Ecommerce is slowly becoming omnipresent and seamless. When technology gets out of the way, everything becomes more delightful, even magical.
Companies like Amazon and Apple are connecting the pieces and providing rich and highly engaging customer experience that making online shopping almost effortless. Consumers are responding by buying more and new sellers are emerging on the scene every day. Online retail is growing at 19 percent over last year, which is huge. That's a $220 billion dollar industry just in the US.
From my perspective as an ecommerce technologist and strategist, the problem with enterprise software is that it is too complicated and too costly, it's very hard to use, and it takes too long to implement. Small and mid-sized businesses aspire but are really not ready for such technology that Amazons of the world have access to — however, the customer expectations are just the same from both small and large operators.
Small and mid-sized merchants have no choice but to adapt if they wish to grow by capitalizing on these ecommerce trends. Fortunately, there is a new breed of solution providers that are bringing the advanced tools delivered via the cloud at a price they can afford.
Here are my top five Ecommerce trends:
1. Multi-channel (aka omni-channel, cross-channel, all-channel) is becoming a big deal. Today's empowered consumer wants lots of choices. For example, she wants to buy online, pick up and return items in the store, call the contact center to check the status of her order and use her smartphone to track the shipment. Merchants need the ability to not only sell and service on their own website but also alternate channels like Amazon eBay, Facebook, microsites, B2B, B2C, call centers, and catalogs.
2. Mobile is really hot right now. People are shopping online on iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices. There's massive mobile adoption happening across all demographics; m-commerce is growing at triple digits year over year. It's going to be a big holiday season for mobile and smart retailers cannot afford to be left behind. Mobile customers tend to be more affluent who spend more on average and make more frequent purchases.
3. Social media is something that most retailers are still struggling with but it can be an effective sales channel for merchants who are truly committed to it. Social commerce goes well beyond the daily deals and Facebook like button. Social commerce can produce an impressive return when merchants leverage the power of the community and relationships to make relevant product and service recommendations and personalize the customer shopping experience.
4. There is also the local aspect. Customers want to locate items that are in stock close to them, pay for them online but quickly pick them up in store. They also want the "ship-to-store" option when buying online. And they wish to use their store loyalty cards and redeem the same offers and discounts either online or in-store.
5. I believe that analytics is becoming more important than ever. Analytics helps you attribute the sale to the correct channel, measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and helps you prioritize your marketing investments. It helps you determine the customer lifetime value (CLTV) and recency frequency monetary (RFM) values so that you can market to those segments more effectively while enjoying higher margins. Most small and mid-size retailers don't have that level of expertise and resources to easily conduct such in-depth analysis and bring it all together. However, SMB retailers need to get more savvy in this department. Fortunately, business analytics and intelligence tools come bundled in many leading ecommerce solutions that enables merchants to make data driven, smart decisions — which is what large companies do.
Manish Chowdhary is the founder and CEO of GoECart, an ecommerce platform provider based in Bridgeport. Reach him through the company's website at www.goecart.com.