It hasn’t been all that long since small-business retailers realized they could reduce their overhead costs and reach more customers by embracing ecommerce. And for the past several years, all it took was a half decent ecommerce website to be successful online. But in the fast-paced and competitive world of eCommerce, that has all changed.
As Sydney web development firm Magicdust explains- ‘the proliferation of mobile devices has caused a huge shift in consumer behavior‘. Armed with their smartphones and other devices, consumers have realized that the key to finding a bargain whilst on the go is through mobile-enabled online research.
Show rooming is no longer limited to scanning prices in brick-and-mortar stores. Today comparison shopping happens at home, during the commute, at the office, at dinner, and even up until the moment consumers turn in for the night- all while they’re on their mobile devices.
This is not necessarily bad news for small businesses. It simply means they need to understand the key ways in which mobile technology is changing how people shop and buy-and therefore how retailers sale.
1. Almost everyone uses mobile devices
Global eCommerce sales made via mobile device are expected to grow to US$638 billion by 2018 according to Goldman Sachs. This means that having a mobile compatible website is now mandatory.
People interact with the mobile devices differently than they do with a website, or even when visiting a store in person. So to remain competitive, small business ecommerce retailers need to adopt mobile as an integral part of their sales strategy.
Making a mobile responsive user experience the focus of your eCommerce website with a ‘mobile first approach’ during the web design process is the first step. Your website should not just be tolerable, but preferable to interact with on a mobile device through all stages of the user journey. From product research to adding a product to the cart-and most importantly the online payment process—the path should be clear and intuitive. This is critical for encouraging conversions and customer loyalty.
2. Consumers expect a curated experience
A common challenge for eCommerce retailers has been to match the right products to the right customer. But customers have come to expect this. The more you are able to customize their experience, the more likely they are to share this content with their online communities.
We first saw curated content on Amazon when they began filtering and recommending products based on what customers had previously purchased. Today, other leading eCommerce retailers have adopted similar strategies, transforming the standard, catalogue-like nature of eCommerce websites into premium, personalized experiences that encourage purchases.
A great example is The Edit, Net-a-Porter’s digital magazine. The magazine’s top fashion editors and stylists curate each issue, and feature products that can be purchased directly from the magazine, creating a seamless path to purchase.
IKEA is another good example. Famous for its in-store staging where products are arranged to form gorgeous show rooms, IKEA has managed to translate this feeling to its digital media. The product range is the content, curated to tell stories, evoke emotion at the idea of how furniture can be arranged and utilized around the home, and ultimately increase the chance of a transaction.
Small business eCommerce sites must figure out how they can use curated products proactively to enhance their customers’ experience online. Effective implementation not only encourages sales, but also builds loyalty by giving customers a reason to return.
3. The customer’s experience will make or break a small business
It is easy to start an eCommerce business. That is good and challenging-there is tremendous competition in the market, regardless of your industry. As a result, customer service and satisfaction has become the key to differentiation online. After all, “technology changes, but humans don’t”.
Enhancing the customers’ experience and building loyalty are far more important for eCommerce retailers than a once off order. With the proliferation of social sharing and online reviews, positive customer experiences can make you… and negative ones can break you. Key opportunities include extended returns periods, online order tracking, SMS status updates, alternative delivery methods, free returns and 24/7 support via email, phone and live chat.
Additionally, loyalty programs that drive customer retention are an important focus. Gift cards and rewards for frequent spending are great starting points as these encourage customers to return to shop in the future. Leading brands have embraced gamification like loyalty points and goals to further enhance the customer experience.
To thrive in the rapidly changing online world, eCommerce small businesses must adapt and evolve in order to stay relevant. Ultimately, it’s about creating a holistic approach to eCommerce that sees all your marketing channels seamlessly working together to drive purchases and build customer loyalty. Positive experiences will ensure your business stands out from competition so your customers will return, again and again.