The buyer’s decision-making process has changed dramatically in recent years. Buyers are conducting extensive research online before ever speaking to a sales person. Buyers are also making more direct purchases online and via their smartphone, never stepping foot into traditional brick-and-mortar locations.
According to eMarketer, ecommerce sales rose 16.4% in 2013 over the previous year to 262.3 billion dollars and is estimated to climb to 440 billion dollars by 2017. However, the percentage of online sales to all retail sales is still relatively small. Consider this: only 11% of Macy’s sales are online. But, that meager 11% represents 3.1 billion dollars per year. (eConsultancy)
To capture a piece of the pie, brick-and-mortar stores need to adapt as their customers are. Shoppers are more than happy to stay home and research and complete their purchase online as long as the barriers to online shopping have been subverted, i.e. security risks, paying for shipping, etc. Many don’t want to drive to a store, wander around in search of what they need and then interact with a cashier to finish the purchase process. In fact, according to an eConsultancy survey, 60% of Americans like knowing they don’t have to shop in a crowded mall or store and 51% prefer to shop from the comfort of home. Consider this; Black Friday, perhaps the biggest shopping day of the year, saw about 6 million fewer shoppers at retail locations in 2014 than 2013. This is a decline that is expected to continue in 2015.
And people don’t just shop from home; they are making purchases anywhere they have wifi or phone service. Consider that sixty-two percent of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last six months. (KeCommerce)
The good news is you don’t have to compete with Amazon or other retail giants. The internet enables even small companies to sell online and compete adequately with the retail giants via cloud based platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Amazon Webstore as well as other solutions like Magento, ZenCart, Abante Cart or using WordPress plugins.
Compared to setting up a brick-and-mortar location, getting started online is very manageable and affordable with many vendors and distributors making it even easier by including services like drop shipping until sales justify investing in having your own inventory. And payment processors making it even easier to take payment with multiple options and lower fees.
Selling direct online increases your reach. With an online store, your profits are no longer limited by the number of customers that can physically visit your brick and mortar location. You can sell across towns, states, and even across borders, removing all geographical limitations.
Your online store also allows you to cater to shoppers who find it more convenient to browse and buy at times when retail locations are not traditionally open. Online shopping can save time for both the buyer and retailer, reducing phone calls about availability, specifications, hours of operation or other information easily found on company and product pages.
An ecommerce system provides real time data and analytics about your products and your customers. You can see how people interact with the site, what products interest them, what they left in their cart and how much the average purchase was. Valuable metrics that allow you to make adjustments to meet your customer’s needs.
Even if your product(s) don’t appear ideal for online sales, an ecommerce presence will help buyers discover your business. Shoppers are spending more time researching online than ever before. Sixty-four percent of buyers spend 10 minutes or more researching before buying. They are online searching for products your business might sell. By having your items listed online in an ecommerce system you improve your chances of appearing in search engine results pages.That research could draw local buyers to your brick-and-mortar location or entice them to call. And best of all, your website is always selling. An ecommerce site is open 24/7/365 with virtually none of the overhead of a brick-and-mortar location.
Considerations when building your ecommerce presence
Create a user focused experience. Provide product details and information in a clear and concise manner. It’s important to help users through the online buying experience where they are unable to touch or try-on the products.
Use reviews and trust seals. According to KissMetrics, 5% of shoppers say that online reviews influence their buying decision.
Make sure information is readily available and there are no surprises, such as unexpected shipping cost. Twenty-eight percent of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if presented with unexpected shipping costs.
Allow guest checkout and ensure checkout is secure. Many shoppers will abandon a cart if they are required to create a new user account or have payment security concerns.
Make customers feel good about their purchase. Be helpful and personalize the experience. Just as with in-person interactions, online first impressions matter.
Gather feedback and data that will help you constantly improve the customer experience.
Make sure your ecommerce is mobile friendly. According to Brad Frost, “Mobile users will do anything and everything desktop users will do, provided it’s presented in a usable way.”
Be fluid and evolve. This applies to both your ecommerce site but also the logistics of meeting demand.
Your brick-and-mortar isn’t dead.
While more people are enjoying a complete end-to-end online shopping experience, click and collect is also a popular model. Nextopia reveals 44% of shoppers are more likely to purchase online if they are able to pick up in-store, and that 62% are more likely to shop online if they can return an item in-store. The key to success is the effective and appropriate use of both online and offline channels to create a solution that better satisfies your buyers’ needs and shopping methods.
Look for the next post in our ecommerce series where we take a deeper dive into reviewing the different types of eCommerce software solutions available to sell online. Have a favorite platform? Let us know using the comments below.