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Singles' Day, Black Friday and Christmas are coming - here's what brands need to do

The first challenge for brands is to cut through the noise and attract the right shoppers.

Social media ads, digital influencer reviews and endorsements, sponsorships, product placements, billboards, print and radio ads: consumers are inundated all day, every day as brands jostle for mindshare and wallet share. In fact, the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day according to the American Marketing Association. That’s more than 10 messages per second during our waking hours!

While brands always strive to stand out from the competition, the stakes will be high for retailers as the sales season ramps up toward the end of the year. Starting with Shopee’s 9/9, Qoo10’s 10/10, Lazada’s 11/11 and 12/12 with Christmas around the corner, as well as international shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers will soon be bombarded with even more offers.

With so many brands and channels vying for attention, what can e-commerce retailers do — short of descending into a price war — to stand out with a clear and distinct value proposition to lure shoppers? Just as importantly, once they get shoppers through that virtual door, how do they keep them coming back?

Don’t just cut prices, cut through the noise

The first challenge for brands is to cut through the noise and attract the right shoppers. An important first step in doing this is for retailers to make themselves relevant to their audience, which comes from understanding what their consumers value most, and then personalising messages and offers as much as possible.

The next challenge for retailers is to get those personalised messages and offers in front of consumers, competing for ‘eyes and ears’ with all the other brands trying to do the same. Retailers who invest in collecting and analysing consumer data, such as shopping behaviours, buying history, social media posts, geo-location, and so on, can not only create highly personalised, relevant messaging that is more attractive, they can also choose the best communication channels and times to reach them.

The most effective advertising strategies are those based on the ability to put a compelling offer in front of a shopper when and where they are ready to make a purchasing decision. If a retailer uses data to know what consumers want, when they are ready to buy, where they are to reach them (whether that be online or physically), and how they want to engage, that gives them the information they need to ‘cut through the noise’ to attract the most consumers.

Closing the sale

However, attracting customers is only half the battle. According to our 2018 SAP Consumer Propensity Study, more than half of Asia Pacific online shoppers abandon their online carts sometimes or all the time. Such a high abandonment frequency shows that retailers in this region must do more to entice shoppers to complete purchases once on the site.

One way to increase the likelihood of closing a sale is to streamline the purchase experience by reducing the steps needed for consumers to get from product selection to final purchase. In other words, make it as easy as possible for the customer to decide and buy.

To help with the selection process, our study found that 40% of Asia Pacific online shoppers want the ability to test or try out products physically before purchasing. We also know today’s consumers want to shop whenever they want, however they want, and frequently blend their shopping journeys across online and physical stores. This is why we see many pure-play e-retailers creating physical storefronts, be it their own locations or sharing other retailers’ space, or even creating temporary pop-up stores during peak sales. However, if a physical presence is not possible for a retailer, another way is to help consumers visualise how the product will look like in their lives is by offering virtual or augmented reality features (our study shows 39% of consumers want this).

Our research also found that many shoppers abandon carts out of frustration due to out-of-stock items or longer-than-expected delivery times. To get past these issues to close the sale, retailers need to integrate their supply chain, logistics and e-commerce systems into their online stores to provide consumers a view of online and in-store product availability, alternative suggestions for out-of-stock items, and delivery options and timelines.

Keep them coming back

There will always be consumers who only look for the best deal or lowest price and do not remain loyal to any brand. However, many do look beyond price and put a value on the experience. Brands can take advantage of the sales season to bring new customers in by attracting them with a discount, then keep them coming back because of the experience that they offer.

One of the best ways to do this is to offer a highly personalised end-to-end customer experience. Our Consumer Propensity study reveals that a quarter of Asia Pacific shoppers are encouraged to buy when a brand demonstrates a full understanding of their shopping history by personalising offers and recommending valuable suggestions for future purchases. Consumers also reward high-quality post-sales support with greater loyalty. By treating a new customer as more than a one-off financial transaction, a brand can forge a stronger long-term relationship.

Given the competitiveness in the market, it is unlikely we will see a let-up in retailers jumping on ‘double digit dates’ promotions to grow their revenue and customer bases during the busy holiday shopping period. While this is a definite win for consumers, retailers who not only can cut through the noise to attract new customers, but can keep them coming back by delivering a great end-to-end experience, will come out on top too.

Jennifer Arnold is the vice president of marketing in Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China at SAP Customer Experience.

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