The Internet is a constantly changing world. You can choose to join the revolution and take advantage of the latest technology, or you can stay stagnant and let the trends pass you by.
eCommerce is the key to store survival in today’s consumer culture.Even prior to the pandemic the writing has been on the wall for some time. In 2018, online sales reached $450 billion, a 16 percent increase over the prior year. And this was two years BEFORE a pandemic forced consumers out of brick and mortar stores and into virtual shopping spaces.
COVID certainly impacted society in lasting ways, and the impact propelled consumerism into the next stage of evolution. eCommerce is no longer reserved for national retail giants. Even the smallest local stores have seen the benefits from adding the most rudimentary online shopping capabilities to their service offerings.
While most business owners are not trying to create the next Amazon, an eCommerce strategy will practically guarantee some level of growth. This article will discuss the benefits of an eCommerce integration, steps to get you online and what the future of eCommerce has in store.
Global e-retail sales reached $3.5 trillion in 2019 (again, pre-pandemic!) and there is plenty of space to get your share of business. If you are still on the fence about moving to an online presence, these reasons will make you consider taking your retail business online.
Reason #1 Strengthen Your Brand
Brick and mortar taps into the “shop local” mindset important to many consumers, so it certainly gives your brand a passive boost. However, physical space is limiting, and beyond opening new locations, there is often little room to expand your product or service offerings. Your business’s entire existence is defined by a limited area for the few hours it is open every day.
With an online store, you can make your single store accessible wherever, whenever. Product lines can be broadened without having to worry about storage space in store or physical displays to raise awareness. Customers can enjoy a wider selection and improve your chances of making a sale.
A business website also deepens your brand, giving you chances to develop richer relationships with your market. Online customer service can make you more responsive to customer issues. Blogs add value for the consumer and give you a chance to add personality to your business. The same can be said for social media, where posts can be used to showcase your brand image, generate leads and engage in purposeful dialogue with your customers. Ok
Reason #2 Broaden Your Reach
Brick and mortar stores have a limited market because of proximity. With an ecommerce strategy, retail stores can expand their customer opportunities beyond the locals.
Having a shoppable website gives instant access to any internet-capable consumer worldwide. This can have huge implications for your sales. People outside your community can be made aware of your products and services. If you can solve their needs, some may even make the long trip to shop with you. Alternatively, you may even be able to open up shipping options, making your consumer base as vast as you desire.
This works especially well with niche retail businesses. If you offer ultra-specific products, competition is relatively low. For organic search, this is ideal because you are more likely to show up at the top of search engine results. Consumers that have never even heard of you can now consider you for their business.
Reason #3 Open Consumer Tracking and Marketing Opportunities
Online operations are the hub of applied learning in today’s business world. Web analytics software from a growing number of online resources gives you SEO insight to improve visibility. More importantly, online tools exist to help you track your customers and their habits to inform your business decisions. Website tracking can show you trends such as what consumers are searching for most, how long they are engaging with products and content and which promotions are generating clicks.
Going online can also open a whole new realm of marketing opportunities. Using low-cost SEO strategies can increase your rankings, putting your business front and center as a solution for customer queries. You can also invest in pay per click and remarketing efforts to continually advertise your brand. Social media marketing and email can also easily be automated to generate leads and develop relationships with target customers.
Reason #4 Make Your Business Scalable
Companies are meant to grow, and that means expanding product offers and target consumers. As you take on more customers, their demands will grow and you will need structures in place to handle more orders.
Building out a web catalog is a lot easier than finding space in stores. Marketing is faster to make impressions online than on the street. Even adding new payment and fulfillment options is easy to add and advertise within a few clicks. Expansion in every direction is facilitated by the wealth of available online tools and audiences.
Reason #5 Increased Customer Convenience, Satisfaction and Loyalty
Businesses that run brick and mortar locations supported by a rich web presence give customers a comprehensive shopping experience. When they come into the store, visitors have the opportunity to feel and try out products with prompt personal customer service readily available. This is a huge benefit for retailers whose product lines are impossible to fully understand through a computer screen. Many clothing and furniture customers, for example, refuse to buy online if they cannot test drive the merchandise.
