The future of e-commerce is uncertain however, some future trends are already well known. So what should you be implementing in to your e-commerce business to ensure you stay ahead of the pack?
The customer experience
You don’t need an expert to tell you how important mobile phones are in people’s lives. With 70% of online sales taking place on a mobile device, it should be a key part of your business strategy. Your site has to be mobile friendly and shopping on mobile should be as easy as shopping on a desktop or laptop.
When it comes to the customer experience, a number of experts suggest that sales will increase by creating a more emotional experience for the shopper. Merchants are already aware that the sensory experience of shopping in-store can have a huge effect on the purchases of their customers. It's obvious that product displays are key to success but how does this translate to the online?
It's important to display your products online in the same way you would offline. Make your products feel real and make the online shopping experience as memorable as it can be in person. Essentially, creating a more personal service online will generate a greater bond between you and your customers.
Taking the time to recognise your customer when they return to your site is a great way to personalise the customer experience. It's the personal touches that add true value to a customer purchase and injects a huge amount of value and loyalty into your customer base. Review your website for areas that you can build in some functional personalisation. Try to remember their likes and dislikes, try to cater to their needs throughout every transaction. Customers are more likely to return to brands that take the time to remember them.
Shopping should be a social experience
There has always been a social element to shopping and while online commerce may not be able to quite match an in-store experience, retailers should endeavour to make it easy for customers to share products with their friends when seeking a second opinion on a particular item. A simple way for an e-commerce retailer to do this would be to create social media groups or pages where content and messages can be shared between customers.
The popularity of messaging apps like WhatsApp show that these kinds of resources are in huge demand, and if a retailer can create a platform for friends to discuss items and purchases, they’ll offer an emotional, social experience that comes close to simulating a real-life shopping day amongst friends.
Face-to-face interaction can also be replicated on social media. This means e-commerce companies should engage in more two-way conversations with their customers on sites like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, brands should be engaging with their customers in any way they can.
Felim McGrath believes that social media will be a big driving force behind online shopping. 1 in 3 of the world's population is now on social media, which has grown by 10% over last year. With social media such a large part of our daily lives, there is a potential for directly monetising users via social commerce. Some of the biggest social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, are testing and introducing integrated commerce options, acting as the middle-men between buyer and brand. Social networks themselves have a vested interest in encouraging this trend, both to increase engagement and to open up new revenue sources.
Delivery options are evolving
Larger e-commerce retailers will be looking at Amazon to see how their latest innovations work out for them. The success of Amazon Prime, delivering certain items within an hour to major cities, and the emergence of Drone deliveries are at the forefront of online retail innovations and all companies need to be aware of these capabilities. As consumers see this style of delivery happening on a more regular basis, there will be a greater level of demand placed on all online retailers to deliver more quickly and more efficiently.
This means e-commerce retailers should stay in touch with their delivery suppliers to determine if they are going to offer new delivery methods that provide speedier services to customers. Improved methods of delivery will also see consumers expecting improved ways to return products.
While some online retailers may be concerned about dealing with returned goods, evidence highlighted by Amazon and Zappos indicates that offering an effective returns policy can lead to sales. Another study undertaken by the Journal of Marketing Research in 2015 supports the positive effect of a returns policy, also claiming it can lead to a significant increase in sales. If all other factors between companies are similar, it is easy to see why a consumer would choose to buy from a business that makes it easy to return goods, as opposed to buying from one without a clearly defined returns policy.
Like many aspects of modern retail, if your competitors aren’t currently offering a given service, it is a chance to get ahead of them. If your competitors are currently offering this service and you aren’t, you run the risk of falling behind them. As the importance of each feature becomes more distinct and vital, focusing on aspects that set one company apart from the rest, like offering an effective returns policy, is likely to be a huge consideration for many online retailers.
Being aware of these trends will allow you to remain relevant to customers, ensuring you continue to develop and grow, and remain ahead of competitors.
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