6 Ways SMEs Can Embrace the Future of eCommerce
With technology evolving all the time, what seemed like eCommerce pie in the sky a short time ago is now a reality. For small businesses, the scale of change can be breath-taking, and the learning curve is steep, but necessary.
According to the Office for National Statistics, eCommerce sales in 2012 amounted to a cool £492 billion, with an average 10% growth in this figure year on year. Statistics from the US show that 2014 Q1 revenues from eCommerce are up 11% over the same period last year” and this rate of growth looks sure to only accelerate.
So what does the future of eCommerce look like for SMEs, and what should you be doing to keep up?
1. It’s Competitive – and Getting More So
It’s now easier than ever to sell online, and that means a much more crowded marketplace. Although the giants like Amazon and eBay continue to dominate, small businesses are also finding it a much more cut-throat world out there. The number one thing you need to do to survive is to stand out from the crowd – and that means offering a good customer experience, from start to finish.
2. Embrace Mobile
Data from IMRG shows that 27% of online sales transactions in Q1 2014 took place on a tablet. You can no longer safely assume that your customer is seated at a PC or a laptop, so it’s vital that your website and sales channels are optimised for mobile devices. Provide a clear purchase path via smartphone and tablet, and test them thoroughly.
3. Know Your Customers – and Prove It
Personalisation is a key trend in eCommerce and is set to expand. Successful personalisation means filtering your catalogue to display items related to your customer’s previous purchases, buying habits or preferences. Curated content is important too – provide your customer with relevant, personalised information which engages them and keeps them coming back.
4. Got Customers? Keep Them!
Customer loyalty has always been important, and with increased competition, it’s going to matter even more. It’s easier than ever now to set up a customer loyalty scheme, but work on a number of ways to add value to your goods or services. Free shipping? Extended returns periods or free returns? 24/7 support or SMS updates? Be generous and creative.
5. Put the Fun into Shopping
Gamification doesn’t have to mean literally creating games for your customers, but it does mean creating an interactive, fun experience for them – perhaps allowing them to put together bundles of virtual goods to showcase to their friends, or offering incentives for reviews and community building activities.
6. Keep an Eye on Emerging Tech
Technology such as NFC has been slow to take off in the online retail world, but should expand now that both Apple and Google are embracing it. For small businesses, there’s no need to rush into this, but do stay up to date with developments.
Ultimately, the eCommerce future for SMEs looks very positive. We’re going to be shopping faster and smarter, but the opportunities are enormous. If you can stay ahead of the curve by offering an outstanding customer experience across all devices and social media channels, you’re already well on the way towards maximising your future eCommerce potential.