With eCommerce, consumers are provided fast and easy shopping convenience. They have 24/7 access to deals, allowing them to shop on their time without having to leave the comfort of their home. They can browse the best deals, check availability and find recommendations to build their basket. You can become an attractive option to those consumers that stick to online shopping, thus growing your customer base and your business.
As you grow your online presence, you can broaden services that were previously done in store. Rather than process returns at a service desk, for example, letting customers process returns and print labels from home is great for everyone involved. Customers save significant time and energy and your employees do not have to take time to process the return, freeing them up to better serve in-store customers. This all leads to an enjoyable, hassle-free experience in the store when they decide to visit.
Here are the benefits of choosing this method over traditional retail sales:
Compared to offline sales, eCommerce actually increases sales. Sales that previously wouldn’t have been acquired will now be delivered to your customers instead of lost. In fact, some surveys show that online sales are actually growing faster than in-store purchases.
eCommerce provides better customer service because it allows you to reach people at their convenience and helps you use efficient tools and technology to complete transactions quickly.
Shopping online is more efficient because there are a number of options for customers to compare against.
Many people get overwhelmed when they start thinking about starting an eCommerce business. Where do you start? It depends on what type of eCommerce store you want to create.
Whether you’re a student or a seasoned entrepreneur, you’ll need to consider everything you need to do to start your eCommerce business, as well as how much time you’ll need to devote to it.
When setting up your online presence, there are eCommerce platforms – Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce that can cater to your every business needs, big or small.
From omnichannel solutions, website integrations to custom extensions/apps, and more, you name it and these platforms will make it happen to build an eCommerce store optimized for conversions.
However, it’s critical to be mindful of a few key points when setting up your site in order to drive traffic and boost conversions:
– Make it Simple: Simplicity not only decreases user frustration by speeding up load times, but it also can speed along purchases. Shorten the number of steps it takes a customer to go from browsing to purchasing. They will end up having less opportunity to change their mind or get overwhelmed with a confusing process.
– Design for mobile: Creating an app to compliment a website is a great way to create a positive perception of your brand and a more usable interface for mobile users. Optimizing for mobile will be critical moving forward, as retail ecommerce sales originating from smartphones are projected to exceed $432 billion in 2022. Many website builders take the frustration out of building web pages for both desktops and mobile devices, allowing you to experiment from the mobile user’s viewpoint.
– Invest in SEO: Local search engine optimization is how you beat the competition in online arenas. By optimizing your keyword, backlink and website design strategies, you can reach more of the audience that you want. Since most consumers never get past the first page of Google, poor SEO will make you virtually invisible to potential buyers. When you use SEO effectively you will get more traffic. Your brand will also get a boost from search engines validating your authority.
Buyer personas represent the desired and available customers for your product or service. They are defined by various demographic, geographic and psychographic characteristics, including:
– Family size
– Buying behaviors
When you know what defines the type of customer that is willing and able to buy your product, you can tailor your website design and marketing efforts. You can use organic and paid traffic channels that work best to reach that audience. With organic search, understanding the customer’s pain points can help you develop a keyword strategy. Finding out their browsing habits can help you identify paid ad positioning on websites and social media.
Your buyer personas direct the value propositions you put forth on your homepage. You need to align that with their challenges and opportunities, immediately telling your customers what solutions solve their problems. After that, you need to make the purchasing option apparent and easy to follow.
Frequently tracking your website’s performance and testing different tactics is critical to maximizing traffic and accomplishing your online goals. A/B testing the layout and functionality of landing pages, payment screens and catalogs can indicate what works to drive conversion.
Does certain verbiage correlate to more clicks? Does the background color of a button make a difference? You may not find it necessary to test every minor detail when you run a small website but testing can have significant effects on your success as you grow.
The online boom fuelled by Amazon and their impossibly low prices had a big effect on retail stores who did not prepare. The retail apocalypse we experienced a few years ago that shuttered brick and mortar mainstays like Sears was widely caused by the move from in-store to online shopping. Then COVID disrupted the industry even further in 2020, pouring salt in the wound for retail store survivors and delivering a knockout punch to small businesses that could not weather any more lost business.
