Improving the Digital Commerce Journey for Small Business Customers

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Megan Higgins

Over the past decade, consumers have experienced a radical shift in how they think and go about their day-to-day shopping. The rise of ecommerce platforms and online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and Facebook have significantly changed the digital shopping experience and elevated consumer expectations, which has created next-generation experiences driven by convenience. Consumers expect to search for products and services from anywhere, anytime, then receive those goods within days with real-time visibility on the entire shipment process. All retailers need to set up shop on multiple online channels while maintaining a personalized and secure shopping experience to ensure success.

The result of this shift in consumer expectations can be felt across nearly every retail vertical as traditional brick-and-mortar giants race to evolve their online experience and emerging small businesses work to grow their businesses rapidly with an ecommerce-first and direct-to-consumer approach. Fortunately, the technology to make all this happen exists today, enabling anyone to set up an online storefront and begin selling to customers in a few simple steps.

However, simply setting up an online storefront to sell products is no longer sufficient for consumers. The modern consumer expects personalized online shopping experiences provided in the most convenient way from even the smallest retailers. When it comes to the digital commerce journey, consumers will continue to raise the bar, creating a new normal for commerce in which retailers provide shopping options flexible enough to let consumers control their entire digital retail experience. For small businesses looking to provide stress-free, convenient online experiences for their customers, they must take a close look at their backend processes so well-designed customer-facing operations can deliver experiences that match consumer expectations.

Creating an action plan for next-generation online customer experiences

Digital retail has evolved from “online shopping” or traditional ecommerce to “omnichannel,” where consumers expect a seamlessly blended digital store experience. Even further, customers want retailers to provide a consistent, seamless, and transparent experience across all points of sale. To provide frictionless, omnichannel experiences, merchants are turning to a new class of automated platforms and intelligent software to ensure that transactions remain convenient and secure for customers in any location. When evaluating your online presence, the following factors should influence how your small business approaches the digital commerce journey.

Personalization
Ecommerce has leveled the playing field for retailers, which has made it possible for small businesses to compete with major brands for customers online. Within the crowded retail landscape, personalization will continue to be a gamechanger for small retailers. Shoppers want to have lifelike experiences while shopping online, which means that they want control over how they go about doing their browsing. This requires retailers to give consumers the power to customize everything from product design to delivery to payment preferences and customer support. Fortunately, advancements in technology applications have created personalization tools that can address individual customer preferences without breaking the bank.

1:1 Support
While shoppers want personalized experiences, they aren’t interested in compromising customer service to get it. That’s why retailers are investing in digital tools to reduce friction in the customer support experience. From AI-enabled guided selection to help recommend products to customers to 1:1 consultations and support for shoppers, digital interfaces are supporting customer support agents by providing a 360-degree view of a customer’s past interactions and preferences.

Responsive Operations
While ecommerce has enabled small retailers to remain competitive, consumers expect to have the same checkout and delivery experience as when they shop with big brand retailers. Small retailers should look at how to optimize the checkout process by offering ample payment options, automatically calculating tax costs, and ensuring customer privacy and security throughout. Beyond checkout, shipping and fulfillment operations should be a seamless extension of the online experience. Customers expect near real-time delivery with options that best fit their needs including the ability to pick-up curbside. By leveraging 3rd party technology apps available for many ecommerce platforms small retailers can provide the responsive backend operations needed to create a seamless shopping experience from end-to-end.

The most effective digital commerce experiences are a seamless extension of everyday life. To meet consumer expectations, small businesses will need the help of technology to optimize the experience from marketing to delivery.

Megan Higgins, VP/GM of eCommerce and Marketplaces, Avalara
megan.higgins@avalara.com, www.avalara.com

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