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The internet has transformed the way everyone does business. And, it has especially changed the way we sell. Whether you work B2B or B2C, it has expanded your reach, improved customer service, and decreased business costs.
But are you getting the most value from your online sales platform?
You need a robust solution that integrates seamlessly with your existing business systems and is mobile ready to improve conversions and ensure the fast and convenient service customers expect. But did you know there are new and innovative ways to use your online sales channel to extend the benefits even more?
Check out these creative trends that online sellers are leveraging to play to customer interest, grab attention, drive traffic, increase market share, boost loyalty, and squeeze every dollar out of their online channel.
1. Voice Shopping
Voice search is here and quickly becoming mainstream. According to a BrightLocal study, 58% of consumers used voice search to find information on a local business in the last 12 months, with 46% of them doing it daily. And the number keeps growing. By 2020, voice searches are expected to account for 50% of all online queries.
As behavior has shifted from typing queries to using voice assistants, voice shopping is also becoming more popular. A recent Walker Sands study notes one in five consumers have made a voice purchase through Amazon Echo or another digital home assistant, and another third plan to do so in the next year. In fact, voice shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion in 2022, up from $2 billion today (OC&C Strategy Consultant Study).
With statistics like these, it’s critical that online merchants adapt now to take advantage of this booming revenue opportunity. Just like retailers have learned to optimize for SEO, they need to adjust their ecommerce platform and product data to better fit internet searches made through voice assistants. Things to think about include understanding buyer context, providing longer and more detailed product descriptions, and using more conversational language, to name a few.
Failing to make sure your system can support advanced SEO and voice search capabilities and that your product information isn’t comprehensive, up-to-date, and optimized for this rising trend could result in needlessly lost sales. Can you afford to miss out?
2. Black Friday in July
Black Friday is the series of sales that stores offer on the day after Thanksgiving. It’s traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year and is considered the beginning of the very lucrative holiday season. It’s critical to retailers as it can account for 30% to 40% of their yearly revenue total. In 2017, 66 million Americans shopped on Black Friday, either online or in stores. Some 174 million Americans went shopping over the weekend beginning on Black Friday, according to Fortune.
Conversely, July is typically a down time in retail. School hasn’t started, and people are on vacation. To fight lagging summer sales, innovative retailers started offering deep discounts in July. And the trend has gained momentum.
Amazon led the charge back in 2015 by hosting its first-ever Prime Day. They promised to offer the same type of deals they did on the actual Black Friday for Prime Members. With its success, others soon followed. Now, each year, a cluster of sales appear the same week as Prime Day. This phenomenon is now referred to as Black Friday in July.
To buyers, Black Friday signals they are going to get a good deal. If they think they’re getting a deal, they’re more likely shop, and more likely to buy. According to a recent BlackFriday.com survey, more than half of respondents (51 percent) plan on shopping during summer sales like Black Friday in July.
Since 2017, Black Friday in July has been extensively covered as an established trend by local and national media outlets. This has solidified it as an official shopping holiday. Taking advantage of existing promotional dates like this is a no-brainer way to promote your business, drive new customers, and bring existing ones back for more.
3. Border-Free Ecommerce
A Forbes survey across 24 countries and six continents showed that within the last six months of being surveyed, 57% of respondents had shopped from an overseas website. In some countries, the numbers were in the high seventies.
Why are consumers going global? According an international Pitney Bowes study that asked participants why they shop outside their home countries, 68% said price, 46% said product or service availability, and 38% said selection.
Driven by digital connectivity and the flow of data, consumers are less restricted by physical borders than ever before and are eagerly shopping across national lines. By 2020, people around the world will spend $1 trillion on cross-border e-commerce a recent McKinsey report forecasts.
To benefit from no border ecommerce and the new digital markets it can open, online merchants need to do some research, develop a detailed plan, and employ a technology platform that supports different languages, currencies, and taxes. Other things to consider to ensure a smooth global rollout include:
- Local perceptions and trends
- Safe and efficient logistics and delivery system
- Payment options local to the region
- Customers and regulatory requirements
- Regional quality standards
- After-sales service
- Fair refund and exchange process
4. Augmented Reality Advantages
While online shopping popularity continues to soar, there are still some drawbacks for consumers. A ThinkMobiles blog reports 54% of customers prefer visiting brick and mortar stores because they can’t fully visualize products in online stores. With ecommerce, sensory elements that help consumers confidently make purchasing decisions are lost – lowering conversion rates, increasing returns, and affecting satisfaction.
Augmented reality (AR) is attacking this challenge by transforming buyer imagination into reality. Basically, online shoppers are looking for an engaging experience, want to modify or customize selections, and need to visualize or understand products and features. AR apps makes it easier for consumers to interact with a product, explore color and other options, and make personalized modifications while online shopping.
Being able to visualize what an item – such as clothing, jewelry, or furniture — would look like on them or in their homes allows customers to purchase with more certainty and satisfaction. 61% of shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer augmented reality, over ones that don’t according to Retail Perceptions.
