Kentico Software's content strategy manager Duncan Hendy talks to Computerworld about Web content strategies for Malaysian companies in the eCommerce age. Despite any economic concerns, eCommerce continues to be seen as a burgeoning sector, according to local players.
Photo - Duncan Hendy is the Content Strategy Manager at Kentico Software in the Czech Republic.
Let's start with what opportunities exist for businesses in the current eCommerce sector?
B2B (business to business) businesses are becoming more like B2C (business to consumer) in their expectations. With more and more innovations arriving every day, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as using the Google or Amazon button to collect customer data and allow customers to make purchases more easily. Because there are many different stores with similar products and price is no longer the only defining factor, it is now more about making the buying process easier.
By connecting existing services together and offering a seamless experience, you can offer the full package of services. It doesn't have to be only about going to the cinema, but being able to book the taxi to get there, the cinema tickets, the restaurant for afterwards and then a taxi home at the same time. Or using IoT to connect a company's stationary cupboard to the supplier to automatically order supplies when stocks get low.
In your view, what impact has eCommerce had on Malaysian businesses and businesses across the APAC region?
With Malaysia and other ASEAN countries' access to international markets drastically improved by the founding of the ASEAN Economic Community, eCommerce has had a chance to widen its impact in APAC countries. Taking advantage of the less-than-favourable economic climate in China, the US, and Japan, the ASEAN economy has been enjoying an annual financial growth of five per cent.
eCommerce's inherent global potential has been further helped in the region by AEC's stimulation of trading between member states through reducing the borders between ASEAN countries. This is increasing Malaysia's attractiveness to international businesses as foreign investors embrace the area's very real opportunities. While the region continues to improve its internal processes, a positive impact can be observed in AEC eCommerce's competitiveness. The ability for growth among small to medium businesses (SMBs), fuelled by the optimism that AEC brings, is reflected by its increase in international outreach.
What do you see as the biggest eCommerce challenges are for Malaysian businesses?
[The primary challenge is about] connecting the online and the offline world. Businesses have online customer data, but how do they use that in their offline store? Imagine a customer coming to their physical store and they already know everything about them. They would be able to direct them to a certain area of their store. Some companies use sensors in their stores to map their customers' movements around the shop and then via their loyalty card, they feed this into their online profile.
It can be used to understand the psychology of the shopper and even to rearrange the layout of their store accordingly.
Choosing the right platform is another challenge. When starting, it is not just about having an online store. There are many technical aspects to consider upfront. For instance, if they have a global business, having a cloud environment and the store being available all the time, and then there is the order fulfilment process. Customers expect faster delivery rates. It might seem easy, but in the background there is a huge and complex mechanism of order fulfilment when stores can either have things in stock or use drop shipping, meaning the items can be shipped directly from the distributor so retailers don't have to carry physical stock.
Plus, understanding the customer expectations when it comes to global markets and being culturally aware-one marketing campaign does not necessarily work in all territories!
What helps or facilitates the online ordering experience?
It's definitely more about the experience. When you are searching for a product, the ability to find it quickly is a must. For example, if you are looking for a laptop with certain parameters, having filters helps you get to the product you are interested in.
Content personalisation - delivering a personalised experience. It's important that when visitors interact with the site and the site has some data on that visitor, it is pushing content that is relevant to their interaction with the system. It's the Amazon-like experience.
Also, websites must be a multi-channel experience. For example, typically, the day is divided by the device they are using at that time. It's quite normal for visitors to be on their PC/laptops at work, and in the evening, on their laptops/tablets/smartphones. So there is the need to be able to connect these devices and to collect their data to create a single view of the customer.
What are the biggest consumer turn-offs when trying to order something from a company's online store?
UX (user interface) issues. Imagine you have a multi-step process to check out, complicated forms, bad navigation, or even error messages. Also, when it comes to product delivery, sometimes the visitor needs the option of expedited delivery for a product faster than usual because of a forgotten birthday, etc. And if there isn't a faster shipping option, visitors will probably leave and go to a store that can fulfil their needs in the desired timescale. Then there are payment options. When a customer is unable to use their favourite payment method, credit cards, or a payment gateway, e.g. PayPal, it totally turns off the consumer.
Additionally, stock inventory being connected to expected delivery dates. It is necessary to know when the products will be delivered. It's important to have these trust factors. This even sometimes has to do with things such as the design of the website. If it looks ten years behind the times, it is difficult to trust that that business is competent. It is not just about the design, it is also about missing or bad images or thumbnails, these all attract people to go to the store and it helps them choose the right product. Plus, comments and reviews on the available products from other customers that are sharing their experience.
What are some of the most common mistakes businesses make when it comes to establishing an eCommerce platform?
The biggest mistake people make is they only focus on their current needs and do not think about the future. If they are only looking for a platform that fits their current needs, they may get into a situation, as they grow, where they will have to rebuild everything and start again from scratch because they cannot plug in more-sophisticated and necessary solutions into their system. So they need a platform that grows with them and does not restrict their ambition.
Having a platform that allows them to attract and market to customers, to collect data, to do tracking, these things can make them more successful. Not having these tools at their disposal will restrict their growth, and could lead to them making bigger investments of time and resources and needing to learn new tools.
In conclusion, how has the rise of eCommerce changed the way Malaysian businesses should market themselves to consumers and what opportunities exist?
The ability to unify the customer journey across all touchpoints and devices has been made easier by the improvement of access to the Internet (67 percent of the population) and a significant increase in mobile use. Malaysia is currently third in mobile shopping growth in Asia, according to a MasterCard's Mobile Shopping Survey.
And an increase in the use of logistics providers within the region for order fulfilment is a further indicator that eCommerce is on a significant rise.
All of these factors are great opportunities to make significant steps in user experience, digital marketing and personalisation. By treating each visitor as an individual and delivering them a personal experience across all of their access points is an essential measure to ensure that eCommerce stores promote brand advocacy.
Using marketing automation to nurture customers and email recommendations based on a comprehensive profile built up by monitoring how visitors interact with the site and their retail history will boost sales. And it is not just within Malaysia, it is about seizing the opportunities that international customers bring. By incorporating an effective order fulfilment process, by reducing
the delivery period and integrating solutions, such as online marketing, eCommerce and the platform itself,
Malaysian companies can ensure they offer a seamless experience from the first moment a visitor lands on their doorstep. Plus, boosting the customers' trust by making sure that the site payment process is 100 percent secure will reassure visitors that the business really has their interests at heart.
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