The pandemic has shown small companies how important digitization is. Those who were prepared for the shift now have a significant competitive advantage.
However, e-commerce is still developing. Marcel Červený, CEO of BOOTIQ, a Czech and Slovak technological organization, and Milan Frýbert, BOOTIQ’s Head of E-commerce, describe the main trends in online shopping today.
During the spring lockdown of 2020, many shops realized that they needed to sell products online to keep up with competitors. So they built e-shops or improved their existing online outlets. Gradually, even companies from more conservative industries like construction or furniture jumped on the digitalization train. It quickly became clear what types of innovations these companies required to meet ever-increasing market demand.
However, companies that have succeeded with their digital businesses are finding their hastily built e-shops are no longer enough. They’re now searching for expert advice on what to improve to keep their sales channels operational, optimize costs, and keep up with the competition. And this is when they need e-commerce audits and complex consulting – services that require the know-how and technical knowledge of IT partner companies. But how can you tell when is the right time to transform your e-shop, and how do you go about it?
Focus on the most critical problems
Companies usually first start to seek professional help when they start losing customers. However, the vast majority of e-shops are not at a massive loss for customers. Although everything might look fine at first glance, they might suddenly find that only a fraction of customers are completing their orders, or the number of returns might dramatically increase. This could be for any number of reasons – customers might be discouraged by slow website load times, poor responsiveness, or inadequate information about the status of their order or the delivery date.
As soon as sales are not what the owner of the e-shop would expect, it’s a good time to order an e-commerce audit. An IT company will connect to the data structures that underlie the e-shop and quickly reveal the most pressing problems. These are typically front-end errors with searching for and filtering products, poor site architecture, or loose warehouse processes.
Marcel Červený, CEO of BOOTIQ
Quality frontend is half of the battle
Every e-shop owner should uncompromisingly push for simplicity. Every extra step to complete an order means potentially losing a customer. A revision of the front-end, or the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), consists of a few key points. A lot of work is done by a quality autocomplete function in the search bar. If product weighting is set up well, it will find both the given product and other accessories – and a revision can increase sales up to 100%.
Filtering is also a big part of searching. Those who don’t use autocomplete usually search according to parameters like price, color, or size. However, 80% of e-shops on the Czech market have their filters set up poorly. Badly set up parameters are often to blame – whether they’ve been manually entered into the system or automatically extracted from the products’ text descriptions. Sometimes the mistake occurs when receiving the product parameters from the supplier – in this case, an IT company should establish unified data inputs and complex connections between systems.
Warehouse optimization isn’t just key for construction and furniture companies
In recent months, even companies that had previously focused on B2B cooperation have entered the world of digital business. For many furniture and construction companies, online shopping has gone from supplementary earnings to an essential part of their income. However, they often have to completely reconsider their warehouse operations and logistics processes, which are sometimes dependent on several other partners.
These companies’ warehouses used to only be extremely busy before Christmas, but now they have to manage a heavy load year-round. Predictive stocking based on the seasonality of goods, current demand, and other trends can significantly help. Companies also have room to improve in terms of delivery processes, especially considering most Czech customers have come to expect next-day deliveries. Czechs have quickly gotten used to mobile payments using Apple Pay and Google Pay, and yet there are still pick-up points that don’t accept card payments.
What about this unprecedented influx of customers? Chatbots and better architecture can help
E-shops built on templates hit their limits when their turnover reaches around 100 million Czech crowns. This is the moment when customer service centers can’t keep up with inquiries and solving customer issues. To address this problem, more and more companies are implementing chatbots. There has been considerable development in the field in recent years, from chatbots serving as preset guides to autonomous chatbots using neural networks. Whichever of these options a company goes for, the main goal should be handling the most common questions and pointing customers in the right direction.
,,70% of Czech e-shops are built on templates.”
70% of Czech e-shops are built on templates, which is more than enough for most small businesses. However, as soon as an influx of customers causes the e-shop to slow down or the template doesn’t offer any options to improve conversion rates or performance, it’s time to search for a more sophisticated solution. This is when modular architecture starts to become interesting, to spread out the influx of traffic and to enable almost limitless expansion. Transitioning to the cloud is often part of this, as it provides more flexibility and can be used to increase performance with just a few clicks, during high seasons or peak hours, for example. As opposed to using your own hardware, it’s also cost-effective – you only pay for what you use.
Insights from e-commerce audits performed by specialized and verified companies allow owners to get much more out of their existing e-shops. They can make processes more efficient, improve the user interface, and reduce logistics overheads. For many e-shops, an audit is the best choice, and for the vast majority of them, a clear necessity. It allows them to figure out what shortcomings are holding their business back and how to fix them. In the last few years, customers have come to prefer a smooth ordering experience to lower prices, and it has become crucial to have the most straightforward and well-organized user interface possible. However, the work of IT companies doesn’t end with the creation of an e-shop. The demand for complex consultancy services and partnerships has increased as well. Taking responsibility for client experience is now a fundamental prerequisite for delivering quality services and to the success of shops.