Posted: 08 Mar 2017 Contributor: Matthew J Fritschle
Starting Your First eCommerce Business? Here Are 10 Trends You Should Follow in 2017
You’ve chosen a business name, an industry, and virtually everything else you need to begin your first eCommerce venture. The catch? There are thousands, if not millions of other eager business-owners out there ready to tackle the challenges of an online business. That’s the reality of your situation; there are countless others trying their best to stand out, and many have nothing to show for it. “But wait,” you say, “that’s not going to be me. My plan is foolproof!” Maybe so, but don’t you think that at least some of the failed businesses in the global eCommerce graveyard had similarly foolproof plans? Exactly. Here, just for you, are 10 trends in eCommerce industry that you really should be following if you not only want to stay afloat, but also prosper:
1: Establish a Mobile Presence
Mobile! Mobile! Mobile! If it hasn’t stuck yet, here it is again: Mobile! Why the repetition? Simple, if you don’t have a mobile presence you don’t have a presence at all. What do you do when you want to look up the weather? Pull out your phone. What about when you want to find a coffee shop near you? Same thing. And when you’re out and about and see a spiffy jacket that can also be found on Amazon? That’s right, you pull out your phone and shop online.
It’s expected that the mobile share of global eCommerce transactions in 2017 will be 70%, and you want your revenue to be part of this statistic. Here’s how: optimize for mobile shoppers. You can take the easy route and get a mobile-friendly site, although this is only the bare minimum to pass Google’s search indexing tests. A better solution is to increase user experience (UX) and get a responsive site that reformats and restructures its content for any device. Get in touch with an eCommerce web development agency and get going! As a matter of fact, Williams-Sonoma did just that and saw an increase of 5.2% in eCommerce sales during the fiscal second quarter of 2016, with mobile traffic “significantly”adding to this increase.
2: Begin Mobile Advertising
So you heard that online shopping was up 45% in 2016, and thought, “Perfect! Don’t mind me, I’ll just wait here for a piece of the pie to come my way.” Nope. While online shopping is up, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get any sort of benefit from it. Do you know who will? Those who are taking advantage of the surge in smartphone usage and are advertising on mobile devices. With 80% of Internet users owning a smartphone and mobile use growing 58% year over year, staying put is not something you can afford. Why not advertise in a medium that you know is preferred by the majority of people who would constitute your audience? Check out this post if you’re still on the fence and need a little nudge in the right direction.
3: Improve Customer Service
Customer service can make or break you; simple as that. One bad review is all it takes for your luck to change and your sales to plummet. Think of a wildfire. One little flame may not seem very intimidating, but leave it unattended and you have a story on the six o’clock news. You can do a couple of things to avoid this. Let’s start with the worst case scenario in which you already have a bad review (or many, for that matter). DO NOT sit still and curse them in your head, ACT! Be proactive and inquire further. See what you can do to change their mind and improve their opinion of your business. In the other scenario, in which you’re still brimming with good reviews, keep it up! A customer service best practice is to not let emails or inquiries fall through the cracks. This will only annoy your customers and make them feel ignored. After all, what is a business if it doesn’t have any customers?
4: Join Social Media
Social media is a must with eCommerce. How else can you connect with your customers if you don’t have a brick and mortar shop? It’s prime realty for fostering relationships and improving them, and the perfect place for a two-way conversation to take place between you, the shop owner, and your audience, the customers. Not only can it help you brand your business in a specific way, but it can also help you with the previous point of improving customer service. Take Twitter, for instance. A lot of people nowadays are utilizing it as a customer support channel to vent their frustrations or praise their favorite brands. All they have to do is send a tweet in your direction and wait for a reply.
5: Add Email to Your Marketing Strategy
Let’s start with an incentive. Email marketing is very cheap. Now get ready for a lot of statistics, because here they are:
- Transactional emails have 8X more opens and clicks than any other type and can generate 6X more revenue
- Personalized emails increase click-through rates (CTR) by 14%, conversions by 10%, and lead to 6X higher transaction rates
- Email marketing has an average return on investment (ROI) of 3800%
Including email in your marketing strategy can come in a variety of ways. You can send automated emails for dropped checkouts that increase the likelihood of making a sale, or send regular newsletters with deals and promotions that ensure you’re a constant presence on your audience’s mind (as long as you keep it to about 2 per month). Whatever you do, make sure that your emails will actually be of benefit for your customers. Otherwise you risk turning a golden opportunity into spam.
6: Offer a Referral Program
Referral programs are wonderful because they can turn one happy customer into two, then four, then eight, and so on. It’s like a good contagion that can give you benefits instead of making you sick (bad analogy?). Better yet, it can be as simple as ‘Get 20% off your next purchase for a referral.’ You’re good as long as you give your customers an actual incentive to refer you to their friends. Want more information? No problem, look over this post to learn more about referral marketing practices.
7: Focus on UX
UX is vital in eCommerce. Actually, scratch that. UX is absolutely vital in eCommerce. Much like customer service, it can make or break you. The last thing that you want is for your customer to land on your site only to leave in a huff because it took too long to load or was too complicated to use. This section actually encompasses many of our earlier points because most contribute to good UX. More specifically, you want to make your customer’s journey from landing to checkout as seamless and pleasant as possible.
UX in Action
Improving UX is the exact thing Chesapeake Bay Candle did when they got in touch with a digital marketing agency and revamped their website with a focus on UX. They not only met their expectations, but surpassed them as eCommerce sales and conversions skyrocketed within the first two months after launch.
8: Include an After Purchase Questionnaire
It’s only logical to include this section after speaking of UX because the two go hand in hand. Who better to ask how you can improve your services than a customer fresh out of checkout? They can tell you what they liked, what they didn’t like, and any changes they think will improve further transactions. You can even add incentives and increase the likelihood of completion by offering a discount on future purchases. Trust me on this one, it can really help.
9: Employ Call to Actions (CTAs)
CTAs are buttons, text links, images, or anything that invites users to click somewhere for a specific purpose. They highlight something and can mean the difference between someone looking at a product or buying it, between browsing your shop and subscribing to your newsletters. Social buttons invite users to follow you on social media platforms, ‘subscribe’ CTAs ensure that you’re a constant presence on their mailbox, ‘get more information’ CTAs keep them informed, and much more.
10: Make Timely Deliveries
Last but not least comes one of the current trends in eCommerce, shipping! As average delivery time has continued to drop, we now enter the age of ‘click & collect.’ Time is money and people want things now. Not tomorrow or the day after, now. No one exemplifies this more than Amazon, who offers Prime Air, a delivery system that delivers packages to customers in 30 minutes or less by using drones. Similarly, 78% of consumers pay for Amazon Prime solely for their free two-day delivery. In fact, a study found that 9 out of 10 consumers say free shipping is the No. 1 incentive to shop more online, 69% say one-day delivery, and 68% say free returns and exchanges.
Let’s Wrap Up
Roughly one-third of businesses fail in 2 years, half in 5 years, and two-thirds in 10. The key is to come up with a marketing strategy for the long run because the longer a company stays in business, the more likely it is to stay that way. To help you with the eCommerce trends 2017 is sure to bring, here’s a quick refresher:
- Establish a Mobile Presence
- Begin Mobile Advertising
- Improve Customer Service
- Join Social Media
- Add Email Marketing to Your Marketing Strategy
- Offer a Referral Program
- Focus on UX
- Include an After Purchase Questionnaire
- Employ CTAs
- Make Timely Deliveries