In a nutshell: Think you’re ahead of the curve in e-commerce? Maybe not. These four tips will prepare you for the future of online shopping.
When it comes to your small business’s online commerce efforts, staying on top of trends in this ever-changing space is critical to your company’s success, especially because e-commerce is eclipsing brick and mortar retail. In fact, according to BI Intelligence, the average growth rate in the first half of 2016 in the United States was just 2% for total retail, but 16% for e-commerce.
So, what emerging trends should you get a jump on today? Interacting with customers via social media is expected. Using third-party sites like Amazon for logistics is old news. And being mobile-friendly is a must. Read on for four ideas that will have your small business growing with the best of them.
If you’re based in the U.S., you may not realize cross-border shopping is so popular. That’s because there’s such a supply in the U.S. that consumers typically don’t have to seek out sources in other countries. But, in many markets, consumers can’t get what they want in-country. As a small business with access to millions of products domestically, this presents a major opportunity. Start marketing to – or at least be open to the idea of selling to – other countries. According to shipping company Pitney Bowes, Canada, UK and Australia are good markets, but there is “significant opportunity” for Brazil, Germany and China as well.
There are a few considerations when you’re jumping into the global e-commerce landscape. Be sure to understand your shipping costs and how visible tracking will be into other countries. Duties and/or taxes may come into play as you export from the U.S. and import into other countries, so have a grasp on what the fees will be to ensure your margins stay as expected. And to ensure you’re providing transparent customer service, know how long it takes for products to arrive in other countries. You’ll want to be clear about this in your product description or shipping information, so consumers know what to expect.
Don’t Discount Desktops
According to research conducted by Wolfgang Digital, mobile accounts for 42% of traffic but only 21% of revenue; it delivers the lowest conversion rate of all devices. But there is a strong correlation between high percentages of mobile traffic and high overall website conversion rates. So, while consumers may shop via mobile and make their ultimate decision this way, many resort to another device to complete their purchase. The takeaway: A strong mobile-friendly (responsive is even better) website will get a consumer’s foot in the door, but make it simple for people to pick up where they left off via desktop and finish their purchase.
Start a Subscription Service
Recurring revenue makes your business more valuable – and viable. According to Inc.’s “Why Your Company Needs a Recurring Revenue Model,” companies with a software as a service model averaged a six-times revenue multiple, which is twice as high as what software companies tend to average. That’s impressive.
There are many examples of subscription service companies, including monthly razors from Harry’s, weekly ingredient and recipes from Blue Apron, on-demand music from Spotify and monthly dog products from BarkBox. Think about what you offer in your business (the more specialized, the better) that people would be interested in on a recurring basis. From there, understand your customers’ shopping habits: how frequently they shop and what items they pair with one another. Put together a prototype box and a price point, and go for it.
Pro Tip: People love to Instagram their subscription boxes, so encourage sharing by marketing your product with a distinct hashtag and make sure the packaging is attractive enough to warrant attention.
Personalized customer service is still important, but automating a part of the process may help you (and your customers) solve issues or answer simple questions more quickly. You can start simple with this by integrating your chatbot with Facebook Messenger, text messages or WhatsApp, according to Business Insider’s “From Fortune 500s to Small Businesses, Real Businesses are Using Chatbots to Improve Their Service.” An example is a restaurant that typically spends a lot of manpower on taking reservations, sharing menus and explaining daily specials. Let a chatbot do this! Think about the most frequently asked questions or routine requests and teach a virtual assistant to do it for you.
While there are many different options for you to expand your small business’ e-commerce efforts, these four ideas should get you thinking about some minor innovations that could reap major rewards.