Jan 29, 2014

Top 10 Global eCommerce Predictions for 2014

An eCommerce strategy is more than just having a good checkout process. The mobile web, SEO, content, design, functionality, analytics, security – all of these elements, and more, should cross your mind at all times when you think about your online retail website.

As we continue this march into the new year, consider these areas of eCommerce and how you can improve your online strategy in 2014 and beyond.

1. Security

Security concerns must be top of mind in 2014. Sites will need ongoing security audits to prevent identify theft and credit card fraud. As has always been best practice, let customers know when they are entering a secure area of your website and that their private information is safe and protected.

2. Lead the Pack

Go above and beyond the usual product images and descriptions. Show off how well you know and understand your products, give tips and advice, and give the story behind your products (are you a green company?) through blogs, social media posts and videos (check out Zappos, REI and Asos for examples). These channels can also provide a chance for crowdsourced content - allow customers to share their product know-how, too.  

3. Single View of the Customer

In 2014, customer activity will be aggregated to provide personalised information and targeted response to activities on online retail sites. Send a reminder email to a customer after he abandons his online shopping cart when shopping on his mobile device. Track the online and offline activities of a customer through a loyalty card and send marketing messages accordingly. Loyalty has to be continuously earned through consistently great online and offline experiences. Let your technology help you deliver those experiences!

4. Join the Marketplace

In 2014, more online retailers will add their products to third-party online marketplaces (e.g. Amazon.com). This will allow them to expand their reach and increase traffic, but will also require careful planning. Check the marketplace’s policies towards price, fulfilment and inventory.

5. Display and Persuade

There are many ways to display your products on a website: detailed descriptions, image galleries, video, zoom features. I’m often amazed at how many online retailers get this basic and essential element of eCommerce wrong. But there are also many opportunities to go beyond the visual on a product page or category page. Reviews are one excellent example, but don’t forget about ‘persuasive elements,’ like filtering items by Recommended or Highest Rated, offering a “Similar Items” option, or bundling items with similar or complementary products (and possibly a corresponding discount).

6. Speak to the Customer

Use your customers’ opinions and actions to your advantage. Email or on-site surveys let you get direct feedback, and surveys can be tailored and personalised for different types of customers. Send one email to customers who have abandoned their shopping carts; send another email to customers who have purchased in the past but not returned for over 6 months. Ask for feedback or share your latest discount or site update. Show off your personalised touch and use this info to make the online shopping experience better.  

7. Advances in Fulfilment

Fulfilment suppliers will invent new and interesting ways to get products to buyers quicker and in more convenient ways. On the technology side, send email or SMS updates when a package is sent out for delivery, when there are delays, or when the package has been delivered. The eCommerce experience doesn’t end when the customer checks out!

8. Content Still Rules

Content is king on eCommerce sites, too – and not just for SEO purposes. Highlight the important info (Buy One Get One offers; Seasonal items; Free shipping/returns after $50 purchase) and make sure the design of your website draws attention to these spots. And don’t neglect this content on mobile devices – you have less space to share your message, so choose wisely.

9. Stop Falling Behind on Mobile

If you’re site isn’t mobile-friendly in 2014, you’re falling behind. But eCommerce websites are often the worst offenders in the mobile user experience - images aren’t large enough, or text is too small, or buttons are difficult to click. Finding the balance between a great-looking mobile website and having enough information on a page to make a purchasing decision can be a thin line to walk down, but with the right design, functionality and content strategy, a responsive or mobile eCommerce website can be successful and attractive. One example? Don’t force users to register in order to purchase (ASOS saw a 50% drop in shopping cart abandonment once it stopped making new users register on their website).

10. Get Offline

Certain retailers will have to get offline to deliver a top-level experience for their customers. Etailers will seek to engage in a personal way with their customers by establishing “experience centers” in target markets (e.g. Apple stores and Samsung stores) or take advantage of other short-term, offline outfits like pop-up stores or mobile shopping trucks

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