If you own or run an equestrian goods company you will appreciate how competitive it is. The British Equestrian Directory lists 2448 retailers. That’s a lot of alternatives for the consumer. Each of these retailers strives to distinguish themselves from their peers, some securing key brands, others long established with peer groups, others winning by sheer hardwork, knowledge, high standards of customer service and support, others through highly competitive pricing.
But you will also appreciate that there are some huge players who foray into this market too, specifically the likes of Amazon and eBay, who sold more than $200 billion worth of goods to the U.S. consumers last year, according to ecommerce magazine Internet Retailer. It’s almost one-third of all ecommerce sales in a year according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Sadly equivalent figures for the UK were not found.
More than 79% of shoppers research and purchase online with 30% researching products on Amazon before they purchase. That’s more than double any other online site. Amazon also has the largest customer membership program with 13.4 million Prime members in the U.K and 176 million in the US, data courtesy of Statista. It would therefore be reasonable to assume that Amazon is therefore your biggest equestrian competitor online.
While all of this sounds very enticing to any business owner, the world of selling online is very dynamic, even in the equine industry. It can be unforgiving and consumer expectations are high. The bar has been set by these leaders with competitive pricing and two day delivery on most items if you are a member.
While they do all the business aspects really well, there are many things they either don’t do at all, and certainly many they don’t do well. This article is therefore intended to look at what is now dominating ecommerce success in the UK, so that saddlers and equestrian retailers can maximise their advantage.
It is not enough to merely have a website, no matter how pretty or professional it is. Your consumers expect an easy to use, easy reference site, with everything they could ever hope to need all in one place, with efficient shipping and competitive prices and excellent customer service as a prerequisite for shopping with you. If you can’t tick these boxes already, this is only going to become a steeper climb from here.
Your website can no longer merely be perceived as your shop front. You have to incorporate strategies for customer acquisition, data-capture, search engine optimisation, customer experience, personalisation and most important of all predictive personalisation.
Equestrian saddlery ecommerce customer acquisition
A sustainable customer acquisition strategy is one that works in the long run. This means that the investments you make (whether money, time, or human) can be upheld for the foreseeable future.
For example, if you plan to acquire new customers through a blog, you should have the tools and resources in place to ensure content production lives past one or two posts – effectively bringing in organic traffic for months or years to come. This is why inbound marketing is effective — it creates sustainable traffic and, therefore, a sustainable source of new customers. Consider this in comparison to ads, which can be an effective way to acquire customers … as long as the ads are live.
Your customer acquisition strategy should also be flexible because marketing and sales, and the way people respond to them are always changing. While salespeople were once the gatekeepers of information about a product, that’s no longer the case.
Consumers are increasingly skeptical of brand claims and anything said about a product by the company or its reps. In a HubSpot study, it was found that 81% of consumers trust the advice of family and friends over businesses. Creating a customer acquisition strategy that only relies on salespeople would put your company in a tough spot. Keep your strategy pliable, and you’ll always be ready to respond to market trends.
All consumers aren’t your best consumers, and customer acquisition efforts can result in a waste of resources if they’re not targeting the right people. Before you invest in any customer acquisition methods, you must define who you’re targeting with said methods.
The process alone of defining your buyer persona can help weed out any unnecessary or wasted acquisition efforts as well as alert you to specific needs or desires that some channels may meet. For example, businesses targeting Gen Z might consider creating videos as part of their content marketing strategy, given that 77% of teens and young adults ages 15-25 use YouTube.
A targeted customer acquisition strategy requires taking a step back and figuring out what’s best for your business, resources, and audience. Then, you can expect to see real responses to your customer acquisition efforts.
Equestrian saddlery ecommerce data capture
A data capture strategy dictates how you create the ideal profile for your leads – making sure you obtain data for both marketing and sales needs while balancing great user experience and bringing consistency in how the data is then stored and even normalised.
It is not just about collecting the right data, but also:
- Interpreting that data to track campaign performance and other KPIs
- Knowing what questions to ask leads and when
- To gate or not to gate – What types of content should forms be used for
Data capture best practices include defining the right metrics and KPIs, creating a plan for capturing data, determining what types of data should be captured, and ensuring that the right people have access to the right information at all times.
Data capture best practices are simple guidelines for how to manage the data that is being captured. These best practices are followed by most companies and can be explained in three categories:
- Data that is automatically captured by OCR software or intelligent document processing systems
- Data that is manually entered into the system
- Data that needs to be collected from outside sources
Data is a main key to any business, and it can be difficult to determine which type of data should be the focus. It is important that the types of data you are capturing are reflective of your audience, which will help you reach your goals.
