In 2020, online shopper numbers across the globe grew by a phenomenal 9.5% year-on-year in the midst of the pandemic, with estimates soaring to more that 3.4bn. These gains are expected to carry on through to the end of this year (2021), with another 10% projected YoY growth topping global online shopper numbers at over 3.8bn.
eCommerce is having its day and the opportunity is bountiful and anyone’s for the taking. For businesses to survive and thrive in the most competitive market in online shopping’s history, they need to be agile and able to adapt to ever-changing trends and evolving customer expectations. Here’s what we’ve learned from a reborn online shopping landscape and what you’ll need to be a market leader in 2021:
Engaging with consumers online is essential now
Your website is so much more than a vehicle for sales. Remember that only 2% of users will convert on their first visit to your site, and around seven out of every ten will leave products abandoned in their baskets.
Getting your site to convert is perhaps the most difficult challenge to overcome in the online retailer’s world, but you also need to consider how you engage with your audience across multiple touchpoints.
Your onsite content needs to be an extension of your brand and offer tailored answers to your customers’ queries, guiding them through the customer journey. Acting as a platform for consumer research is vital for both the online and offline element of your business. That means your website will also need to work in tandem with any brick and mortar stores you have; don’t forget that as many as 39% of digital consumers research online before visiting a brand’s store, and some could be checking out your competitors’ products stood on the shop floor.
Remember that your customers should be able to find you easier than just directly visiting your website. Social media has evolved with eCommerce, and now people expect brands to have a voice and personality they can engage with and build a relationship with.
Customer experience should be your number one priority
Tech-savvy customers will expect instant content replies that are personalised to them as a bare minimum. If you’re not at least keeping up with your competitors, you’re nowhere near as likely to make the sale and build brand loyalty through returning customers because you don’t have a quality experience.
It’s also worth noting that the ‘buy anywhere’ experience is fully in session, so retailers especially should be making point-of-sale for their products accessible on various platforms, including social media. If you don’t take advantage of the endless opportunities out there, you’ll fall behind and risk looking irrelevant, even if you’re not.
Choosing an eCommerce platform
As an online retailer, your eCommerce platform needs to cater for your current, ongoing and future requirements. Selecting an eCommerce platform that suits your budget, type or size of business (for both now and future aspirations) as well your audience, will stand you in good stead for future success. A bad choice can cost you money, waste your time and disengage your audience.
Map out your business priorities first
Before you begin evaluating the available platforms and technology, take some time to analyse your current business. How well is your website performing? How efficient is your team? How successful were your marketing campaigns? What data do you have and how is it being used?
These are all important questions you’ll need to answer.
Make sure you map out your business objectives, goals and KPIs for the here and now as well as further down the line. Only when you’ve done this, should the process begin.
Look for essential innovation
The pace of change of the market means that any decisions you make today will impact the future success of your business. A platform therefore needs to work now, but it must also cater to your future needs.
A platform provider that is continually innovating and evolving in line with new technology is essential. Consider the following:
Artificial Intelligence (Cognitive capabilities): More than 80% of information is visible to IT systems or computers, and with the rise of AI, they are now beginning to understand and learn from it.
Predictive Analytics: This will help your business correlate real-time information with customer data, helping to personalise customer interactions with relevant content turning statistical analysis into predictable, actionable insights.
Personalisation: According to recent data, 80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from brands that offer a personalised experience, while 71% of shoppers express frustration when a shopping experience is impersonal.
Mobile: Shoppers are increasingly using multiple devices during their purchase journey, with mobile devices often being the preferred method of final conversion. Specifically, over £21million worth of UK shopping sales will be completed on tablets in 2019, and just shy of £10million on smartphones.
OMNI Channel: Consumers have different mindsets throughout the day, and this is reflected in their online habits. They may browse on their way to work, look for quick deals on their lunch break and spend their time researching in the evening. It’s crucial to provide a consistent customer experience across devices and multiple consumer touchpoints.
One thing to always consider when choosing an eCommerce platform is to look for a provider that offers the best available technology, as well as being agile and able to evolve, but that integrates this with your current business in a smooth, seamless and intuitive way.
The best solutions are those that make the complex simple.
Dig into their ecosystem community
eCommerce platforms need an extended community of participants, both from a partner and user perspective. Without these, you may be left in the cold when it comes to resolving issues or requiring additional help to overcome business challenges.
Analyse platforms that have a good ecosystem of both technical and business contributors. These will be invaluable to creating a fast and repetitive delivery model to take your business forward, as well as being able to help accelerate your time to market for functionality that may be unique.
The more partners there are, the more choice you will have when trying to find the right partner for the job.
Consider commercial agility
Your online business will be continually evolving. If you stand still, things will stagnate, and you won’t be able to compete.
A platform that has an extensive roadmap of change planned, together with a good indication of what the future looks like, is a great start when making your choice.
Look for functionality improvements released incrementally and regularly as opposed to large annual releases, as this means you can begin to enjoy the benefits ahead of your competitors.
Good examples of vendor platforms that release enhancements regularly are BigCommerce and HCL Commerce (formerly known as IBM’s WebSphere Commerce). There are other vendors that do this as well. We have put together a couple of platform comparison guides for small to medium size businesses to consider which cover Magento v BigCommerce and Shopify v BigCommerce.
Check for system compatibility
Your website is likely to be in place already, with plenty of existing product databases ready to be integrated with your chosen eCommerce solution.
As mentioned previously your chosen solution needs to be intuitive and work alongside your existing systems. It needs to make the complex simple. Fundamental to a smooth onboarding process will be to choose a platform that is compatible with your existing resources, that integrates well with back-end systems, and plugs into how you work operationally.
A fundamental criteria must be an ability to import your existing data, reports and spreadsheets from a variety of compatible systems.
Evaluate the commercial viability
How and where you spend your all-important budget will always be central to the success of your business.
When first looking for the right eCommerce platform for your needs, you’ll be offered a range of service packages with varying prices. Accounting for the hundreds of available platforms, it can feel like a minefield at first.
Evaluate the various commercial offerings that may suit your business as it grows. Consider the following:
- Pricing models based on a percentage of your revenue might first seem attractive, but they can soon spiral if you are successful.
- Order line pricing on the other hand, enables you to grow quickly at a manageable cost making it a desirable solutions for SMEs with less than 10 lines per order.
- A fixed price service model could be a better solution for bigger businesses.
Map out your business objectives, priorities, and roadmap for future growth as well as analysing the commercial model that will work best for your current, ongoing and future needs. Only then can you begin to make an informed decision on the best eCommerce platform for your business.
At DeeperThanBlue we have years of high profile success delivering both bespoke and large-scale eCommerce solutions to brands with complex and demanding infrastructures. If you need help becoming a market leader, get in touch with one of our eCommerce experts below.
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