maintaining Your E Commerce EdgeEcommerce is a force to be reckoned with in the world of retail. Being able to purchase nearly anything online has changed the way the consumer shops and bricks-and-mortar stores are feeling the pinch.

In a recent Internet Retailer article documenting a clear departure from retail sales as usual, Ron Johnson, CEO of J.C. Penney is quoted as saying, “For the retail store to win in the digital world it has to do things that can’t happen online on your iPhone or iPad.” The company plans to roll out significant changes to it’s bricks-and-mortar shopping experience in an effort to gain traction over other retailers and the increasing pressure from e-retailers. Included in these changes are an improved in-store experience and lowering prices.

Now ecommerce can’t necessarily compete with a boon to in-store experience–free coffee for shoppers and a place to take a load off inside the store come to mind–and I’m not necessarily sure that bricks-and-mortar stores can compete with the ecommerce pricing advantage (the money to keep the lights on, the doors open, and the registers ringing has to come from somewhere), but the fact remains clear: Physical retailers are recognizing the threat of pure play ecommerce and are clearly taking a stand in response.

What can you do to maintain your e-commerce edge?

  1. Continue to offer exceptional pricing by keeping your overhead low. This is the key driver for most ecommerce shoppers.
  2. Recognize the weaknesses inherent in ecommerce and actively work to minimize them. There are no showrooms in ecommerce–how can you make sure that your site bypasses this issue and keeps the customer informed, engaged, and confident in his/her purchases?
  3. Make it EASY to order from you. I can’t repeat this often enough. Being able to order in their bunny slippers isn’t enough for most consumers. The ordering process needs to be intuitive and simple to complete. Triple check your checkout process to make sure you aren’t inadvertently missing errors or issues. Ask people who don’t use your site–think your mom, your aunt, a neighbor–to test drive your site and tell you about their experience. Find out what was missing from the experience that could have improved the process.
  4. Offer responsive, friendly site support. This is often the second downfall of the online shopping experience for consumers–who do they contact when they need help or run into problems? Make it easy to reach out to your customer support team. Post your toll-free number on every page of your site. Consider offering interactive chat with a customer service representative. Clearly post how to manage a return and consider offering a guarantee–on product quality, no-hassle returns, and/or on pricing.
  5. Don’t rest on your laurels. It’s no secret that I think ecommerce has an undeniable edge over physical retailers, but don’t get too confident that more physical retailers won’t start fighting back to regain market share.

Ecommerce is here to stay–and physical store retailers are starting to pay attention as ecommerce sites gobble up market share and become the consumers go-to solution for buying the stuff they need. J.C. Penney has come out with a strategy to regain loyalty of the consumer–it won’t be long before other bricks-and-mortar stores follow suit. Maintain your ecommerce edge–start formulating your counter-attack now.