Many ecommerce merchants are enjoying a robust holiday selling season even as some brick-and-mortar stores are seeing relatively flat Christmas sales. To ensure continued growth and success, Internet retailers may want to challenge their businesses to improve in several areas in 2014.
Ecommerce and mobile-based ecommerce have grown significantly this year. Cyber Monday ecommerce sales, as an example, reached $1.735 billion originating from desktop and laptop devices, according to comScore. Even Black Friday, which is better known for brick-and-mortar retail sales, saw online spending reach $1.198 billion in the United States, again according to comScore. Mobile online spending may also have grown, as some reports indicate that mobile-based site traffic was up 55 percent around Thanksgiving.
Retailers, however, should not rest on their current success, but rather should challenge their businesses to improve in several areas, including free shipping offers, mobile optimization, personalization, data driven decision making, and cross channel sales.
Offer Free, Two-Day Shipping
The first challenge for online sellers in 2014 may be to find ways to offer free, two-day shipping to all or most shoppers. While it is likely there will still be minimum purchase and maximum weight requirements and restrictions, online shoppers are going to expect faster free shipping options thanks, in part, to the growth in services like Amazon Prime and ShopRunner.
Amazon Prime, which costs $79.99 per year, gives shoppers free two-day shipping on orders placed on Amazon.com and affiliated online retailers. ShopRunner offers a similar two-day shipping service with free returns for $79.99 per year or $8.95 per month. ShopRunner’s shipping benefits are also available for free to any American Express member. Other similar services are also likely to arrive in 2014. MasterCard and PayPal, as examples, have both tried free, two-day shipping offers already.
Consider order fulfillment services, distributed warehouses, drop shipping, or even partnerships with other retailers to help meet this challenge.
Put Mobile Design and Marketing First
In November, IBM reported that mobile devices accounted for 31 percent of U.S. ecommerce-related web traffic around the Thanksgiving holiday this year, and that 17 percent of ecommerce transactions came from smartphones or tablets. On average, tablet users spent more than $126.00 per order, and smartphone users spent about $106 per order.
This data shows that mobile ecommerce is not simply a novelty, but rather a must have for 2014.
If an ecommerce business is not optimized for mobile sales, 2014 is the year to take on that challenge, including offering a responsive design and mobile friendly payment options.
Offer Personalization and Customization
Challenge your business to finally begin offering personalization and customization both onsite and in marketing. The easiest place to start may be with email marketing. Work to segment email marketing campaigns so that they address customers by name and with relevant products and offers that are based on an individual’s or group of shoppers’ stated preferences or on-site behavior.
Taking on this challenge means that the retailer’s marketing department will need to collect meaningful information about what interests shoppers and organize separate, custom campaigns around those interests.
Personalization and customization could be a significant competitive advantage in 2014.
Use Big Data for Big Information
Big Data is a popular trend in business and in marketing. The concept can mean different things to different businesses. For ecommerce, retailers should seek to use Big Data to gather big information, if you will, that may be used to make better buying and selling decisions.
As an example consider, Weather Trends International, a Big Data company that uses historical weather information and advanced data processing to accurately predict weather 11 months in advance. This sort of Big Data information could show a snowboard and ski retailer what sort of winter major ski resorts are likely to have next year, and could inform purchasing and inventory choices.
Similarly, knowing that a particular region is going to have a warmer than normal July and August might impact how, where, and when a clothing retailer promotes shorts or bikinis on Facebook or AdWords.
In 2014, find sources of good, usable Big Data, and put the resulting big information to use.
Sell Seamlessly Across Channels, Devices
Retailers online or in physical stores need to offer shoppers a seamless, cross channel shopping experience that makes buying things easier for the customer. To continue to enjoy success in 2014, consider offering shoppers the ability to share orders across devices, applications, and even marketplaces.
In practice, this might mean that items added to a cart in an online store show up in the cart for the retailer’s iPhone app too. Or that a customer’s order history displayed on a retailer’s site shows orders placed on-site and via a marketplace like Amazon or eBay.
Try to think of every way that a shopper might interact with an online store, and then make all of those touch points work together in 2014.