While sales of major appliances still tend to be predominantly completed in traditional brick and mortar stores, the amount of business that’s converting online continues to grow. As customers become increasingly comfortable with making larger purchases on digital channels, and the technology delivering this experience develops and improves, we can expect to see the gap between on and offline sales narrowing over the coming years.

To double down on the opportunity that this growing segment represents, it’s time for retailers and brands alike to focus some attention on optimizing their approach to ecommerce. In this guide, we’ll explore 20 actions that every white goods retailer can – and should – take, to drive more ecommerce sales.

1. Get Smart

Whether selling on or offline, now is the time to double down on smart appliances – grow your specialism and establish your niche as a trusted and dependable source for both purchases and education on this topic. The market for connected, smart appliances is rapidly expanding – valued at $23.54b in 2019, and projected to be worth $57.64b by 2025 (a CAGR of 17.3% during 2020-2025.) Putting the effort in now will continue to pay increasing dividends.

How will this help your online sales? In terms of market appeal, smart appliances typically appeal to a younger demographic. These customers are highly likely to come from the digitally native millennial, who are more likely to buy online. Additionally, by leveraging educational content around smart devices, you can drive more traffic to your owned online properties.

2. Get Responsive

If your site isn’t already optimized for mobile, it needs to be. More than half of all ecommerce is now completed on a mobile device. Omnichannel experience is key – and mobile is often the format that bridges the gap between on and offline interactions, with customers using their phones to learn more about your products while they browse. In fact, 80% of shoppers use a mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations.

For major appliances – purchases that demand a high degree of consideration — retailers should be considering ways in which their online mobile stores can keep transactions friction-free and intuitive. Bonus points for those that factor in the likelihood of customers leveraging their mobiles in-store (for example, demo product QR codes to instant load additional information.)

3.   Launch Quickly

When selling online, there’s a need for enhanced agility – getting new products online quickly to keep pace with competition and respond to opportunities as they arise. With so many digital channels, lines, and individual products to juggle, this can be a real stumbling block for retailers, who miss out on valuable selling time as the result of a slow, inefficient onboarding process.

Working with a PIM platform that enables dependable, accurate, and above all speedy product onboarding eliminates this issue. Additionally, if working with an automated PIM platform such as ECP, your team will also be freed from time-consuming, manual processes – leaving them to focus on content optimization and finessing PDPs to achieve optimum conversion rates.

4.   Help Customers Help Themselves

The age of helplines is coming to an end! Customers will have questions to ask about appliance features, compatibility, and function – but modern trends dictate that they’d rather find the answers for themselves, without needing to have a long conversation with a member of staff. When looking to make more online sales take every opportunity to provide the information that customers need to action some “self-service” problem-solving.

This might look like detailed PDPs, including additional digital assets such as video demonstrations or downloadable information sheets. Increasingly, user-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool in helping other customers fact-check and make decisions. Everything from customer images to reviews and answered FAQs can be leveraged to increase the likelihood of digital sales.

The recently released 2022 ACA Study: Achieving Customer Amazement revealed that in the next three to five years, older generations will expect 24/7 availability, online chat, with a preference for human interactions only, and an expectation to never be put on hold or transferred. In contrast, younger generations expect mobile-friendly and intuitive self-service options.

5.   Double Down on Social Proof (c. 140 words)

Social proof is a proven conversion booster. 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations, but 85% of consumers think that online reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant. It’s essential to leverage customer feedback – whether this be in the form of aggregated star ratings (on owned pages, or pulled together by Google Shopping to display within your Shopping Ads,) or integrated, in-depth reviews leveraged across your PDPs.

The key to success here is a regular cadence of new reviews – so that content and opinion always appear fresh and relevant. Additionally, the number of reviews that go towards making up a rating or supporting a product is important. Major appliances are infrequently purchased on an individual basis, so it’s important to have a dependable and well-optimized method in place to request and collect feedback, woven into your aftersales care and contact.

Social proof is especially beneficial at the product discovery stage – many shoppers will begin their search for an appliance on Google, and Shopping Ads with a seller rating (displayed as small stars in the ad) are thought to command a CTR that’s 20% higher than those without.

6. Digitize your Ongoing Customer Connection

When it comes to nurturing an ongoing customer relationship, the major appliance sector has an advantage that it should lean into and optimize. After the purchase of a fridge or tumble dryer, there’s typically a much higher demand for product aftercare. With everything from installation, set up, repairs, and replacement parts offering an opportunity to connect, retailers can lean on improved digital marketing solutions and CRMs to consolidate everything that’s known about their customers to help provide next-level care and service.

Earning loyalty and improving personalization opportunities, and segmented messaging, factors in the past interactions and purchases of individual customers can help to improve CLT, via targeted messaging and discounts, as well as a generally improved customer experience which will help boost brand advocacy.