Imitating a real in-store experience and allowing customers to explore options and features increases conversion rates, reduces returns, and improves customer satisfaction. Other reasons to explore AR apps include:
- 40% of customers are willing to pay up to 33% more for products they preview in AR
- AR increases the average time new and returning visitors spend at an online store by more than 5 times
- AR helps increase sales on a global level
- 45% of customers said AR features allowed them to make faster buying decisions and eliminate doubt
- Shoppers exposed to AR ads are 29% more likely to make a purchase than those exposed to regular display ads
Be one of the first among your competitors to reach out and capitalize on AR and reap the benefits for your online store.
5. B2C-Like B2B Ecommerce Capabilities
Changes in technology and customer behavior are blurring the line between B2C and B2B selling. These days, B2B customers expect the same type of responsive, personalized online buying experience they have when they purchase products personally.
With the global B2B market predicted to reach more than $6.6 trillion by 2020 (surpassing B2C valued at $3.2 trillion by 2020), it’s no longer enough to just offer product information and online ordering if you are a B2B seller. Customers expect specific catalogs and pricing, bulk discounts and ordering, restricted access, minimum order value/quantity, and terms payment options, among other online capabilities.
And with the digital revolution, customers also expect things to be intuitive, fast, and easy. They demand a self-service model with personalized and targeted B2B sales activities – such as analytics and delivery, returns, and exchange scheduling — from anywhere at any time. According to Aberdeen Group, companies with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel experience.
To remain successful, B2B businesses must adapt by applying trends affecting consumer behavior to their online sales strategies including:
- Creating a tailored approach for each buyer
- Delivering a consistently high-quality buying experience at all stages of the sales cycle regardless of preferred interaction channel
- Being mobile-enabled
- Offering fast and convenient online tools
- Providing sales reps an avenue to showcase products and sell in person
- Leveraging data analytics to improve service
6. Influencer and Social Media Marketing
In this era of “fake news,” it’s not surprising that traditional forms of marketing are failing to make the desired impact. People don’t trust named brands, people trust people. 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust recommendations above all other forms of advertising. This is why more and more online sellers are turning to alternative strategies such as social media and influencer marketing to promote their businesses.
An influencer is a person or company who has established credibility in a specific niche and is actively using social media. An influencer can be a celebrity, blogger, YouTube star, industry expert, social activist, and others. Celebrities are the ultimate influencers. While people don’t “know” them, they do want to look and live like them. However, many ecommerce brands can’t afford celebrities. But they can leverage social media influencers who have large audiences and social power to help them effectively build awareness and boost sales.
Whether they use Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, or Facebook, bloggers and social media influencers have very loyal followers who – most importantly – act on their suggestions. Because people trust them, they have the power to persuade their large audiences to promote, buy, and follow a brand they discuss or feature on their pages.
This online trust can equal more sales for you. Twitter reports nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.
Making use of influencer marketing is a great way to reach out to your potential audience. The basics of this strategy include:
- Identifying an ideal influencer – You need to find someone that matches your brand’s tone, style, and mission, and is popular on the right social media platforms
- Creating meaningful content – The ideal influencer doesn’t just say “buy this now,” but can create meaningful content for your audience that gets people to trust your business and compels them to buy from you
- Measuring performance – Some aspects of influencer marketing can be hard to measure but there is a lot you can measure (reach and views, likes and follows, clicks and votes, etc.) to ensure you are getting the most value from your investment
7. Rise of the Subscription Box
Today’s consumers are so demanding, it’s not enough to give them what they want anymore. Because they can get anything with just a click, to entice customers and win their loyalty, you need to excite them by giving them things they didn’t even know they wanted.
This delight in the element of surprise has given rise to the online subscription box phenomenon. A subscription business sends you a package, usually once a month, of items they’ve curated for you. Streaming media subscriptions (such as Netflix) have been popular for some time but now shoppers are turning to subscriptions for consumer goods such as meal kits, cosmetics, fashion, pet products, and much more.
According to McKinsey, the subscription e-commerce market has grown by more than 100% a year over the past five years and 15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis, frequently through monthly boxes. And Hitwise reports there are about 5.7 million subscription box shoppers in the U.S. today. So, if you’re looking for a new and unique way to attract and retain customers, a subscription model can open a lucrative and recurring revenue stream.
To take advantage of this growing industry, here are some helpful tips:
- Know your target audience – It is crucial to understand who your customers are, to market, curate, and package your products successfully. Gender, age, location, culture, and category are predominant factors to take into consideration before offering a subscription box service.
- Personalization – This is key with subscriptions. 28% of subscribers say a personalized experience is the most important reason for continuing to subscribe (McKinsey). You must ask consumers what they want, listen to the answer and act on it. The good thing is, consumers will give up personal information if they think they’ll get a better experience for it.
- Data Analytics – The element of surprise can only be achieved by the ability to predict, personalize, and deliver superior end-to-end experiences. Capturing data, understanding it, and making use of it is key to this model. Staying a step ahead of customers allows you to continually send the unexpected, which creates delight, and ultimately, stickiness.
Consult an Expert to Tap into These Trends
While some of these solutions and technologies are simple to implement, others can be much more challenging. To minimize time, resources, risks, and costs, it’s best to consult an expert.
The right ecommerce partner will have the experience and people to assess your requirements and goals and customize projects that provide maximum value with the least amount of disruption. By letting an expert handle your ecommerce needs, you can take advantage of the latest trends while remaining laser-focused on achieving your business vision.