How do you elevate your ecommerce business to find new leads and retain customers?

Answer: Customer Experience Automation (or CXA).

Ecommerce businesses are starting to expand beyond ecommerce. Retail operations and wholesale opportunities are growing — as are the chances for different types of digital distribution.

To make sense of what tech and business trends mean for ecommerce stories, ActiveCampaign Director of Content Marketing Benyamin Elias sat down with Aaron Orendorff — Forbes Top 10 B2B Content Marketer and VP of Marketing at Common Thread Collective — to talk about all things ecommerce.

This post will cover:

  • An omnichannel marketing approach is the future of finding and retaining customers in a direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce business
  • Content helps ecommerce brands sell more – but how?
  • Why CXA is the key to meeting customer expectations for a personalized relationship with an online business
  • What’s ahead for ecommerce in 2020?

The future of DTC business is omnichannel – what does that mean for ecommerce?

Ecommerce is growing, but so is retail. Technology lets you combine ecommerce and brick-and-mortar to create a marketing approach that reaches consumers everywhere — and helps your business grow.

What does it mean to reach people everywhere? Omnichannel includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Email
  • Social media
  • Paid
  • Organic
  • SMS
  • Events
  • Traditional retail

Why is omnichannel important for ecommerce?

Collecting customer information from multiple sources and combining it in one place (an automation platform) helps you to improve the customer experience.

One acquisition channel isn’t enough anymore. When you expand across multiple channels, you can:

  • Collect data from multiple channels
  • Centralize your customer data into one technology
  • Use it to execute an omnichannel approach to DTC, both locally and internationally

Aaron argued that spreading across multiple channels helps ecommerce businesses expand global reach in less crowded marketplaces outside of the two major ecommerce hubs – North America and Western Europe – while at the same time expanding the definition of what an ecommerce business is.

Did you know that:

  • Worldwide, ecommerce’s market share continues to climb; year-over-year gains on track to outpace in-store retail by ~4x.
  • In terms of absolute figures, retail looms above online sales by over $21 trillion
  • North America and Western Europe are the slowest growing ecommerce regions, with APAC, LATAM, and the Middle East & Africa growing the fastest – talk about the untapped potential that technology helps with!
  • The Ecommerce share of total global retail nearly doubled from 2015-2019. It went from 7.4% to 14.1% and is projected to hit 20% by 2022

Ecommerce and retail each have their strengths, and technology brings out the best in both. This partnership creates a strong, personalized customer experience to aid global business growth. (Data source: eMarketer)

Having a digital customer profile lets you make each customer an offer that’s unique to them and what they want. It’s not important which channel your contacts come from, so long as you can get them into 1 system.

How tech makes it easier to grow ecommerce across channels

A sales CRM, an ecommerce integration, email marketing, automation – all of these technologies that help with omnichannel customer acquisition and retention can be housed in one system.

Sales and automation technology have lowered the international barrier to entry of creating localized websites and growing strong brand presence across multiple channels (like social media).

What kind of sales and automation technology?

There are many! Expanding into international markets is easy with technologies like ActiveCampaign and Shopify. These tools help you to communicate with customers globally, and can reach global customers without forcing you to create different strategies for local distribution channels.

Integrated sales and automation technologies like Shopify and ActiveCampaign make it simple and easy to reach and track ecommerce customers globally.

The future of DTC ecommerce is he ability to take your customer information from every marketing channel, keep it in 1 place, and use it to create better experiences for your customers.

In his article, 10 Ecommerce Trends for DTC Growth in a ‘Post Acquisition’ Future, Aaron Orendorff demonstrates the impact of an omnichannel DTC approach through a farmer’s market example:

  • Schmidt Naturals starts selling deodorant in glass jars at a farmers market. This created personalized connections with customers which…
  • Led to wholesale distribution, while also…
  • Maintaining high ecommerce website sales and creating sales opportunities through Amazon, Google, and Facebook ads

Schmidt Naturals (now owned by Unilever) grew by reaching consumers across channels — in-person retail, ecommerce/DTC, and wholesale distribution.

An omnichannel approach works towards these 3 ecommerce goals:

  1. Nurture leads with great content: How do you use your competitive advantage in paid channels through storytelling content? How do you use that content as a consistent channel to acquire more customers?
  2. Acquire more customers: Look at the customer behaviors of each buying cycle. 30, 60, 90 days. If you understand a contact’s behavior from a particular channel in the 30, 60, 90 days after they purchase from you, it’s much easier to decide how to allocate your resources to acquisition channels that need more attention.
  3. Retain existing shoppers: Send content with the intention of education and empathy. Nurture your contacts through your overall story and recruit them to be advocates. Use customer data from past purchases and actions they take across your marketing channels, you can build a “customer profile” and send the right content to them.

