Retail or not, nearly every product manager will have to contend with eCommerce, whether the product they champion is sold online or not. Even if it’s just brand swag, every product manager needs at least a passing understanding of eCommerce best practices.
To best fulfill their role as the cross-functional liaison between stakeholders, developers, and marketers, here are five things every product manager should know about eCommerce best practices.
1. Personalization, But With Boundaries
Customers expect personalized online shopping experiences. Unfortunately, they’ve given up so much microdata; they might as well get a little VIP treatment in exchange.
Personalizing a shopping experience is all about data collected during the shopping experience—product preferences, web behavior, pages visited, etc.
Think of it as the difference between a big-box superstore and a high-end fashion boutique that low-wage clerks ignore versus being ushered like Pretty Woman into a private dressing room sip champagne while smiling sales attendants parade sumptuous wares in front of you. Aim for that experience. It doesn’t cost more; it just requires thought and attention.
Of course, personalization can also go too far. Consider the infamous example of Target using purchase data to deduce that women were pregnant and market maternity products to them. This led to an ugly incident where a pregnant teen had to break the news to her parents because Target started sending coupons for cribs and maternity paraphernalia to their home.
A product manager is unique to walk the line between discretion and data-driven personalization to construct a sensitive, personalized shopper experience. This experience could include:
- Targeted discounts.
- One-time offers.
- Personalized product recommendations.
- Segmented email follow-up sequences.
- Personalized SMS text messages.
2. Find Opportunities for Consumer-Connected Communication
Consumer-connected communication considers the theory that customer engagement leads directly to brand loyalty—which translates to more revenue. After all, loyal customers come back.
Static marketing isn’t good enough anymore. Consumers get involved with the brands they love. Ecommerce product managers need to brainstorm ways to present their brand message and involve their customers in their brand message.
There are two basic ways to foster consumer-connected communication:
- First, solicit the user’s feedback. A simple example is an Instagram story with a poll.
- Create an interactive user experience. Examples include viral “challenges” on TikTok or other social media platforms.
- Teach the user something through tutorials, webinars, and other informative content.
Consumer-connected communication is usually assumed to fall under a brand’s social media strategy, and social media is indeed an ideal avenue for many kinds of consumer-connected communication.
However, just about any channel between your brand and your customers can become a channel for consumer-connected communication, including email, text messaging, phone calls, or in-person outreach at events. So how the consumer becomes engaged is less important than just getting them engaged in the first place.
3. Focus on Customer Retention and Re-engagement
Some product managers think that direct-response digital marketing can keep new customers flowing into a business indefinitely. Unfortunately, this is not only expensive, but in 2021 this is becoming increasingly unreliable.
Direct-response marketing channels like Google or Facebook may seem stable, but they are actually battlegrounds. Content curators wield massive control over what appears on these platforms and what doesn’t. On the other hand, big tech platforms face the specter of new regulations, with Facebook facing antitrust litigation already.
Long story short—eCommerce brands make a big mistake if they don’t take pains to “own” their audience and maximize customer lifetime value. Big events like a Google slap or an antitrust ruling could see carefully cultivated revenue streams disappear overnight. Likewise, companies that haven’t made an effort to retain customers and cultivate repeat business will be toast.
This means that in 2021, it is more important than ever to build your list—including email and text messages. Text messages get opened 90% of the time, compared to an average open rate of 15-25% for email under the best circumstances.
Product managers should focus their marketing strategy on building a tribe that will stick with you even if other marketing channels fall apart. Best of all—as ever, it’s much cheaper to sell to an existing customer than it is to recruit a new one.
4. Embrace Voice-Driven UX
With the shift to a “mobile-first” design ethic, we’re going to see more and more apps skip the keyboard entirely—especially the touchscreen “virtual keyboard” on a smartphone or tablet, which was always a little bit hard to use.
Voice-activated assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Cortana lead the way—we’re moving into that era presaged by Star Trek (“Computer! …”), An era where we talk to our device type inputs into them.
Natural language processing (NLP, the AI-driven technology that allows machines to recognize spoken commands) is still in its infancy. However, product managers intent on creating an “extra” customer experience should consider it in 2021.
Options are limited at this stage, but eCommerce product managers can encourage NLP integration by working in voice-activated product search, voice-activated FAQ navigation, and voice-activated customer service chat.
5. Don’t Skip Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing often ends up low on a product manager’s priority, but it really shouldn’t be. Social media influencers go to great lengths to be authentic, and with good reason—if they lose their credibility, they’re out of the game.
Ecommerce brands often struggle to communicate authenticity, so the credibility of an influencer goes a long way. Even a “micro-influencer” with a small following can make a big difference if the following is devoted.
Of course, influencers’ obsession with authenticity means that you will probably get their honest opinion about your products. Frustratingly few of them can be “bought” since they know that their currency is their credibility.
They can also be picky about the products they sponsor, so product managers should do their research to find the public personas that are the most influential and the best fit for the brand.
Most product managers didn’t become product managers to become experts at ecom … but adding some ecom know-how to their tool belt will make every product manager more effective in 2021.
Want to learn more about eCommerce from a product management perspective? Check out these online courses to upgrade your knowledge.