Consumer technology merchants face a challenging online retail environment. Amazon and Walmart are battling for primacy as the price leader. Technology manufacturers using those channels are forced to sell their products for less profit — or none at all.
Most brands now have a direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel, and that’s a good thing; however, it’s critical they give online customers a compelling reason to pay a little extra to buy from them directly. Failure to do so will cost the brand customers and profits. While brands will always lose some customers on price, there’s no reason they should lose them on experience.
Here are some ways brands can leverage their advantages over retailers to improve the direct-to- consumer online buyer experience:
Take Control Of The Buying Experience
These days, consumers expect and deserve an effortless online shopping experience. By creating a white-glove brand experience through their own websites, companies have complete control over the buying journey, and statistics show that consumers take notice. Industry sources indicate that people are about three to five times more likely to purchase directly from a brand’s website rather than a retailer’s site.
Learn From Business Intelligence
Our experience tells us that the vast majority of consumers research a product on the manufacturer’s website before making a purchase decision. With a concierge service model online, there’s no reason for a brand not to convert those browsers to a sale. If a company successfully does this, it will not only boost profits, but it will also gain valuable data and insights into shopping trends and preferences that it can use to further personalize and improve the buying journey moving forward, promoting repeat purchases and ultimately brand loyalty.
Provide More Product Options
As the manufacturer, brands can provide customers with an array of product choices no retailer could come close to. Brands can offer every possible product combination, model, size or color, whereas a retailer is limited to what it has in stock. The possibilities for brands are limitless.
Master The Brand Story
With the array of digital tools available, sophisticated brands have become adept narrators of their unique stories. From content and video to social campaigns, brand managers have the prerogative to be endlessly creative in telling and owning their brand story. A fully fleshed out, seamless customer buying experience is an important supporting element of that brand story.
Create An Unparalleled Brand Experience
It’s not uncommon for consumers to say the average brand doesn’t understand them as an individual. Manufacturers can combat this disconnect by creating an e-commerce buying experience that showcases the company’s unique brand identity. For manufacturers known for direct e-commerce practices like easy product returns or helpful online chat services, that superior level of support becomes part of their brand identity.
Over the past several years, brands have been diving into direct-to-consumer channels because they know it’s possible to balance their channel mix. As these brands step up to the plate, creating a unique online shopping experience, they also enjoy the benefits to their bottom line and longer term relationships with their customers. Other brands have done a cursory job, providing an e-commerce channel on their site, but do not take it to the level of truly owning the customer relationship. These brands under-deliver their e-commerce solution at their peril. At best, customers may buy their product from Amazon or Walmart, but in the worst-case scenario, customers abandon the sale altogether or buy from a competitor.
For brands to survive in this fierce online environment, they must give consumers a compelling reason to pay a little more and buy directly from them. That requires strong, backend technical support paired with a seamless, effortless, white-glove shopping experience — an experience that demonstrates how the customer relationship is truly valued.
James Gagliardi is solution innovation VP at Digital River, a global provider of commerce-as-a-service solutions.