In this post we’ll look deeper into some of the hurdles, trends and consumer expectations shaping the future of ecommerce and their impact on business strategies.
Modern technology is constantly evolving and shaping the ecommerce space. Latest release figures from Office for National Statistics show average weekly online retail spending in G.B. was £1.0 billion, up 21.3% in Dec 2016 compared to 2015 , proving online marketplaces offer enormous potential to businesses willing to sell online.
A simple secret to a higher conversion rate
Some companies are experimenting through mobile email marketing, bypassing their website altogether and including instant purchases with PayPal buttons and call-to-actions on products within the email. With email opening rates at around 65-70% on mobiles, the potential for higher sales is there, especially when simplifying the ecommerce buying process, and targeting loyal and frequent purchase customers with instant purchase techniques.
Boost return with seamless omni-channel retailing.
Consumers commonly use three or four devices before eventually deciding to buy (which may also include a store visit). Synchronising all devices, channels and touch points to provide a seamless and consistent user-experience is crucial and expected nowadays. In today’s world, people expect an instantaneous response and any delay can cause them to move onto your competitors instead.
Your ecommerce site and all online channels must mirror your store with branding, photography and pricing to maintain a consistent brand image. The customer’s experience must be consistent the whole way through the buying process in terms of branding, pricing, product description, stock control, imagery and customer service.
A good example of this is fashion brand and ecommerce giant Oasis. Using iPads in store they give staff and customers instant access to their entire inventory, which may be too large to show in store, and access real-time stock levels. If an item is not available in store, or out-of-stock, the staff member can use the iPad to place an order online for future delivery, and with mobile checkout on the iPads, it’s helping prevent queuing, which always helps customer satisfaction. Through integrating multiple devices effectively you can improve the overall customer service and experience.
Logistically and technically, omni-channel can be challenging when integrating multiple stores, ecommerce sites, distribution centres and a large shipping area. It’s an ongoing process but it’s becoming more and more essential to stay ahead.
Which ‘Reality’ wins customers?
Augmented Reality (AR) is here already, and it’s set to grow exponentially. Pokémon Go’s recent success has proven how engaging AR is to consumers and the success it can bring. It works by overlaying the physical environment with virtual elements. In this case, putting Pokémon characters onto the display screen of your device in camera view, based on your location. Basic ideas for ecommerce could be placing virtual vouchers around cities to generate engagement and buzz for brands.
Although in its early ecommerce stages, we’re already able to superimpose a piece of furniture into our homes using IKEA’s AR catalogue allowing for more efficient, faster transactions with potentially fewer returns. Consumers can test if shades of make-up suit their face with Shisedio’s makeup mirror, and can now try on a pair of new trainers without even taking their shoes off with Converse’s shoe sampler.
Get on-board the VR train.
Slightly different to AR, Virtual Reality (VR) creates a simulated environment placing the user inside an experience using a headset, and allows interaction within the 3D worlds instead of looking at a device screen in front of them. With a strong drive and large investments being made from the film and entertainment industries, there’s no doubt it will continually evolve and extend its reach into many other industries and many different ecommerce strategies.
High prices due to early development stages will restrict ecommerce potential, along with current low ownership levels restricting consumer engagement. However putting products in front of people in fresh, innovative and interactive ways is desirable in any marketing strategy, highlighting the importance VR is going to have on the industry.
What is Mixed Reality?!
Mixed Reality (MR) is the ‘hybrid’ of the realities. Encompassing Augmented and Virtual Reality, it works by allowing the virtual and real world to anchor to each other and interact in real-time to produce new environments and visualisations. Check out Microsoft’s HoloLens to see Microsoft’s impressive attempt at a commercial mixed reality product.
AR, VR and MR are going to have a massive influence on not just digital marketing, but the entire ecommerce space. Imagine a virtual store with virtual changing rooms where you can try on any item of clothing or equipment or make-up from the comfort of your sofa. These more frequent and more accessible levels of consumer interaction will undoubtedly lead to higher levels of immersion, and immersion ultimately leads to conversion.
I have only briefly talked about these realities in this post, as they deserve enough attention to warrant a blog post of their own. For more information on Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality please read my recent dedicated article The Ultimate Guide to VR: Virtual Reality 2017.
