Don’t have time at the peak of a new project to go to the mall and buy yourself a new dress for your sister’s wedding?
Think online shopping saves time and effort by putting thousands of buying choices from ecommerce businesses right at your fingertips?
Well, you are not alone. Shopping is by far the most popular online activity worldwide. Millions of people engage in it, daily, in one form or another. From online bill payment to purchasing tickets for the next big game to investing in stocks to buying auto insurance, ecommerce has become such an essential part of our lives that we cannot function effectively without it.
Statistics show that nearly 70 percent of Americans shop online on a regular basis. In fact, worldwide online shopping retail sales are predicted to grow to $370 billion by 2017, up from $231 billion in 2012.
One reason why online shopping is growing so significantly is because satisfaction levels of shoppers are as high as 83 percent.
A brief history of ecommerce
The concept of buying and selling is as old as man himself, but here are a few key events that gave rise to the development of the ecommerce industry as we know it today:
1981: Thomson Holidays UK was the first B2B online shopping system to be installed.
1984: CompuServe launched the first electronic mall in the US and Canada. It was the first time a company tried developing a comprehensive electronic shopping service.
1990: Tim Berners-Lee created the first web browser and called it the World Wide Net. He did this using a NeXT Computer.
1995: Jeff Bezos launched the first ecommerce giant that is still the ecommerce leader today – Amazon. Cisco and Dell also aggressively used the internet for transactions. eBay, known at the time as AuctionWeb, was founded by Pierre Omidyar.
1999: The Alibaba Group was established in China.
2012: Ecommerce and retail holiday sales reached $33.8 billion.
Although ecommerce was introduced only a few decades ago, new technologies and innovations continue to open new inroads in the field.
As can be gauged from the historic events that contributed to the rise of ecommerce, the field has grown exponentially over a very short span of time. Today, people continue to create new technologies, innovate smarter ways to reach target audiences and study big data (numbers and stats) to no end in order to understand what buyers’ needs and preferences are, so that solutions can be tailored accordingly.
As we continue to move down this path of innovation and development, we can already see technology gaining ever more importance in our lives. Just now, as you are reading this article, I would bet that you must have at least one more Internet-connected device lying at arm’s reach.
Right now, most ecommerce companies, in their struggle to up their game, are trying three different marketing strategies that are working wonders with consumers.
Strategy #1 for ecommerce businesses today: Multi-channel approach
As you must’ve already guessed by the term ‘multi-channel,’ it refers to the practice of interacting with customers using a combination of direct and indirect communication channels, including social media, websites, retail stores, mail order catalogs and mobile apps. Each of these mediums encourages customers to buy a product or service. As an ecommerce business owner, it is your job to present what you have to offer through a medium that each individual customer is most comfortable with.
One major reason why the multi-channel approach is so important is that you need to be where your customers are – and customers are everywhere.
The number of channels that can be used to reach customers is increasing rapidly, and each of these channels targets consumers with a different set of habits, skills, age groups and likes. Having a business presence in different channels is not just important, but critical to our success.
Strategy #2 for ecommerce businesses today: Omni-channel approach
Thousands of businesses were still just in the process of understanding and applying multi-channel marketing strategies when omni-channel came along with a whole new set of advantages and challenges.
At its very core, omni-channel is a marketing strategy that provides an integrated and seamless shopping experience for the customer, with consistent messaging across the board. At this point, it is also essential to understand the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel. The main difference between the two boils down to the quality and depth of the integration between the different channels being used – and omni is definitely the winner in this area.
Most businesses today invest in multi-channels (Twitter, Facebook, website, blog), but the fact is that being omni requires you to align messaging, design, objectives and goals in a seamless and integrated way.
On the other hand, businesses that want to create their own unique omni infrastructure will often have to work closely with several departments within the company.
Strategy #3 for ecommerce businesses today: Apps
If you don’t already know, apps are the new big thing in ecommerce. If you are a business owner with no great app to boast, you are missing out on a large chunk of potential buyers. Apps can be equipped with several game-changing features, like biometrics, camera, geo-location, sensors, augmented reality and 3D gaming. They cannot be utilized on mobile websites, regardless of how responsive they may be.
