Why Online Retailers are Embracing Omni-Channel Commerce

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The internet is naturally memetic – ideas replicate and spread among groups of people with mutual interests. These ideas are called memes and the most successful ones transcend their local group and spread around the world. The e-commerce industry is certainly no stranger to memes and the latest “contagious” idea is that of the omni-channel consumer.

Omni-channel is an evolution of multi-channel. While multi (meaning many) refers to the importance for retailers to communicate with their customers through a multitude of channels, omni (meaning all) places the emphasis on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels. In other words:

  • Multi-channel: Many channels, distinct from each other and managed differently so that customers have their experience tailored based on whether they’re shopping in-person or online and whether they’re using a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Omni-channel: All channels, providing the same products and services so that customers can fully experience the brand regardless of their chosen method of shopping or browsing.

OmnichannelJust another buzzword?

Defining omni-channel marketing is still a work-in-progress. Industry analysts agree that it’s the future of commerce, but they don’t all agree with how exactly to describe it. Part of the reason for this is that omni-channel commerce didn’t start as a business concept or marketing strategy, it was actually invented by the consumer.

The relationship people have with their devices has changed. Because cloud computing and software-as-a-service infrastructure have become the norm and the public has grown accustomed to them, people now expect to have a seamless online experience independent of the channel.

For example: Say you are browsing on your smartphone while on the bus. You’ve been meaning to get a pair of professional headphones and you find just the right pair from the online store of a local music retail chain. You add it to your cart just before you get off the bus. When you get home, you visit the same website on your laptop and see the headphones sitting in your cart. They’re a little expensive though so you decide to sleep on it.

By morning you’ve forgotten about the headphones. A couple days later you receive an email from the store reminding you that you have an item sitting in your shopping cart. They’re offering free shipping if you add more items to your order, but you can’t afford that so you check the in-store stock and discover that the store closest to you is carrying the headphones. You head to the store and sure enough, the headphones are the same price as online but you’ve saved yourself the shipping costs.

This is an example of well-executed omni-channel marketing:

  • They remembered the customer’s choices across different devices.
  • They followed up with a personalised email to the customer.
  • Their products and pricing were consistent across channels, including in-store.

Today, people expect to have the same services, prices and customer experience regardless of the shopping channel or device they choose – and they’re right to do so. This is what we call the omni-channel consumer.

In some ways, omni-channel marketing is a natural development of multi-channel marketing, though in others it marks a significant change of direction. While e-commerce is and seems poised to remain the preferred term for the industry, the line between online and traditional commerce has blurred. Merchants have to abandon old black-and-white ideas such as e-commerce vs. m-commerce and online vs. in-store.

Sales avenues that were once totally separate are now converging. E-commerce and m-commerce are no longer distinct because consumers don’t view their devices as distinct channels – they don’t expect there to be any difference in their online experience.

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Brick-and-mortar businesses also can’t deny the influence of digital channels. In-store sales informed by online searches are four times higher than total e-commerce sales twitterbuttonbig and the line between digital and physical sales is further blurring as the popularity near-field communication (NFC) payments rises, allowing people to pay for goods in-person with their e-wallets and smartphones.

Why omni-channel marketing works

Online retailers are embracing omni-channel commerce for one reason: because it works. It’s not a “new paradigm” dreamed up by a marketing guru, it’s simply how consumers choose to behave. What better marketing advice is there than to give people what they want?

Central to omni-channel commerce is the idea that it’s up to the customer to choose how to buy from you, so successful marketing is represented in how well businesses enable their customers to engage with their brand. Instead of perceiving their brand in terms of specific touch-points, marketers need to maintain consistency in their products and promotions across all sales avenues.

This strategy ultimately benefits overall brand awareness and builds loyalty. By providing the same experience to everyone, retailers allow their customers to experience the brand rather than the channel. Thus the brand becomes the focal point. The customer can be marketed to across all channels and the marketing efforts within any single channel benefit the brand as a whole.

Preparing for an omni-channel presence is a worthy investment for any business. For more information about how you can start taking your business omni-channel and  several invaluable marketing tips for how you can address today’s consumer, read our post about how to prepare your business for omni-channel commerce. You can also keep up to date with the latest posts by following us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and by subscribing to the DalPay Blog.

How to Increase your SEO Score: Visibility is Everything

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If you build it they will come, right? Don’t count on it – certainly not in the crowded and competitive online retail industry.

Once you’ve got your web store operational and can accept payments through an online payment gateway (such as DalPay!), the next step is to get people through the door. Just like for brick-and-mortar stores, the most important thing for marketing your business is visibility.

This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.