“The future of DTC is omnichannel, only selling through one channel limits your opportunity for both brand visibility and revenue generation. If that means leaving behind ‘direct’ control over distribution, fine. There’s nothing sacred about the definition of an acronym.” – Taylor Sicard, co-founder of WIN Brands Group

How storytelling and content help ecommerce brands sell more

(Image Source)

“The power of content lies in entering an audience’s heart and mind through a consistent story well told; one with people, not products, at its core.” – Aaron Orendorff

People pay attention to stories. So if you want people to pay attention to your business, tell them a story.

  • The story of how a business came to be
  • The stories of other customers who bought before
  • The future story they have for themselves as they imagine what the impact on their life is after purchase

Your ecommerce content strategy (which Aaron Orendorff covers in his article, In Search of an Ecommerce Content Strategy: Hard Truths and 10 Brands to Guide You) should be driven by your stories.

Storytelling in your content means the difference between a lost lead and a converted customer. But creating story content doesn’t mean spinning your own out of thin air.

Storytelling is not, “I am going to create these new stories from scratch,” so much as it is, “what are the stories that already exist and that my customers are experiencing every day? How can I tap into the story that’s already happening?”

Tracksmith, an independent running brand, tells a great story that promotes their business.

Instead of writing a story from scratch, Tracksmith goes straight to the source. On race days, Tracksmith runs alongside athletes, recording the entirety of the race, and uses this gritty, real-life footage in their marketing. They literally enter their customer’s story.

“Content and storytelling have been integral to the brand’s DNA…Brands that do content and commerce best understand that when the story comes first, the rest follows.” – Matt Taylor, Tracksmith (Source: Tracksmith)

This kind of content is personal, it’s interactive, and it’s interesting. A day in the life, the story on the ground. This kind of content is how you avoid confusing or annoying product jargon — and how you write better copy and make people want to buy from you.

How to automate exceptional customer experiences

How do you personalize the customer journey to create the best customer experience?

Email, and – although it may sound counterintuitive to the idea of personalization – automation!

First…EMAIL!

Email is king. Its ROI is incomparable. You can use channels like SMS or Facebook and Instagram (if you do it the right way) as marketing channels for DTC brands, but as Aaron said, “email is still the jam.”

You can reach people at the farmers market, you can reach people via DTC wholesale, and you can reach people via paid social – but where do you store that info and how do you follow up with them?. With personal customer data, you can create personalized, automated emails to deliver a great customer experience.

Email can help you deliver that great customer experience – just make sure your emails aren’t annoying.

Make them personal, make them funny! But make them quality. Sell more products by not talking about the products.

  • Set a foundation using content like videos or infographics
  • Present product info in a straightforward way and tie it into the story
  • Show, tell, and make it obvious

Chubbies, a shorts and swimwear brand, sends great emails that tell stories in an attention-catching way.

This isn’t just a customer story email, but a story within a story. Who doesn’t know Law and Order? Now Chubbies gives you…Long and Shorter.

As ecommerce content manager at Chubbies, Joey Avery, puts it:

“The one thing we always try to do no matter what email we’re sending is, even if it’s about a product or just about something cool that we found, we still want it to be a fun different moment of email reading from what you’re doing most of the time”

If you’re not using your email list, what are you doing? It’s the best source of direct contact that you have with customers.

As you grow, you might think that it’s “unscalable” to give each customer one-on-one attention. But if you combine the info from all of your channels, automation can help you scale your personal touch.

Automation helps you:

  • Connect your branding ecosystem, avoid wasting time, and avoid throwing content into the void
  • Create a workflow — record all the necessary information to personalize and segment —that automates actions which you can only do if you have the right audience info
  • Be deliberate, and use the data you have to create those personal experiences
  • Send content with the intention of education and empathy
  • Nurturing your contacts through your story — and recruit them to be advocates
  • Use data from past purchases and actions they take across your site to further personalize

Automation aids your customer retention efforts by leveraging data and saving you time.

Personalization is one marketing trend that isn’t going away any time soon. But with the changing state of the world, what else do businesses need to think about as they work to acquire and retain their customers to elevate their ecommerce business?

What’s ahead in 2020 for ecommerce business?

2020 isn’t going at all the way the world anticipated.

For businesses to succeed in 2020, they have to think about how current events impact the perception of ecommerce. Think about:

  • Changing your current understanding of your customers – what are their new stories, their new realities? How does this affect company messaging? It’s important to communicate honestly and sensitively.
  • Checkout and cart abandonment rates will see dramatic changes in the short term – use automation and customer behavior from your ecommerce platforms to segment and send the right emails to encourage your customers.
  • What can you do as a brand in the next 60 days? Embrace intimate personalization.
  • Shortening the funnel. The time to buy is needed now more than ever before, and the payoffs for your business will be huge

Ecommerce businesses need to understand one thing – the division between ecommerce and traditional businesses is over. An omnichannel approach is how incredible customer experience happens.

“People buy DTC because of the product first. They come back only when that product feels bigger than a product. It’s always going to be about relationships.” – Taylor Sicard