At this week’s eTail Virtual Summit, retail innovators came together to talk about the strategies behind their biggest successes. After nearly a year of pandemic-induced changes to what eCommerce and omnichannel success looks like, there was plenty to discuss.
As part of the conference, Clyde’s CEO Brandon Gell hosted a roundtable discussion with Clyde customer and Capitol Lighting’s COO, Paul Acams. They focused on how to educate and engage customers in a competitive landscape, identifying differentiators that can drive sales.
We’ve collected the wisdom shared in that conversation here, grouped under three main questions:
- How has COVID changed how companies approach omnichannel retail, or selling in general?
- How are retailers becoming more customer-centric?
- What do people know about extended warranties, and what are their experiences with them?
How has COVID changed how companies approach omnichannel retail, or selling in general?
It’s never been more important to be selling everywhere. Paul shared that his company, Capitol Lighting, had a five-year plan for eCommerce all set up before the pandemic hit. Then they raced through that five-year plan in five months.
“‘We were prepared to [pivot] from an omnichannel experience, but not prepared for the type of growth we saw,” he said, explaining that they were able to really unlock eCommerce potential after just a three-day sprint, since they had already invested in their technology and roadmap.
“Now we’re about five years ahead, and anyone that didn’t do that is behind,” he added, noting that his company was able to capture significant market share from competitors who weren’t as prepared to make that shift.
Other timely changes to opportunities and priorities include:
- Transforming B2B sales. Shoppable eCommerce sites are still relatively new in B2B retail, said a participant who is focused on unlocking more sales in that space. What does tech-enabled selling look like in relationships that are usually maintained via personal contact? Well, it should start with creating a better user experience. “Many sites are really transactional, not designed or built with UX in mind,” shared Paul. “Conversion rates are really low because it doesn’t go through a story, answer their questions, or follow customer flow.” There’s an opportunity for retailers to help their distributors with educational resources and marketing materials.
- Standardizing pathways. For companies who work with dozens of manufacturers or distributors, creating one-off processes for each is a pain. “Where you have a lot of different distributors, the only way to do it in a scalable way is for them to all do it the same [way, even if they] give you information slightly differently,” said Brandon, who noted that he sees that with Clyde partners all the time, in both B2B and B2C spaces.
- Adapting to changing order values and frequencies. Several participants flagged that while they’re seeing more orders than ever before come through, their average order values are dropping, suggesting that consumers are focusing on more smaller projects versus one or two bigger ones. That, plus snafus with supply chains and shipping, has put pressure on fulfillment and customer success, as well as requiring changes to marketing strategies.
- Prioritizing services. Brandon shared that Clyde merchants usually see major growth in the amount of consumers who are buying directly from them after they’ve added product protection options. The same goes for payment options like pay-as-you-go services. “In putting a payment system together, make sure that across omnichannel your experience is the same,” he said.
How are retailers becoming more customer-centric?
As the pandemic has impacted consumers’ buying patterns, disposable income, and goals, some retailers have had a hard time keeping up. The ones that have done well and managed to adapt along with their changing customer base are the ones that stayed close to what those customers needed.
Some retailers completely changed their marketing around, focusing on remote workers instead of small businesses, for instance. Others are investing in customer pain points, diving into product protection, pay-over-time options, and better chatbot support.
To access the detailed customer feedback needed to drive those marketing pivots and checkout improvements, retailers highlighted one key tool: surveys.
Whether automatic post-purchase emails or in-depth interviews compensated with $100 Amazon gift cards, surveys have been key to pivoting along with customers, versus trying to catch up afterwards.
What do people know about extended warranties, and what are their experiences with them?
Paul, who’s worked in retail operations for the majority of his career, including for big sellers like Home Depot and Circuit City, has long used protection plans as a business asset to build client relationships and provide solutions.
“When products become technical, there's that barrier to entry where people might be unsure of the product. We need to be able to offer things that are going to make them feel comfortable with not just the product, but how long it will last and whether or not they'll be taken care of,” he said.
And whether retailers are selling $10,000 chandeliers or home office tech, the ideal warranty partner is one like Clyde who can come in and create a customized white-glove solution, says Paul.
“What we find is by offering that total solution, we're guiding them through the experience,” he said of his customers. “We're allowing them to make a purchase that maybe they wouldn't have made otherwise.”