Over the last two decades, the world of retail has drastically changed in infrastructure, direction and culture. It’s estimated in 2019, 18.7 per cent of all retail sales in the UK were from e-commerce transactions, highlighting the growing stature of online shopping and the inevitable decline of physical brick and mortar stores. Factors contributing to this such as the UK delivery system is so well advanced in framework, the relatively small size of the area needed to deliver to, and the around the clock workability, all contribute to online goods purchasing being the easiest and, in most cases, cheapest option.
Couple this with running a business in a challenging industry that is subject to restrictions on products, advertising or shifting government regulations, it becomes imperative that your business is able to move fast to adapt to new trends and changing landscapes.
One such example of this is the vaping industry which has been revolutionised by e-commerce allowing the industry to be sufficiently adaptable and shift to government regulations and consumer needs. Though in order to be successful, the industry has had to focus the offering to become resilient.
Customer usability - Streamline your online platform:
With many brick and mortar stores in the UK, USA and other countries worldwide shutting the doors to customers amid coronavirus control measures, small retailers that had little online presence have taken themselves online to continue trading.
With this shift, it’s no longer possible to ignore the adaptability that an e-commerce strategy brings. With this increased migration to online business in mind, it’s important that a company sets itself apart from its competitors to offer customers a smooth and effective shopping experience.
An example of setting up a customer-centric online store is Vape Club, an online UK vape supplier and distributor, who have a focus to provide customers with a digital shop assistant which is essentially the website itself.
The Vape Club B2C website was created in house, without any help from third party developers, resulting in faster load times and a sense of originality which can be chopped and changed to what works best. As well as this, a reputation was quickly developed due to the integration of customer reviews within product pages. This led to customers almost acting as sales operatives within themselves, redefining the relationship between consumer and provider through a crowd sourced collaborative information database which is constantly being expanded.
Vape Club tries to provide as much customer interaction and rich content to aid customer habits, aiding them every step of the way to provide a satisfactory experience.
If a first-time customer is having a pleasing and beneficial interaction, the chances of them returning and purchasing goods is high. Any businesses ethos should be to treat their consumers like kings and queens, in all levels of the company, which intrinsically converts to customer retention and loyalty.
Moving fast and meeting customer needs:
The ever-changing catalogue is one of the big pulling points of a specialist retailer. Showcasing the newest and bestselling products can be used to get customers excited. This approach can be determined by market dynamics set by the consumer market, discovering what’s essentially hot and what’s not, ultimately influencing the product base.
Due to the nature of the fast-changing industry, manufacturers are constantly scrambling to release the next big thing, which means it has to be stocked and promoted to appease not just the supplier but also the customer.
This translates to persistent gathering and revision of data and keeping on top of acquisition through visual sales representation. A bespoke website platform in turn can generate and highlight this data, whilst also providing the customer with an essential information architecture on products that other competitors simply don’t possess. Include condensed product overview grids to detail the precise key parameters which heavily impact user experience. All of this links into a key aspect of e-commerce which is essential to invest into, SEO.
Invest in organic marketing methods for restricted industries:
SEO is the bread and butter of modern business and essentially determines the position in the market for any e-commerce platform. If a special new product is scheduled for release, particularly a new piece of hardware, the chances are customers who are anticipating its drop will type in the appropriate key search term into Google.
It is a business’s duty to make sure a high-quality product page is obtained, meaning an image and description of the relevant product is high up on the Google rankings. Because of Google’s tendency to constantly update their algorithms, competitors are consistently looking to adhere to these habits to achieve successful audience interaction. This extends to existing, established products and content also, which for some more challenging industries where there may be restrictions on paid advertising in place, remains probably the most important factor in gaining traction.
Ensure the basics for product distribution are in place:
All of this is completely redundant if the development of a highly efficient and well-tuned warehouse isn’t in place. From the basic tactics of First In First Out, stock fulfilment, expiry date checks on perishable items and compliance checks on a daily basis, all of these variables are important to the regular auditing and management of the basic action of packaging and delivering a product correctly.
These ethics are of course passed through to the digital side of the business, inevitably if one fails then so does the other, therefore attention to detail is one of the traits most pride should be taken, whilst costing next to nothing to implement. This also includes utilising all uses of available communication to engage and support customers, including face to face, telephone, web chat, email and WhatsApp contact. Ensuring all of these processes through sensible delegation is the ultimate foundation of building a leading e-commerce business.
Just like in any e-commerce business, to get ahead the simple things must be done correctly and with consistency, whilst always being on the lookout to adapt and mature with the market no matter what direction that may be. The biggest and simplest advice to give anyone looking to succeed in e-commerce, is for the whole organisation of a business to pay extreme attention to detail.
Vlad Vassiliev, co-founding director and CEO, Vape Club