Brand image is everything
Ecommerce is deeply personal… It’s a representation of your brand on the Internet. Your brand is essentially a manifestation of the beliefs and values of the founders, it’s the sum of all rational and emotional perceptions about a product, service or company that are created through communications and experience. A successful brand conveys a distinctive feeling and strongly signals what to expect and experience from your service or product.
Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke claims 80% of all online retail operations are similar; the remaining 20% are all different, and deeply personal. No two businesses match in this ecommerce space. It’s where businesses can get creative, express their vision and showcase innovation online, but what can you do to stay ahead or at least keep up with the constantly evolving trends and expectations.
Everything’s merging together with offline and online. Brands need to have a very clear brand definition of what they’re about to ensure strong engagement with their particular customers. This is essential for achieving advocacy and higher conversion rates.
Interaction leads to immersion, and immersion leads to conversion
Content here plays a very important route. Knowing where potential customers are hanging out, how you can engage them, and ultimately convert. A great example is Burberry at London Fashion Week. Through merging runway with a live video feed around the world, using Facebook messenger to engage with customers and push content about how the show is made and planned, seamless omni-channel marketing provided a high level of visibility, interaction and engagement worldwide. It’s the same principal again where interaction leads to immersion, and immersion leads to conversion.
Furthermore, this potentially eradicates the need for embedded fashion seasonality with global, real-time engagement. Australian customers in December want summer styles, whereas the UK will be scouting out for new winter styles. Retailers must think about global reach, using digital to be disruptive and continuously pushing relevant content out there.
Global markets are easily reachable!
Small and medium size businesses must start thinking more global! Global distribution and logistics are becoming much easier and is widely available to businesses and ecommerce sites of all sizes. All the marketplaces in the world are becoming more easily accessible each day, opening up access to millions of new and potential customers.
Amazon Fulfilment for example, helps anyone grow their e-comemrce business in the UK and internationally when they sell their product on Amazon and through other sales channels. It provides access to world-class logistics resources, fast and free delivery, and customer service in the local language. They store your inventory, pick, pack and ship it EU-wide when customers order.
Don’t show everyone the same content!
Dynamic Content is essentially tailoring the web content and products shown to different individuals based on multiple factors such as their personal information, preferences and access time. It’s used to deliver a more relevant, engaging and timely user experience to increase ecommerce conversion rates. The concept is to show, for example, a middle-aged male more suited and relevant products than that of a teenage girl who have both searched for the 'best leather watch’.
Online businesses are also moving from simple photo and text towards more creative product videos, 360-degree views and 3D modelling of products. Take the Apple Mac Pro ad on the Apple site. An otherwise aesthetically simple looking device, advertised on the site in a 360-degree, 3D interactive way. Pulled apart bit by bit by scrolling up or down to highlight the power and complexity of each part within and focus attention on key specs.
Why mobile consumers are ten times less likely to convert
Consumers are ten times less likely to convert on a mobile than a desktop! They just aren’t as comfortable buying on mobile, likely because of lengthy credit card forms or lack of confidence in device security. So how can you help get people to purchase on mobile? With a revolution in ecommerce payment systems. Card filling forms are a nightmare on mobiles, fingerprint recognition checkouts and secure one-click payments are suddenly boosting conversion rates, and as it becomes more commonplace, mobile conversion rates are only going to get better.
Analyse and Refine
With any ecommerce site, you must always be thinking about conversion rate optimisation. Small tweaks in the buying process creating an increase of 2-3% in conversion rates might not sound much, but could mean a difference of a few hundred to a few million pounds for a large ecommerce site.
Whatever strategy, remember higher traffic levels do not guarantee higher profit levels; if it’s not relevant traffic coming to your site, this will damage conversion rates and website ranking.
Six easy ways to increase sales and conversion rates for your website:
- Offering upsells at checkout
- Send abandoned cart emails offering help or discounts
- Ensure you have a fast and mobile-friendly buying process
- Implement a live chat function
- Have a well-optimised, responsive website
- Have relevant landing pages for your specific keywords
Advancements in technology will continue to drive ecommerce to new levels and into exciting, innovative places. The boom in mobile device usage is seeing search engines and social networks placing a ‘mobile-first’ outlook on website design and functionality as mobile searches overtake desktop for the first time ever; an important note for ecommerce sites. All businesses must realise Global is achievable, and start giving consumers the seamless omni-channel experience they’re expecting. Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality are in early development stages but are an exciting area for ecommerce as their potential is just being realised, but certainly not to its greatest extent!