E-Commerce: the requirements to make it successful

Interview with Giovanni Cappellotto, E-Commerce & Retail Consultant

Many people ask what causes some e-commerce stores to fail.

Let’s examine the situation first. In Italy, with 90% of sales occurring in store, online sales will not exceed 15% in the next 3-5 years. In the USA, the rate is increasing but it is doing so slowly as a result of Amazon’s invasive presence, which is incorporating the market shares of all the other e-commerce stores.

Yes, that’s right, you’ve already understood everything: users want to connect with brands, BUT they also want unlimited choice and convenience, areas where Amazon dominates. How can we solve these two incredibly antithetical paradigms?

Amazon is like a shopping center (it is anti-brand). It does not offer browsing that we can call “experiential”, but at the same time, there are brands like Sodastream that successfully use the platform as though it were a real online store.

The secret is knowing how to think like a customer who is purchasing; Amazon does not necessarily represent the death of content. There are two aspects that we need to focus on in order to “be seen”: 

  • Differentiation: your product is not the only one in Amazon’s enormous catalog, but your brand must be identifiable in a unique way
  • Connection: the consumer’s choice is much more than just functionality, advantages, price and speed of delivery 

If you want to sell on Amazon:

- focus on four components (titles, bullet lists, product descriptions, back-end search terms)

- answer the buyer’s questions

- avoid complaints

- optimize the number of characters

- ensure that content is consolidated


Do not misuse the multichannel system

It is not easy to integrate all these aspects into your online sales activities (don’t forget the feedback!), but they are necessary to overcome the dreaded “rise in multichannel stupidity”.

What is this? Bombarding the customer with emails, calls or articles only leads to a waste of resources because the end product can be found anywhere. This “stupid” use of the multichannel system leads to an increase in the volume/speed ratio but reduces the conversion rate.

In fact, the worst mistake is not taking into account the value of a lead, and how much they can give us over the course of their lifetime, but only considering the rate of return on the single advertising campaign. This means that we are training our objectives not to respond, and we are not taking into account the marketing ROI.

Here are some critical points that you must keep an eye on: 

  • Customer experience: The customer is at the center and you must bear in mind that often it is the best and most loyal customers, who want to make your product work, that highlight problems. The danger lies in the form of those unhappy customers who do not complain and quickly turn to other suppliers. Start monitoring them with surveys that are carried out sensitively
  • B2B is worth 4 times more than B2C. 
  • Operations: if you have an e-commerce store, you must optimize your tools. These include your inventory, logistics and warehouse, to make the product usable and facilitate the sales operation. 
  • Brand protection: as well as traditional branding, the sales policy and management of product data should also be analyzed. 
  • Customer services: there are some customers who ask for information about the product they see online, but even the most consolidated brands don’t always have a suitable CRM system that profiles such data. This is a shortcoming. 
  • Paid advertising: this does not solve the problem of clarifying why people buy and what they buy. It only provides us with data that can be compared with a macroscopic aggregate of customer behavior. We need to try and understand how to provide the right answer to every question. 

Everything must start and end with a profit margin.


The role of Content in E-Commerce


But let’s take a closer look: does an e-commerce website have to do content marketing? Let’s hand over to the expert.

Q: Can the content accompanying a product represent a discriminating factor during the purchase phase?

A: With a long-distance purchase, content is made up of many elements:

  • product images
  • product title
  • a short description
  • a long description
  • sales price
  • discounts and promotions
  • all the security elements for the customer who is making the purchase
  • the opinions of customers who have already purchased
  • the questions of those customers who want to know something about the product

Many elements may be scattered over the web and can be found by potential customers who are looking for information about the product before purchasing. Just as many elements should make up part of the seller’s communications, aiming to convince the customer to purchase.

Selling is never a simple process consisting of just a finalized economic transaction. Instead, it is always an emotional and engaging response to ingenious and engaging experiences that provoke positive reactions from customers.

Those who are selling must be capable of producing excellent content, finding scattered content, distributing content coherently, and knowing how to manage it.

Q: Why is it essential nowadays to create personalized buying experiences and what role could AI’s ability to collect data on user interests have in this context?

A: A buying experience is always a personalized experience because each customer’s motivational baggage is always different.

The problem for all e-commerce stores lies in setting up automatic sales thinking that automatic sales compensate for the inability to manage merchandising, the display of goods, the performance, and the ability to attract interest.

Compared with an in-store experience, where the entrance, visit and exit paths are physically determined, the online experience does not have any limits and can even include one or more visits to points of sale that should be taken into account.

Analyzing a huge quantity of data with traditional analytical methods may take too long. To this extent, Artificial Intelligence and inference analyses could provide faster and more accessible working hypotheses and data.

For example, building a knowledge base that analyzes product descriptions, user questions, customer reviews, customer movements on the website and in the physical store, buying habits, and random correlation between products could lead to more effective results and greater immediate satisfaction for the potential consumer.

After all, this is the battle that is being fought between Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomePod in voice search, and that will bring about a radical change in online sales as we know them today.