Since the dawn of e-commerce, the death of retail has been forecasted frequently. While there is no doubt that changes have come to traditional retail, it is obviously still around. Even so, e-commerce has certainly made an impact, particularly in the apparel and electronics sectors. Venture Beat recently reported that for the first time, Cyber Monday surpassed the $2 billion mark. This represents a 17 percent year-over-year increase. By comparison, TechCrunch reported that sales in physical stores for the four days following Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping week of the year, was actually down this year by 11 percent from last year. Obviously, there is much that old-fashioned retail can learn from e-commerce.
What Is E-commerce's Secret?
Speed and Convenience
Most importantly, where e-commerce excels over traditional retail is speed. In today's hectic world, consumers are looking for methods that will allow them to do more in less time. E-commerce provides such an opportunity. Rather than fighting traffic and the crowds to search for products, consumer can shop from the convenience of their own home. With the rise of mobile e-commerce, it is even possible for consumers to shop during their commute. The opportunity to shop online provides not only convenience but also speed.
Personalized Shopping Experience
Another area where e-commerce performs quite well is in personalizing the shopping experience for each consumer. Many e-commerce sites, including Amazon, provide sections, or recommendations that allow consumers to see products related to items they have viewed. E-commerce retailers are well aware that relevancy counts in online shopping. The more relevant a product, the more likely it is that consumers will make purchases. Whenever possible, e-commerce retailers attempt to personalize the shopping experience to the greatest extent. In this way, e-commerce retailers are able to subtly encourage consumers to purchase more than only one product. Including related products or bundling products makes it easier for online retailers to boost order values.
More and more consumers are relying on product reviews in order to make more informed shopping decisions. Consumer Affairs reports that 88 percent of consumers consider online reviews to be very influential when thinking about purchasing a product from an unfamiliar brand. In response to that trend, e-commerce retailers are now focusing on providing customer reviews to facilitate the transition process of converting prospective buyers into actual customers.
Mobile usage has had a significant impact on the growth of e-commerce, and is rapidly growing. Consumers are taking advantage of mobile from both their smartphones and tablets. E-commerce retailers are responding by developing websites specifically for catering to those devices.
A tremendous opportunity for improvement is available for retailers to analyze the way in which e-commerce is able to not only cross-sell, but also upsell. In order to leverage these strategies, brick-and-mortar retailers need to be flexible and innovative in their marketing strategies. The biggest opportunity presented to traditional retailers is the ability to leverage mobile devices. Retailers must recognize that more and more consumers are using their mobile devices to make purchasing decisions. They can tap into contextual marketing to send specific promotions to registered customers when they are actually in the store. Providing easy access to a mobile version of a retailer's website while customers are in the store can also help retailers to leverage the power of mobile devices.
iBeacon from Apple offers a distinctively innovative way for retailers to provide consumers with location-based information on their iOS devices and iPhones. The beacons, which are relatively small Bluetooth transmitters, can be installed in brick-and-mortar shops relatively easily. The apps installed on a consumer's phone actively listen for the signal these beacons transmit and then respond when the device comes into range with one of them. For instance, when a consumer passes a beacon while in a store, the retailer's app could provide information about a special display, or even a special offer alert.
As e-commerce continues to grow, the burden for retailers will become even stronger to take advantage of innovative methods wherever possible in order to remain competitive.