7.   Eliminate Data Silos for Better Online Service

When it comes to consolidating data, efforts should go beyond the customer and CRM software. Its increasingly important to ensure that your internal operations are well-connected, with product, sales, and marketing teams able to easily share information and collaborate with access to the same data sources.

Not only will this enable better customer service and experience outcomes, but retailers can also expect to enable full-funnel accountability, ensuring that their whole organization is pulling together efficiently. ECP offers a valuable “single source of truth” when it comes to the consolidation and distribution of product information – especially helpful within the major appliances sector, where so many product details need to be accessible and regularly checked for accuracy.

8.   Reimagine Online Support

We’ve already addressed the benefits of offering a more “self-service” approach to customer questions – but when direct contact is required, how is your online support optimized to encourage sales? Increasingly, the expectation for 24/7 support is becoming the norm – and this is arguably especially important for the major appliance sector – we’re all so dependent on the appliances that run in our homes and businesses, that when something goes wrong, patience for answers and help may run out fast!

Thankfully, vast improvements to AI-powered customer service, via intelligent chatbots and optimized triage systems that filter requests, escalating complex or high-value inquiries to a human agent, have helped ensure that around-the-clock help can be delivered to a high standard.

9.   Blur the Digital Divide

When looking to boost your online sales, remember to factor in the full, omnichannel experience of your customers – there’s no “one pathway” that shoppers will take on the pathway towards conversion. Some may research online, and then buy in store, while others will wander your physical stores while checking their mobile devices for features and comparisons.

Think about ways that you can help to “blur the digital divide” when it comes to this kind of omnichannel experience. Digital experiences can be a part of in-store shopping – consider aspects such as QR codes to help quickly load product information or enable a helpful side-by-side comparison with other scanned products in store. Similarly, bring the in-store experience closer to your digital customers by enabling an easy “click and collect” service.

Increasingly in-store beacons, which can send targeted messaging or discounts to customers, provide interesting opportunities for retailers ready to get creative. This kind of additional data can also help to better inform future segmented digital marketing and retargeting, which in turn, helps to polish up that seamless omnichannel experience.

10.   Be Ready for New Channel Opportunities

New digital sales channels are constantly emerging. As a sector that centers around the sale of larger goods with a higher price point, major appliance vendors run the risk of assuming they don’t need to pay attention here, but we’d argue this can represent a shortsighted view of the market’s most exciting opportunities.

While the latest digital channels often seem skewed toward a younger demographic, we need only look at TikTok and the huge commercial clout that this platform now holds for brands in terms of reach and recognition to see we underestimate potential at our peril. While you may not be making many sales on certain channels in the short term, the sooner your presence is established, the stronger your foundations will be as the opportunity evolves. From live video shopping through to social platforms, every channel carries a value – be it recruitment, customer service, brand recognition, or, eventually, sales – every new channel should be carefully assessed for present and future opportunities.

11. Get Transparent On Timings

Consumer faith in supply chains has been rocked in recent years. The major appliance sector has on occasion been somewhat overreliant on JIT (“Just In Time”) or lean manufacturing practices and the pandemic exposed the fragility of these systems given the right mix of problematic circumstances. During the period of high demand and low supply that the pandemic represented for white goods, long order times became commonplace – leading to a loss of brand loyalty (as customers opted for items with shorter lead times.)

While this was a disadvantage for the sector, it can now be worked up into an opportunity for ecommerce sales. Customers may still be feeling concerned about delivery times and delayed orders, so online retailers can double down on transparency when it comes to timings and turnaround. Keep your PDPs regularly updated with lead times and clearly displayed delivery dates – showing a customer when they could be enjoying their new appliance if they placed their order that day. With a PIM platform such as ECP, keeping this information accurate across all digital channels is simple, offering the chance to erase an otherwise significant blocker to conversion.

12. Reassure on Returns

In a similar vein, be very clear about your returns policy – major appliances are a tricky category here but knowing you have a fair returns policy should help instill confidence in shoppers who are hesitant to buy without having seen a physical product.

Once again, by prominently displaying this information across your digital channels, you can remove a blocker to conversion, and amp up the convenience factor that an ecommerce consumer is typically chasing.

13. Sidestep Content Degradation

When making sales online, the accuracy of your product data is critically important. Major appliance retailers should be taking extra measures to ensure this, as products are feature-heavy, with a lot of information and assets required to satisfy a curious customer.

Content degradation occurs when the original content, assets, and information provided by a manufacturer or brand is slowly eroded in quality as it passes through the supply chain and is communicated by resellers across a range of channels. Old images or outdated specifications mean that any product presented online is at an immediate disadvantage.

Sidestep the issue with ECP, which enables dual syndication of product information – pulling data and assets directly from brand catalogs to ensure you’re always displaying the latest, most accurate content – optimizing your sales and enabling much better brand control.

