The retail market has transformed in the US and much of the world. Today, a huge chunk of retail sales occur online. This is one trend that will continue for the foreseeable future. Market research data suggests that e-commerce will grow to a monstrous $4 trillion by the year 2020.
With so much money being made online, it only makes sense that many businesses would choose the digital realm to expand into so they can sell their products to a much wider internet audience. However, expanding into online retail sales and being successful at it are two different things. If you don’t approach the online shopping experience correctly, you could scare away customers in droves. Below are some strategies you can use to make the online shopping experience more pleasant.
Focus on Mobile Compatibility
One thing you have to be aware of in regards to online retail is that a huge portion of transactions do not take place on traditional personal computers and laptops. Instead, a very good percentage of them occur with the use of mobile devices. Statistics state that 125 million consumers in the US have smartphones and 50 million have tablets.
The mobile experience works very differently from internet browsing on a PC or laptop. You need to make sure that your pages scroll up and down and never left to right. You also need to ensure that all links and buttons are easily clickable with a finger. You can only discover these kinds of issues with the mobile experience by performing significant testing on different mobile platforms.
Provide Real Time Customer Service
One of the things people generally don’t like about online shopping is how detached from human interaction the experience can be. Some people prefer brick and mortar stores because they can actually talk to salespeople and managers on the shop floor. They can answer their questions and help them make more informed decisions. However, many online stores leave out this human element entirely.
Instead, consider having some staff online to help provide online consumers with service and support. This can be done through a pop-up chat application. All the customer has to do is type in a message to elicit a response. Overall, the key here is having the interaction be immediate. If a consumer has to wait a significant amount of time, the opportunity to convert that lead into a sale may have already passed.
Personalize the Shopping Experience
One of the largest and most significant new retail trends has been a move towards personalization. While personalization in brick and mortar retail is very difficult, if not impossible, this is not the case with online stores. This can be done through machine learning by using algorithms that automatically examine data and information regarding a specific consumer and make adjustments to the store experience in accordance to what the program learns.
For example, a customer who provides a mailing address for a specific city may be given suggestions for products and services that are more relevant to that locale. The website should also take into consideration what the customer has purchased in the past and what is in that customer’s digital wish-list and browsing history. That way, the customer can be informed of new products via suggestive selling techniques that are in-line with that customer’s preferences.
The science of psychology suggests that people are much happier as consumers when they believe they're getting something for free. This kind of consumer thinking isn’t always rational. Consumers may even end up spending more money when they believe they are getting something for free. Businesses can certainly take advantage of this.
For example, if a consumer has to spend $30 in an online store to receive free shipping, chances are that consumer will choose to spend more money willingly to get that perceived discount. What they don’t know is that increase in purchase price pays for the cost of shipping for the business. The same can be said for deals involving other kinds of freebies such as digital downloads or those obtained through a customer rewards program.
Overall, just because you open an online store does not mean you’ll be successful. You also have to make the experience of shopping at that store pleasant and engaging for the consumer. While this can be difficult, the steps listed above can help move you towards a more successful model.