4 Tactics E-commerce Pros Can Steal From Traditional Retailers


Outside of certain sectors (such as fashion and food), brick-and-mortar retail is all but done - and it’s well past its heyday inside those sectors. It just can’t compete with the cost-effective convenience of today’s e-commerce model.

It will never truly die however; in fact, it still has a good deal to teach us. Think about it; it’s been around in essentially the same form for a long, long, long time, and its mechanics have been tested and polished to a mirror shine.

So as big e-commerce companies look to out-innovate one another, let’s take a step back and review the classics to see what retail tricks we can flagrantly steal.

Here are 4 well-established retail tricks you should grab right away.

Keep Loyalty Rewards Simple

Retail store loyalty schemes all function in essentially the same way. Whenever a loyal customer makes a purchase, they get a discount and/or receive points that can at some point be redeemed for some kind of reward.

It’s a solid system that makes customers happier, gets them to spend more, and keeps them around for longer. So why don’t more e-commerce stores offer basic rewards, and why do those that try to implement schemes get them so consistently wrong?

I’ve seen some loyalty points vanish into nothingness somehow, and others pile up only to be considered insufficient to exchange for the most trivial item. I’ve actually yet to see an e-commerce store with what I would consider a good loyalty system, let alone a great one.

The margins may be thinner in e-commerce, sure, but you don’t need to offer heavy discounts to make loyalty rewards feel worthwhile; just make it a little cheaper so customers can get more of what they already want to get on a consistent basis.

Oh, and package them clearly. If the average customer doesn’t know how loyalty rewards work after several purchases, or doesn’t even realise there are any, someone should probably be fired.

Provide Interactive Elements

I remember visiting big retail parks as a kid and delighting in the numerous distractions dotted around the stores. Playable keyboards, “try me!” buttons, colouring books to use... I’d meander around and significantly impede my parents’ progress.

This isn’t a point specifically about children, but about how plain-ol’ entertainment can drastically extend a shopping trip; and the longer you spend on a shopping site, the more likely you are to buy something.

Now, in some ways an e-commerce site is more limited in what it can do to entertain its users. It can’t set up a big physical display for everyone to try, or provide a corner to rest in.

But in other ways, it can do so much more. It can add interactive elements: quizzes, polls, etc. It can tell stories in a visual fashion. It can offer customisable user experiences. It can even offer games specifically designed to connect customers to particular brands.

Through embracing elements that might not play directly into the sales process, you can greatly increase the level of user engagement and hold attention for much longer. This is something that Air Jordan took on when they dropped in the US - they were committed to creating a fundamentally interactive and gamified retail experience that combined social media with in-store perks. Interaction can help you bridge the offline/online gulf with ease.

Discount Extra Stock

When e-commerce first came into existence, it must have seemed a great boon that so much of the process could be hidden behind closed doors. An online-only business need never suffer the indignity of having large piles of clearly-unpopular items clog up its premises.

But in hiding their behind-the-scenes stock mishaps, plenty of e-commerce stores miss out on all the ways in which they could take advantage of them.

Consumers are eager to get maximum value for minimum expense, so when they see stock clear-outs, they smell blood in the water and have the urge to move in for the kill. This happens even if they don’t really want the items in question.

Some stores may contend that clearance sections and the like don’t fit their brands; they deal in high-quality items and don’t want to undermine that association.

That may be true in some instances, but in many others it’s entirely possible for an e-commerce business to accommodate varied customer preferences.

Carefully Direct Attention

The classic superstore layout is a thing of purchase-driving beauty. Everything from the ideal lighting and colours to the direction in which customers prefer to walk has been puzzled out over decades of experimentation.

While you obviously can’t take these tacks directly to a website (there being no physical space available), you can certainly learn from them and strive to turn your website into the perfect online retail space.

The home page is by far your best opportunity for this optimisation. Once a user clicks on a category, they’ll be sent elsewhere, and you won’t really be able to get away with intruding upon that kind of page without mightily annoying your prospective customers.

So consider the layout of your homepage, and think back to how big retailers configure their stores; essentials placed tactically around tempting items so that visitors can’t reach the former without also spotting the latter.

And remember the allure of till-adjacent candy when setting up your checkout area. Offer a low-cost item as a last-minute addition and you’ll no doubt pick up some extra sales.

Traditional retail may have been supplanted by the unstoppable march of digital technology, but the basic principles of retail really haven’t changed.

Look to the past for inspiration and you’ll be better placed to deliver an e-commerce experience that keeps your customers buying and coming back for more.

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