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Technology & Engineering, CX & Design June 17, 2021

Redefining innovation in e-commerce

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Business innovation means making core changes that lead to growth. It’s not making change for change’s sake, it’s about creating new value. Contrary to popular belief, innovation doesn’t always have to mean you’re the first mover and doesn’t always need to be public-facing. When this concept is applied to e-commerce, the opportunities to innovate are endless.

What is innovation?

Business innovation can be applied anywhere from within the supply chain to advertising, and post-purchase touchpoints. It’s about adapting existing and introducing new processes, ideas, services, or products to address challenges, increase efficiency and, often, to boost the bottom line. 

Innovation is personal, as what may be innovative to one business won’t hold the same meaning for another. A company’s roadmap to innovation must reflect its operations, scale, ambitions and customers’ needs or preferences. Opportunities should always be monitored and evaluated to determine what changes will deliver the greatest impact. Whenever your business is in its digital maturity, it’s imperative to keep moving forward to keep pace within your industry and retain market value. 

Business innovation and agility is the backbone of providing the ultimate customer experience (CX), which are the biggest competitive differentiator in today’s digital-first landscape across all B2B and B2C verticals. With this in mind, consider what’s holding you back. How can you optimise your supply chain, advance your CRM to offer greater personalisation or fine-tune the fulfilment process? Each of these can be areas of innovation for e-commerce companies. 

Breaking barriers in e-commerce

The future of digital commerce will be dominated by CX and for businesses to compete, they must provide a seamless experience across all touchpoints. Undergo a customer journey mapping process to examine all micro brand interactions and incrementally make improvements that will ultimately encourage repeat customers. Points of friction turn people away, whereas, reliable platforms can help to build brand preference and win points on the trust barometer. 

Trickling innovation into e-commerce with the aim of improving the user experience has proven to have a big impact. To avoid common faux pas, consider making these improvements to your platform:

  • Optimise for mobile: Mobile e-commerce sales are expected to account for 54% of total e-commerce sales in the UK this year, and smartphone shoppers are extra critical of negative experience: 62% said they’re unlikely to return. Improve the mobile user experience by integrating with digital wallets and messaging services, shortening the path to purchase and improving the readability of content by using less text and more visuals, including product videos. 
  • Simplify returns: 84% of shoppers reject retailers that deliver a poor returns experience. Make the returns policy visible on your website and streamline the process by sending pre-printed labels or QR codes. To make the process less cumbersome, give shoppers options to post their parcel with multiple carriers or drop off in-store. Automate the process in the backend to avoid errors and communicate the returns journey to the customer.
  • Improve site speed and reduce errors: Every second a consumer spends waiting for a webpage to load increases their frustration. And if they receive an error message after waiting, their e-commerce experience is completely ruined. What’s more, if this happens during the payment process, the consumer starts doubting how much they can trust your store. Audit your storefront regularly for performance issues and continuously test and optimise.

The above points may come across as less innovative on the surface, but after they’re implemented, and you dig deeper into the impact they’re having on your business, you’ll be able to see innovation in full flight. Creating a solid foundation is required before getting really creative and expanding your platform with new technologies. 

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Unlocking access to exclusive experiences

Access to first-party data is essential to fuel next-level innovation, and will become even more apparent as we move into a cookie-less world. Businesses must create a value exchange that’s weighted in equal measure, where customers are willing to hand over their personal details for a heightened brand experience. For example, Dept created an interactive quiz for Lyst, a global fashion marketplace. The ‘Discover your Fashion DNA’ campaign was cleverly designed to keep users engaged as they marked preference-based product selections. While Lyst learnt more about its customers to increase the relevance of product offerings, users got to participate in a fun and immersive experience as well as learn something about themselves, striking the perfect value exchange. 

As customers dip in and out of e-commerce product pages, social media, blog, online marketplaces and physical stores, technology is being implemented to gain a single view of customers across multi-channel platforms. Customer data platforms offer an ideal solution for brands to recognise, track and monitor behaviour. The software brings all of the information you’ve gathered about your customers across multiple platforms into one database, enabling businesses to better understand their customers. 

Brand membership can allow for even deeper segmentation. In 2020, Adidas launched a digital festival called Creators Club Week linked to its loyalty program. Over seven days millions of members signed up, gaining access to a curated program of digital experiences, featuring exclusive drops of over 70+ limited-edition shoes. Global icons made appearances, talking about important topics tied to sustainability, and there were over 30 surprise raffles with unique prizes signed by the likes of World Cup winner Paul Pogba. Through this, Adidas developed an engaged community on its platform; giving the brand insight into what’s being bought, when, and patterns for content consumption. And through its cohorts, Adidas is able to test new product concepts and incorporate feedback prior to full production runs. This direct brand, consumer relationship adds tremendous value to both sides, influencing better product development and powering personalisation strategies.

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Immersive commerce is transformative

Multi-experience commerce is leading the future of retail, designed to satisfy consumers who are constantly on the lookout for new ways to interact with brands and products. By integrating immersive technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) into existing e-commerce stores, the shopping experience becomes more intuitive, friendly, and enjoyable. It minimises time researching features and removes uncertainty from decision-making. The capability to digitally ‘try before you buy’ adds convenience and cost savings, reducing returns, as the customers can better judge if purchases match their needs.  

Enabling consumers to visualise products in their intended setting has been a game-changer for digital-native brands that don’t have a physical storefront. Online homeware and furniture retailer MADE.com has unleashed AR capabilities across its e-commerce website and app, bringing the majority of its product catalogue to life through a new dimension. The release of its VR-powered virtual apartment takes this experience one step further. Shoppers can move freely around four rooms and click on any items they’d like to look at closer or purchase. The immersive showroom allows customers to view products from every angle, using their laptop or a Google Cardboard headset. The brand has also introduced an AI-powered image search tool dubbed “Shop Your Photos”, hosts creative mood boarding workshops and is expanding its virtual appointment proposition. MADE.com’s adoption of new technology bolsters its digital-first approach. Its ability to host all of this functionality on one centralised brand hub creates a multi-experience centre to explore, simplifying the user journey and streamlining data capture. 

Innovating over social media with AR filters can be a great tactic to generate awareness and reel customers in but if the e-commerce site doesn’t match, brands risk accumulating a high bounce rate. The best experiences work in tandem. To take another example from MADE.com, the release of its VR showroom was supplemented on Instagram via a special AR filter. By switching to selfie mode, users were virtually placed inside the space to explore each room in 360º. It wasn’t the main attraction, but it certainly added to the experience. 

Adopt a test and learn approach

Innovation isn’t a box you can tick, it’s a part of business strategy that’s always evolving. Innovation often starts from within a business and works its way outward to deliver a positive customer experience. By introducing new ways of working and connecting departments with technology, businesses are more equipped to recognise synergies and make changes that improve processes, enabling them to get ahead of potential industry disruption. 

Creating an internal mindset that welcomes change ensures your business is positioned to pivot, quickly, and thrive. Start your strategy by auditing internally, researching what others have tried and tested, and taking on board their learnings. Remembering that innovation isn’t always about starting anew will serve as valuable insight. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail, take innovation in strides. If something isn’t taking off immediately or as planned, pick apart the concept, re-spin it and try it again. 

The more you’re able to test, launch and learn, the more chances you’ll have of success. Innovation can have an immediate impact, and also fuel long-term growth through shaping brand perception, attracting talent and opening new revenue streams. 

We’re here to help, contact us to discuss how our team can assist your business in launching or accelerating its innovation journey. 

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