New online shopping trends exploded in 2020, accelerating the evolution of ecommerce. Retail eCommerce sales reached $4.3 trillion in 2020, more than doubling the growth seen in the prior year. Ecommerce account
Forever impacting nearly every corner of society, the COVID pandemic left a lasting effect on the future of ecommerce. Federal and state mandated closures closed down many brick and mortar retail stores and restaurants. For those that remained operational, COVID fears and social distancing guidelines severely slowed business. Still, shoppers had to shop, and online retailers gladly welcomed the surging traffic to their sites.
Interestingly, COVID did carry an unforeseen silver lining that may bring relevance back to real brick and mortar storefronts. Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) options have emerged as ways around COVID concerns for restaurants and retailers.
By adding curbside pickup options to online shopping portals, small retailers could follow Walmart and Target in creating convenience. Shoppers could avoid the hassle of shopping in-store while not waiting days for a shipment to their home. Adding BOPIS to an omnichannel delivery strategy leverages physical stores. When you can cohesively integrate your online presence to support the store, customers have the best possible experience.
Online tools are not only expanding to build better websites but also to make online shopping platforms to host retailers. Companies like Shopify and BigCommerce are giving businesses favorable alternatives to online marketplaces like Amazon, which is often a direct competitor.
With online engines like these, businesses are capable of delivering better customer service with new fulfillment channels and ways to explore products. Even Instagram got into the trend, launching a checkout option in 2019 and Instagram Shops in 2020. Customers can browse within a retailer’s Instagram profile and checkout all within the app. Instagram, like Facebook Marketplace, is taking social media interaction between consumers and their favorite brands to the next logical step.
Consumers are changing buying habits, transitioning away from single online purchases to subscription-based services. Prepared meal services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, clothing style experts in Stitch Fix and even pop culture accessory outfitters like Loot Crate all offer customers recurring, automatic shipments. The hands-free convenience is combined with the excited anticipation of new, and often unknown, material, keeping customers obsessing over their next delivery.
Finding ways to create subscription-based services can lead to greater revenue and customer retention for retailers. If there is a product that needs recurring refills or a service that can be provided on a monthly basis, retailers can tap into an enthusiastic customer type that may hang around for the long term.
If you have visited any website offering a product or service, more often than not a chat window opens asking if you have any questions. With the traffic that online stores generate, having dedicated staff to quickly answer questions is unfeasible. Chatbots, however, are able to answer questions, provide recommendations and direct complaints efficiently and consistently.
Retail chains trying to keep up and improve customer service are using chatbots more and more. With AI constantly learning and evolving, online stores are getting closer to replicating a person-to-person interaction.
The post-pandemic nature of eCommerce is still hazy as we march through the (hopefully) final phases of COVID. One thing is for certain: online sales growth will not slow down. Online sales show upward trends for the foreseeable future, with worldwide sales growth projected to grow by leaps and bounds year over year. As the technology gets more advanced, the way people shop and the journey they expect will continue to evolve.
Mobile shopping is starting to define how online shopping will be managed in the future. Over 50 percent of eCommerce business is generated through mobile devices. This is crucial for online retailers to consider because their website design and consumer mobile habits will shape a large chunk of the business they generate.
Optimizing websites for smartphones will be a key initiative. But social media usage will be equally important, as users connect with brands and even make purchases through those platforms on mobile devices. Creating dedicated apps will be one of the most powerful tools to build brands as well. Professional apps are easier to use, inspire deeper engagement and add prominence to your brand.
With the move to mobile, the nature of search will change as well, and smart retailers are already investing in catering to these users. Retailers will have to start optimizing for keywords that reflect naturally spoken questions, instead of hastily abbreviated queries from typed-in searches.
Using tools to offer voice-run navigation on your website will enhance the customer experience when they find your store. From there, you can enable voice-run purchasing, making your web presence truly tailored to every user.
With new smart-home integrations, voice assistant devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home will affect how users shop. In 2020, 22 percent of smart speaker owners used them to purchase products, and that trend shows no signs of levelling off. Retailers trying to take advantage of the growing interest in voice-based shopping can investigate adding skills to the assistant devices.
The brick and mortar retailers who survive COVID will come out better for it, primarily because they realize the importance of omnichannel shopping. Consumers are spoiled by technology and their expectations are high. An omnichannel approach to shopping, ordering and fulfillment will create the seamless experience that customers demand.
Optimizing for mobile plays a major role in this. Consumers are likely to shop on mobile devices even in the store, comparing brands and checking prices, so building smart efficiency into your offerings can benefit your brand. For example, scannable QR codes on price tags can offer more information or marketing material to view online.
