contextual drivers of change. Everything starts with the needs of the customer, and the most successful retailers are those who understand this, and are flexible enough to be able to build a compelling and lasting offering from this understanding.  

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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