There are a variety of data types and you might use some less commonly known ones:
- Demographics- includes information about age, gender, ethnicity, income level, education level, etc.
- Surveys- This type of data includes input from the respondent about their likes and dislikes as well as opinions on certain topics.
- Google Analytics – remains the best source for data on visits to your site. If your developer is worth his salt, he will be able to help you extract and utilise this information to your best advantage.
Equestrian saddlery ecommerce search engine optimisation
What is the first thing you do when you need a new halter? What about when you decide it’s time to find a lead rein? Or even when you need a new hacking jacket or jodhpurs?
Like everyone else, you turn to Google. An Impact Plus report suggests that 61% of marketers named SEO as their top marketing priority. And so, it’s a cold, harsh truth that without at least some presence on Google, your business faces a digital uphill battle.
There are a ton of ways to improve the SEO of your site pages. Search engines look for elements including title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and inbound links (also known as backlinks). Search engines also look at site structure and design, visitor behaviour, and other external, off-site factors to determine how highly ranked your site should be in their SERPs.
Equestrian saddlery ecommerce personalisation
Successful ecommerce companies have learnt that there is no better way to make an online customer feel special than through a personalised shopping experience. This understanding is not limited to clothing brand marketers — most online merchandise when trying to make their consumers feel their needs and interests are special, and it works.
When a customer feels a connection to a brand, sales and loyalty both increase. ecommerce personalisation can offer a slew of benefits that energise an existing customer base and increase profitability far more efficiently than trying to acquire new customers.
Almost 90% of consumers say that they are influenced by ecommerce personalisation, and almost 90% of marketers say that ecommerce personalisation has boosted revenues (source). Ecommerce personalisation obviously offers plenty of benefits.
Equestrian saddlery ecommerce predictive personalisation
Predictive personalisation software (PPS) as a technology that has achieved prominence over the last few years, as it power and effect have been highlighted by phenomenal results for all the successful dominating companies.
It is totally autonomous and watches not only what each of your consumers buys, but how long they spend pondering it too. It perpetually ranks every SKU on your site by what a machine learning artificial intelligence algorithm calculates are the products most likely to be bought by that individual next.
It then wraps those item up in a neat email and either as an addition to your existing email marketing program or running alongside it, it grabs huge volumes of addition revenue by presenting each individual’s personal product selection to each one when they are most likely to buy it.
Research giants McKinsey, Statista, Forrester and Bain all agree that it delivers 20x the return of all other forms of online marketing combined. Users of plugins like Klaviyo appreciate that trigger email marketing is successful, but this amplifies that effect 6 fold.
The net effect of this effort is a substantial increase in your average order value – basket size (AOV), which in turn delivers an bigger increase in the customer lifetime value (CLV) of each of your consumers, and a reduction in goods being returned (RoR), as they now get what they actually want. as loyalty has there been established, the concept of consumer churn no longer applies.
Equestrian saddlery shipping and distribution
Are you equipped to handle shipping direct from your warehouse to every consumer that orders, or would it make more sense to have the marketplace handle the shipping?
This activity can overwhelm your resources and ruin your reputation if not done well. It will also drive the decision over the types of marketplaces you want to sell on. Do they offer to carry inventory and ship for you or will you have to ship direct? You can expect to pay 3%-7% of the cost of your item for them to handle freight and cover damages. Do you have a relationship with UPS, USPS and FedEx or do you need to establish that capability? Explore all the costs associated, damages and return fees and be sure you price your items to cover these expenses. Late delivery fees can get expensive quickly.
Equestrian saddlery reviews
Monitor and respond to customer reviews. Take the high road and use a reliable, legitimate service such as Reviewbox or Bazaarvoice. Customer reviews can make or break a product and your reputation. These services collect reviews from various sites and allow you to respond.
The best advice, don’t ever try to hide or have a review removed. Handle it as an opportunity to learn about your customers, what they want and how you can improve your offerings.
When planned properly, the ecommerce channel offers an opportunity for growth in the 25-30% range. You can manage it with many of the resources you currently have as long as you pay attention daily. It gives you an opportunity to connect directly with the consumer, see what they are buying and when and focus on those products that give you the best opportunity to hold margin and grow your business.
Ecommerce is much like taking care of your own horse. Know what you want from ecommerce before you get started, have a daily routine so you are familiar with what is happening with your products and how they are performing in the channel, take care to understand the terms that you are operating under and respect its potential strength as well as its potential volatility. If managed well, you will enjoy consistent performance, a beneficial relationship and extended brand awareness. All blue-ribbon objectives of any business.
SwiftERM is a Microsoft Partner company. We offer a free trial of PPS software for equestrian outlets here.