Here are some evolving trends that have surged past the cutting-edge “early adopter” phase and are now taking over the e-commerce space. If your business isn’t reacting to these shifts, you’re behind the curve, and your business may suffer.
Mobile-first design ethos
You’re probably aware that with the rise of mobile computing, Google has begun penalizing websites that aren’t mobile-friendly by bumping them down in search results. This is serious business for online retailers, with mobile shopping now accounting for a whopping 72.9% of ecommerce sales. Last year came another big move from Google: their “mobile-first” index rollout. This update changed the way the search engine crawls and indexes mobile-friendly sites. Now, sites that are highly mobile-friendly will have the mobile version of their pages indexed instead of the desktop version — another move that globally prioritizes the mobile experience over the traditional desktop one. It’s never been more important for your online shop to present an easy browsing and shopping experience on phones and tablets. Which brings us to…
Streamlined checkout processes
Almost 70% of online shoppers abandon their carts, and a third of those abandonments are caused by a long or complicated checkout process. That means your customers may be doing their research, comparison shopping, and making decisions… and ultimately abandoning all that work because your checkout process isn’t simple or fast enough. Make it your priority to offer a smooth, simplified checkout with simple payment options to encourage quick, easy conversions.
Social media and chatbots are two key ways that brands deliver new online opportunities for both customer service and sales. If you’ve been hesitant about the use of chatbots, think again — the biggest problems with chatbots aren’t caused by inherent issues with the technology, but by poor implementation.
Some retailers object that chatbots are annoying and disruptive, like pop-up ads. Others say that they don’t have the manpower to monitor incoming chats from customers. It’s important to pick a chatbot solution that’s highly configurable to avoid both of these problems. Don’t alienate customers with an instant chat window appearing on any and every page on your site. Instead, strategize, and offer your customers a chance to interact when they may need it most. For example, a chatbot can be set up to be triggered after a shopper idles on a product page for a long time, which may indicate that they have questions. As for monitoring, chatbots can also be set to have “open office” hours when they are actively monitored. They can even be treated like contact forms, with an auto-reply that tells the customer they’ll hear back from you within a set period of time, and asks them for an email address to send follow-up messages.
Online merchants are increasingly focusing on making their products available across a number of popular online channels. Social media platforms are increasingly supporting direct sales — you can already take advantage of this on Facbeook, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can also increase the number of eyeballs-on-products by taking advantage of marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, Jet, and Google Shopping. Third-party ecommerce platforms like Sellbrite, BigCommerce and SellerCloud can help you manage all of these channels, and many offer the ability to sync inventory and process every order centrally.
Changing customer demands
This is an obvious one for parcel shippers, who have been feeling the heat from rising customer expectations for years now. By 2020, generation Z and millennials will make up 59% of the global workforce, and generation Z will make up 40% of consumers globally. Winning over these consumer segments may be an opportunity that’s too huge to miss.
There’s been a lot of talk about what millenials want. Here are a few generalizations that have been verified by many studies:
The younger demographics want brands to feel engaged and offer a lot of information and interactivity. That means delivery date estimates at the checkout, online mobile tracking and texts and emails as updates. They also want flexible options when it comes to pick-up and delivery selections, and businesses face a steep challenge meeting new expectations that deliveries will be available after hours, on weekends, and next-day.
Here’s the good news: these customers are willing to pay for what they want. Research shows that the generation Z and millenial cohorts are willing to pay more for these expanded delivery options and greater convenience. The key takeaway here is that customer experience is overtaking price and product as the key differentiator for brands.
It’s never been easier — or more profitable — to investigate what you can automate in your logistics processes. Look at third-party tools that use machine learning that you can configure with Carrier options and services. These tools use robust rule-based engines to weigh a number of variables in order to match items you’re selling to the right destination, delivery type and Carrier, and perform all these decisions instantly at checkout. If you sell a wide variety of items, or if you ship internationally, that adds complexity and more up-front setup costs, but that investment will pay off in the long run.
Research shows that customers see packaging as part of the product experience. In a recent study, 68% of shoppers perceived a brand as being more upscale when its packaging changed, and 61% said that they got more excited about products with unique packaging. So custom packaging is a chance to make your brand stand out and pique customer interest, but it’s also a great opportunity to further optimize your shipping program. If you’re reevaluating your packaging, take the opportunity to consider whether you can cut shipping costs by making sure your parcels conform to what the Carriers consider optimal.