Global eCommerce is growing exponentially, and shows no signs of slowing down. According to Statista, B2C eCommerce sales around the globe reached almost $850 billion in 2014, and the number expected to cross $1 trillion by the end of 2015.
There’s every indication that 2016 is going to be an even better year for eCommerce businesses worldwide. But to take advantage from this massive growth, you need to prepare early.
From the design and user experience of your eCommerce website, to marketing and sales strategies, everything needs to be in line with the emerging eCommerce trends.
Not sure how to do it?
Here are some key areas you need to work on in order to take advantage of the eCommerce boom in 2016.
1. Build Your Platform for Mobile Shoppers
In case you haven’t heard this already, more than 50% of all Google searches now originate from different forms of mobile devices. 52% of American adults own a smartphone device, and worldwide mobile commerce spending will reach nearly $700 billion by 2018.
Research also shows that a significant percentage of online shoppers browse and select their products using a mobile device and then switch to a desktop device to complete the purchase.
The writing is on the wall – you need to build your eCommerce website for mobile shoppers.
Surprisingly, though, 91% of the top 100 eCommerce websites use designs that are not optimized for mobile users.
Make sure you’re not one of them.
Use a responsive website design for your eCommerce store and think mobile first in every aspect of your business. A responsive design adjusts according to the screen dimensions of the visitor’s device.
To see whether your website is mobile friendly or not, use Google’s Mobile Friendly test.
2. Offer a Memorable User Experience
With the global eCommerce scene becoming so competitive, user experience is becoming a key differentiation point among eCommerce websites, and a key customer acquisition and retention factor.
In simple words, user experience refers to ease with which customers can navigate and explore your website and find the products they’re looking for. Websites with a memorable user experience not only look and feel good, but also route their visitors to the exact actions they want them to take.
According to Forrester, nearly 97% of eCommerce websites have poor user experience. On average, poor user experience causes 25% buyers to leave without making a purchase.
Some of the key aspects of a memorable user experience are website design, site performance (load times, crash frequency etc.), simplified navigation, clear calls to action and logical product categorization.
In the era of smartphones and tablets, eCommerce websites with poor user experience will find it increasingly hard to attract and retain customers.
3. Use Email Marketing to Build Customer Loyalty
Despite the emergence of social media and several other forms of direct advertising, email remains one of the most important and high conversion customer touchpoints.
More than 7% of all eCommerce transactions originate from emails, making it the second most effective acquisition source behind search engines (15%).
The lifetime value of customers acquired from email is also 12% higher than the average.
Perhaps that’s the reason why nearly 64% of eCommerce marketers plan to increase their spending on email marketing in the next 12 months.
So, no matter how advanced eCommerce marketing gets, email marketing should always be at the top of your marketing and customer acquisition strategies.
Make a conscious effort to route visitors and buyers to your email list. Offer incentives, use lead magnets, pop-up boxes and any other techniques that can help increase your subscriber base.
4. Be Ready for the Big Buying Days of the Year
The big shopping days of the year are not just big anymore – they’re humongous.
AliBaba amassed more than $9 billion sales on Singles Day in 2014. Cyber Monday sales in the US were the highest ever recorded – $2.3 billion.
Even the smaller eCommerce websites see a spike in sales on days like Black Friday, Super Saturday etc. But as more people gain access to smartphones and the internet, the local holidays and occasions will become even more important for small eCommerce vendors.
How much you can benefit from these days depends on how prepared you are. Promote your offers in advance, build momentum, get the word out and excite your customers with discounts and special day offers.
At the same time, make sure your stocks and website servers don’t crash with the spike in buyers.
5. Invest More in Facebook Advertising
Facebook now has more than 1.5 billion monthly active users. A large chunk of the world’s online population uses Facebook almost daily. And with each passing day, Facebook is becoming bigger and better.
eCommerce business across the globe have found a lot of success and direct sales by using Facebook advertisements. Not only are they easy to configure, but also help you choose your audience with more precision than most other ad networks. And above all, you can start testing your ads from $1 and then scale them up as you find success.
According to Statista, eCommerce businesses saw an average cost per click of $0.49 in Q3 2014. With the kind of audience targeting Facebook offers, and the frequency with which your target users use Facebook, this is an extremely viable and attractive advertising medium that you should definitely use in the coming days and months.
6. Create Content Rich Product Pages
Your product page is effectively a sales page. The chances of making a sale are much higher if you have an engaging, credible and convincing product page.
eCommerce websites lose 3% buyers on average because of confusing and poor product pages. But that’s not the only drawback.
The biggest source of eCommerce traffic is Google search. Google hates shallow and poor quality product pages.
So creating product pages with rich content is not just about conversions, it’s about traffic as well.
How exactly do you create a rich content product page?
- By including several high quality product pictures.
- By writing engaging product descriptions that focus on product benefits instead of features.
- By highlighting the key differentiation points of your offer.
- By including customer reviews and testimonials.
- By offering an attractive pricing model.
I have covered this topic in much more detail in another post on this blog. You can read it here.
7. Leverage Content Marketing for Branding and Sales
Content marketing is not just a buzz word used by marketers. It’s a complete marketing and branding strategy that hundreds and thousands of eCommerce companies are using.
Nearly 61% of US customers have made online purchases because of a blog post, and more than 55% customers feel positive about a brand if it publishes blog posts.
However, blogging is just one form of content marketing.
eCommerce companies that have found success with content marketing are using video content, social media and several other forms of content in combination with blogging. And it’s producing great results.
For example, you can use product tutorial videos and testimonials, or create memes and pin product images to Pinterest and share on social media pages.
Product tutorials and How-To videos are especially effective when you have a limited set of specialized products. Plus, you can release quarterly or monthly whitepapers, eBooks and other forms of published content.
8. Offer Free-Shipping and a Flexible Return Policy
High shipping cost is one of the biggest reasons why customers abandon an online purchase. In a survey by Statista, nearly 44% of online shoppers said they would’ve completed the purchase if free shipping was offered.
Free shipping is an expensive proposition for many small businesses. But if you can even share some of the shipping costs, you can really stand out and win customers. Because this is where the market is headed. Some of the most successful eCommerce businesses are offering free shipping to their customers.
Even better, offer a flexible return policy to win customers. If your product is great, and you’ve shipped exactly what the customer ordered, you shouldn’t be receiving a lot of returns.
But even if you do, accept them.
Every 2 out of 3 online shoppers prefer buying from websites that offer free returns. Some large retail eCommerce companies like Zappos went a bit too far with this approach by offering 365 day returns.
Not everyone can do that, but you can offer a limited time period return policy.
With an increasingly tech savvy global population, and better online transaction security, these are great times for eCommerce companies. However, in order to compete in this growing market you need to stay on top of your game and stay ahead of your competitors. If you can provide your customers a memorable online shopping experience and win their trust, 2016 can prove to be one of the best years for your business.