How smaller e-commerce retailers are levelling-up

Kevin Murray Profile picture for user Kevin Murray March 30, 2022
As sales, CRM and marketing technology have matured, smaller retailers are able to up their CRM and automation game. Kevin Murray of Freshworks shares five pointers that e-commerce retailers should be looking for.

The fingers of a woman's hand step up the arrow of a chart lying on a shopping basket. eCommerce smaller retail level up concept  © Tattoboo - Shutterstock
(© Tattoboo - Shutterstock)

“Selling is never about convincing. It is always about helping.” Wise words from the American billionaire and entrepreneur, Mark Cuban. He’s right of course. But ‘helping’ customers, as Cuban puts it, has become increasingly complex and expensive in the world of e-commerce. In fact, it’s now the new sharp end – particularly for smaller companies with e-commerce storefronts.

Consumer expectations continue to rise while smaller-sized online retailers scramble to present smooth, fast, frictionless service and keep up with the online gorillas. Today’s customers (including you and I) automatically assume that the businesses we deal with know – and remember – who we are and understand in great depth what we want and what we have done in the past, as well as the present, across all available channels. We take it for granted, but it’s a big ask if you’re a smaller organization trying to keep pace and grow.

Technology has catered to our demands around convenience and speed. And now there’s no going back. As consumers, we’re easily annoyed and exasperated if things aren’t automatically personalized, easy and proactive. Anything that falls short of this will result in ‘leaky digital buckets’, incomplete orders and abandoned shopping baskets.

Of course, fast, personalized, proactive customer management, tracking and response is easy if you’re an established retail giant like Amazon or Walmart. But what about smaller retailers? How can they level-up their digital marketing and support in the absence of (very) deep pockets?

Traditionally, sales, CRM and marketing technology have all been somewhat piecemeal when it comes to e-commerce. Historically, there have been different solutions for marketing automation, various live chat products with support agents and separate CRM platforms etc. As the market has matured, this is finally changing with more and more solutions becoming purpose-built for the specific and unique challenges of an e-commerce store. This means smaller retailers can finally up their game and punch above their weight without buying multiple solutions and platforms. But what sorts of things should you be looking for?

  1. Embrace the direct route – If you’ve not already done so, embrace a Direct to Consumer (D2C) e-commerce strategy. Its low barrier-to-entry lets manufacturers and brands sell directly to consumers, eliminating the middleman. And of course, it provides greater control over your brand, reputation, marketing, and sales tactics, letting you directly engage – and more importantly learn – from customers.
  2. Give the digital natives what they want – The new shoppers are digital-first individuals who prefer the ease and speed of contacting businesses via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Apple Business Chat, email, live chat, etc as well as by phone. That means if your customer sends you a WhatsApp message about an order query or refund, you can’t reply with an email.
  3. Remember why context is worth 80 IQ points – Shoppers want (and expect) convenience in their support interactions. That means in addition to communicating with them over their preferred channel, you need the 360-degree ‘big picture view’ of all their interactions (in other words, sight of the data), giving you context. Your customer shouldn’t have to repeat themselves if they’ve been passed to another service agent. Likewise, with the right insight and context, your service agents can understand buyer intent, identify potential upsell opportunities and your service can be seamless. In other words, look for a unified platform that streamlines cross-channel marketing campaigns and delivers in-depth customer insights.
  4. Have meaningful conversations - Talk to customers as a friend with tailored campaigns based on their purchase history. The days of one-size-fits-all spam promotions are truly dead. A unified data system that brings together the sales, marketing and support teams will ensure that you have access to 360° customer data and help you maintain a unique profile for each customer to better personalize engagement.
  5. Make money while you sleep - Scaling a business just by adding more people to manage it is neither cost effective or efficient. Invest in scalable automation to help you grow faster with lower costs and higher efficiency. Automating repetitive tasks will free up valuable time for small business owners – think product launches or discount promotions. Also, schedule messages to go out at the right time so you can bring back cart abandoners, auto apply discounts and track purchases to help your store grow.

Delivering fast, responsive service has already proven its worth in dollars, several times over. Companies that focus on customer experience see a whopping 80% increase in revenue. That’s because looking after customers looks after the bottom line. In the past, this hasn’t always been easily affordable for smaller e-commerce players.

As technology innovation continues, the market will naturally lend itself to smarter CRM solutions at lower price points that are aimed at smaller e-commerce companies with less legacy overheads and more realistic budgets. It’s long overdue and a scenario where everybody wins – smaller e-commerce companies, their consumers and the service agents who support them.

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