Creating a variety of purchase options will be another factor in maximizing satisfaction with the process. As discussed, integrating a BOPIS option can invigorate brick and mortar. But adding in direct to consumer shipping and new delivery methods will further expand your available market and improve relationships with existing customers.
Curbside pickup is one of several “Buy Online, Pickup In Store” (BOPIS) fulfillment options. This is a fulfillment service that allows customers to obtain their ordered products without having to leave the comfort of their vehicle. “Curbside” is a loose description, as some stores have designated curbside arrangements while others use parking spots, pickup windows or even warehouse docks.
It is a smart idea that is relatively new to retail.
Curbside pickup works similar to other BOPIS systems, such as service desk pickup. It is called a “click and collect” option, because customers place orders through an online store portal. They set their fulfillment preferences to pickup, selecting the time and location to gather their goods.
eCommerce demands attention from every business large and small. Through formulating and nurturing an eCommerce strategy, businesses can avoid losing customers to more convenient, engaging options online. For more information on how eCommerce can transform your business, contact us today.
Albert Wood is an accomplished eCommerce Business Analyst. As a technology futurist and sales motivator at ioVista, Albert is dedicated to transforming struggling eCommerce businesses into thriving enterprises. With a keen focus on client’s business processes, user experience (UX), and leveraging the power of digital marketing, he helps businesses optimize their online presence and drive sustainable growth. Albert’s passion is for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), immersing himself in unforgettable experiences and exploring the limitless possibilities they offer. His enthusiasm for these emerging technologies fuels his drive to push the boundaries of innovation in eCommerce.
Albert Wood05 Sep 2023
Albert Wood09 May 2023
Albert Wood01 Feb 2023
Albert Wood12 Jan 2023
Albert Wood20 Dec 2022
Albert Wood15 Dec 2022
Albert Wood09 Dec 2022
Albert Wood07 Dec 2022
Albert Wood24 Nov 2022
Albert Wood17 Nov 2022
Albert Wood17 Nov 2022
Albert Wood27 Oct 2022
Albert Wood07 Oct 2022
Albert Wood27 Sep 2022
Albert Wood15 Sep 2022
Albert Wood10 Sep 2022
Albert Wood23 Aug 2022
Albert Wood17 Aug 2022
Albert Wood10 Aug 2022
Albert Wood01 Jul 2022
Albert Wood14 Jun 2022
Albert Wood11 May 2022
Albert Wood03 May 2022
Albert Wood29 Apr 2022
Albert Wood27 Apr 2022
Albert Wood21 Apr 2022
Albert Wood13 Apr 2022
Albert Wood01 Apr 2022
Albert Wood29 Mar 2022
Albert Wood01 Mar 2022
Albert Wood24 Feb 2022
Albert Wood15 Feb 2022
Albert Wood11 Feb 2022
Albert Wood04 Feb 2022
Albert Wood27 Jan 2022
Albert Wood13 Jan 2022
Albert Wood10 Jan 2022
Albert Wood17 Dec 2021
Albert Wood13 Dec 2021
Albert Wood30 Nov 2021
Albert Wood26 Oct 2021
Albert Wood20 Oct 2021
Albert Wood05 Oct 2021
Albert Wood30 Sep 2021
Albert Wood21 Sep 2021
Albert Wood17 Sep 2021
Albert Wood08 Sep 2021
Albert Wood11 Aug 2021
Albert Wood05 Aug 2021
Albert Wood16 Jun 2021
Albert Wood03 Jun 2021
Albert Wood06 May 2021
Albert Wood04 May 2021
Albert Wood18 Feb 2021
Albert Wood15 Feb 2021
Albert Wood28 Jan 2021
Albert Wood11 Nov 2020
Albert Wood24 Sep 2020
Albert Wood08 Sep 2020
Albert Wood18 Aug 2020
Albert Wood13 Aug 2020
Albert Wood01 Aug 2020
Albert Wood29 Jul 2020
Albert Wood21 Jul 2020
Albert Wood09 Jul 2020
Albert Wood29 Jun 2020
Albert Wood11 Jun 2020
Albert Wood21 May 2020
Albert Wood24 Apr 2020