What’s more, apps are much faster than mobile sites, with consumers spending 85 percent of their mobile usage time on five of their most favorite apps.
What does the future hold for ecommerce?
In June 2016, giant online retailer Amazon turned 22 years old. The industry is now mature enough that retail leaders are thinking of ways to provide home deliveries within the same day, and new careers are emerging – from growth hackers to drone shippers. These same things also remind us just how far the industry still needs to go, and the huge potential that exists.
On the other hand, the industry is also in its stage of infancy. Retailers are developing new ideas to test almost every day, including growth initiatives, new technologies and ways to increase shopper engagement. The fact is that success begins when businesses understand the market opportunities as well as the points of friction, and then do their best to fill the gaps.
People will prefer buying via mobile devices
If you have an online business, you might have already gotten a whiff of this new, emerging trend. How to present goods and services to mobile users in a way that carves a bigger portion of revenues for an ecommerce business is on everybody’s mind.
Despite the rising number of mobile shoppers, retailers are still a bit slow to provide solutions that correspond to the exponential growth of mobile shoppers. This opens a huge room of opportunity for businesses of all kinds. In the UK, for example, mobile shopping is growing four times the rate of overall spending, according to an article published by eConsultancy.
There are some people who are still concerned with online window shopping, while many others are actively buying everything online. Online stores need to focus on making their on-site experience as simple and pleasurable as possible, and they need to create better ways to cater to the mobile shopper.
New brands will emerge
The future looks very promising for small and emerging businesses, to say the least. An article written by Himanshu Sareen,titled eCommerce and Social: A match made in Heaven, nails it. The fact that so many newcomers have been able to make their mark despite giants like Amazon and eBay eating the biggest piece of the revenue pie says a lot about the importance of social media in the marketing mix of smaller companies.
Wider market exposure, bigger portions of quality web traffic and an increase in the value of your brand all result from integrating intelligent social strategies into the marketing mix. Wanelo and Zulily are two recent examples, the latter currently valued at more than $1 billion.
Additionally, advertising on social channels like Facebook and Twitter can provide a bridge that new businesses can use to reach new customers and stay in touch with existing ones. There is no denying that these social networks offer some of the best targeting available to smaller businesses. These same trends will likely continue to develop in the future – creating a playing field for more fresh companies to emerge and compete with the big boys.
Businesses will expend more on marketing
In the future, ecommerce marketing will become even more granular. The one-size-fits-all advertising strategy that has been overused in the conventional selling business is already obsolete in the world of ecommerce, and companies that will optimize ‘micro-moments’ will have an edge over their competitors in the near future.
Here’s what we learn about micro-moments from Think with Google:
Micro-moments are moments when “consumers expect brands to address their needs with real-time relevance.” Micro-moments are a consumer’s journey broken down into several small moments that are intent-driven, and in real-time.
In other words, micro-moments will occur when consumers reflexively turn to their mobile devices to learn, do, discover, watch or buy something. These moments are rich in a way that brands can step in and influence buying preferences and decisions at exactly the right ‘moments.’
Triggering buying behaviors, the right key messages will help generate repeat sales and deepen consumer engagement.
On the other hand, personalization is already the most compelling consumer engagement strategy today. Businesses are already capitalizing on research to provide tailored customer experiences to each user, eliminate data silos and optimize customer lifetime value.
According to an eConsultancy study, only 62 percent of online retailers are doing personalization in some form. Recently, a major UK travel app was able to increase its purchase rates by 210 percent just by targeting specific PPC words to certain users.
This shows that online businesses will continue to increase spending on market research to come up with better market penetration strategies and stay above their game.
The online business world is likely to change a lot in years to come. New ways of doing ecommerce will emerge, and marketers will put their heart and soul into refining and fine-tuning existing methods.
We are standing at the crossroads. New challenges will emerge, but they will eventually pave the way for bigger success stories.