The purpose of SEO is simple: to make it as easy as possible for online shoppers to find your website. It consists of a set of techniques designed to make your website appear as high as possible in the search results page on Google, Bing, etc.

Key Elements of SEO

To put it simply, how search engines work is by sending out millions of robots to comb the internet identifying which websites would be the most useful to their users. There are 4 main elements they use to determine how highly each site should be ranked in their results:

  • Keywords: Keywords are the terms browsers are searching for. The main function of SEO is to leverage keywords. For example, by modifying the structure and content of your website, you can incorporate keywords that are relevant to your products and that your target market is using to search for similar products on the web.
  • Link Building: Both on-site and off-site, it’s important to build a network of links that direct browsers to your most important pages. Search engines will base the legitimacy of a webpage on how many other pages link to it, and how highly ranked those other pages are.
  • Usability: Your website navigation should be straightforward and easy-to-use. Not only does this make for a more pleasurable experience for your visitors, but search engines look down upon websites that are convoluted or have too many levels, and will rank them lower on their results page.
  • Analytics: Another way to identify the legitimacy of a website is to measure how many other people are using it. Each visitor you have, especially if they remain on your page for a significant amount of time, is a vote of confidence and signals to search engines that your website is indeed useful to their users.

If you’re worried that SEO is no longer effective, too expensive, or not worth the effort, you couldn’t be further from the truth. 90% of consumers use search engines when making purchase decisions twitterbuttonbig , do you really want to ignore that potential audience?

How to Increase your SEO Score

Be Accurate:

It’s important to target keywords that your potential audience would realistically use. If you simply leverage the most popular search terms in order to attract anybody and everybody to your website, many people will realise immediately that this is not what they’re looking for and will return to the search page. This is called a “bounce”. Bounces signal to search engines that visitors to your site have decided that it is not what they are looking for. Sites with a high bounce rate are ranked lower by search engines.

Optimise your Website:

Slow loading speeds and errors on your website can have a serious effect on your rating. The slower your site loads the less valuable it will be considered by search engines, since most users will abandon a site after only 3 seconds of loading twitterbuttonbig . Errors such as 404 pages, duplicate content or broken images need to be identified and fixed before the search engines have a chance to notice them and punish you by lowering your rating.

Use tools such as:

  • Screaming Frog, a free tool which tests your site’s links, images, CSS, script and apps “from an SEO perspective” and provides you with a summary of any flaws and errors it finds.
  • Pingdom, a free tool which tests the speed of your website so that you can identify whether you need to buy more server space to lower your loading times.

Eliminate Duplicate Content:

Depending on what kind of products you sell or the way your website navigation is designed, it’s easy to find yourself with duplicate content. If your products have multiple colours or sizes you may have several pages for each variation; however, this appears to search engines like spam and can get you ranked lower.

Find a way to include products variations within the same page, or if you must use several similar pages you can use the canonical tag to identify pages that you do not want indexed by search engines. You can also add nofollow attributes to links that point to areas of duplicate content in order to turn away search engine crawlers.

Leverage Social Media:

Social media is a boon to SEO practitioners for its utility in link building, user-generated content and reputation management. Signals from social media, including the number of followers, community engagement and content sharing tells search engines that your brand and website are valuable to their users.

Social Ranking Factors

Purchase SEM:

Search engine marketing (SEM) is especially important for new and small online businesses. While mastering SEO allows you to get your website into the top position of search engine results for free, it takes a long time to build the network of links and the audience to get search engines to turn their heads. SEM, on the other hand, can give your company visibility right away by letting you purchase ad space on the results page for keywords that relate to your business, and the visitors you get through SEM help improve your SEO ranking as well.

Use Analytics:

Always keep it fresh. SEO best practices are constantly evolving as search engines develop better ways to get their users to the right places. By keeping a watchful eye on your website analytics you can identify which of your SEO campaigns are performing well and how to deploy your resources most effectively. Pay attention to your bounce rates, paid vs. organic traffic, brand vs. non-brand keyword performance, and long-tail vs. short-tail traffic.

Don’t Forget the Classics:

Good customer service never goes out of style – it’s even more important to the overall success of your business than SEO. In the age of social media, a bad review can spread like wildfire and severely impact your ability to reach new customers. More traditional forms of marketing can be effective as well, such as email marketing, maintaining a social media presence, and getting your business reviewed by popular blogs and news outlet.

If you have any questions about implementing good SEO practices for your web store, feel free to contact us, and keep visiting the DalPay blog for more e-commerce advice and tips! We’ll be posting articles that can help you get the most out of your e-commerce business each week. If you have suggestions for an article, or questions you’d like to have answered, let us know.