14. Aim for Omnichannel Consistency

With more channels to control than ever before, this has never been more important. When browsing products across a wider range of channels, the impression a customer gains should be always consistent – digital assets and product information plays a key role here. We’ve already spoken about ensuring you have access to the latest and most accurate content – a PIM and DAM system will help to ensure that this data is consistently distributed across every owned channel.

ECP offers both PIM and DAM functionality, pushing content quickly and accurately to any specified channel and ensuring that the picture you’re painting is the same no matter where a customer encounters a product that you offer for sale. Why is it so important to get a handle on a digitized strategy here? With new channels emerging at an ever-increasing rate, the future is only going to get more complicated…

15.  Enable Side by Side Comparison

When you’re looking to see more online conversions, one of the best steps you can take is optimizing a shopper’s ability to make up their mind! There are a lot of factors to consider when buying a new major appliance, and multiple options will typically be considered. Offering functionality that assists side-by-side comparison can help the purchasing experience and decrease the chance of shoppers navigating away to compare competitors’ products.

Once you’ve optimized for product comparison, it’s time to further boost chances of conversion by throwing enhanced product discovery into the mix. Leveraging AI to add product suggestions into the experience, guiding your customer to discover the perfect product for their requirements.

16. Deploy Persistent Shopping Carts

Persistent shopping carts “remember” what a customer added to the cart and, if they don’t convert, ensure that the same items are waiting for them the next time they visit your online store. This strategy has advantages for most ecommerce verticals but is especially helpful for the large appliances sector, where customers will typically take longer to make a purchase decision and may even be leveraging the shopping cart as a “shortlist” function – collecting a range of products that they’re considering to help them keep track before completing a purchase.

Once a customer has added an appliance to their cart, the chances are high that this item meets many of the criteria they’re considering. By ensuring that it’s ready and waiting for them on their next visit, you can decrease the amount of time they need to spend tracking down the specific model again (often something of a chore given the amount of variation within a major appliance line.)

17. Optimize On-Site Search

On-site search is an (often undervalued) secret weapon of mass conversion. By leveraging AI-led solutions to optimize the experience of searching for a product on your online store, you can have a huge impact on sales, by ensuring that the right product is always placed in front of the right customer.

By assessing personalized user behavior and purchase intent, search results can be optimized to ensure that the products most likely to convert are returned at the top of the page. By applying an understanding of whether your customer is likely to be shopping for products that will suit a large family home or small condo, for example, a generic search term like “fridge” could turn up a wildly different range of results, getting them closer to the right product quickly and efficiently.

18. Apply Personalization to Your Visual Merchandizing

AI can also help to improve the visual merchandising of your store, automatically reordering your category pages and internal search results to ensure the products with the highest chance of conversion are always boosted.

This kind of finetuning goes down as far as variant level, for example, if the anthracite grey colorway of a certain fridge is your best seller, this product variant will be displayed as the default thumbnail image when a customer is browsing your store or search results.

19.  Keep On Top of Attributes

Another factor to consider when boosting your ecommerce sales for white goods is the high dependency on filtering that your customers will likely display. With so many options, variants, and models on offer, the ability to filter by feature and attribute plays a huge role in online shopping for major appliances.

This means an increased need for consistency and regular review of attributes – and an efficient and accurate method for onboarding products. Effectus Content Platform can help here by ensuring an automated workflow for onboarding that pulls data directly from manufacturer or brand catalogs and applies it consistently across all channels with minimal manual input. Additionally, ECP’s content scoring feature will help ensure that if any of your PDPs are falling below the necessary threshold for optimum conversion (when it comes to the amount of data and attributes available) you’ll be alerted to act and update to fix the issue.

20. Online Data Can Have Offline Impact

Finally, the importance of collecting and leveraging data (both relating to customers and your products) can simply not be overstated. Data-driven decisions should be at the heart of your ecommerce strategy, highlighting the path to improvements and optimization that apply continuous growth across these important channels.

Ecommerce custom offers a window into the hearts and minds of your customers, with purchasing behavior tracked and interpreted with greater ease and to a greater degree than anything that in-store purchase can offer. Prioritize collection and clear interpretation – thinking about the lessons that can be applied to your entire omnichannel operation as a result.

Ecommerce represents an ever-increasing opportunity for the major appliance sector – but control is key

While most major appliance conversions are still made in-store, ecommerce represents an ever-increasing proportion of sales. With the pandemic accelerating both technical capacity and consumer willingness to shop online for an expanding range of products – including those which are traditionally “in-person” purchases – there’s every reason to believe that this gap will continue to reduce.

Major appliance retailers looking to optimize their market position – today and in the future – need to get their digital house in order now. The coming years are likely to bring more channels and more demand – and all the associated challenges that this combination represents. Digital transformation of omnichannel processes, to bring greater accuracy, efficiency, and consistency to customer service, are essential if the growth potential of ecommerce sales is to be fully realized.

Take control of your digital sales channels with ECP – book a demo today to streamline your systems and lay the groundwork for a leading omnichannel strategy.