E-commerce. The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
by Bonnie Janzen
The world of retail has always been fast-moving and ever-changing. E-commerce has accelerated this phenomenon. E-commerce is, in fact, the best thing since sliced bread!E-commerce is defined as commercial transactions conducted electronically on the Internet. E-commerce officially began in the United States back in the 1970s. In order to realize the promise of e-commerce, online security had to be improved. Secure socket layer (SSL) technology was introduced in 1994, followed by many other enhancements. By the year 2000, e-commerce was a $27.6 billion industry. By the year 2009, it had grown to $143.4 billion. By 2020, it is projected to be $523 billion. (Figures cited are for United States)
Evolution of e-commerce continues. There is more shopping on smartphones and tablets than on desktop computers. Consumers want authentic and consistent branding, which matches their expectations outside of the online shopping experience. They want effortless shopping, streamlined checkout processes, and more personalization, not to mention lower prices and faster delivery. And yet they demand more!
The website (or app) needs to deliver what consumers are looking for at that specific “moment” of their customer journey. It could be research; looking at the product options, reading reviews, evaluating product features/bundles, or price comparisons. It could be looking at delivery or installation (if applicable), or checking inventory at different stores. It could be ordering online and picking up in the store, comparing customer service options after the sale, as well as actually making a purchase to scheduling shipping/delivery.
In addition to all these basics of research and purchase, they want an “experience.” These experiences might include virtual reality so that shoppers can visualize the purchase (try on apparel or cosmetics, visualize changes in their home, or visualize multiple options for their new vehicle). They could include 1-click ordering, intuitive feature filtering, laser-focused product descriptions, 360-degree product views, lookbooks, hotspots, voice-activated search, rated reviews ranked in order of helpfulness, or the ability to log in with their Instagram account to order personalized products using their Instagram photos.
It is important that brands and retailers have a clear omnichannel strategy. The strategy needs to be integrated with all the aspects of your business. There must be ferocious and iterative usability testing (of functionality, branding and delivery against the “experience” consumers are seeking). This should be evaluated by your key consumer segments to ensure it is working optimally, especially for your business’s most valuable consumers.
Beyond traditional retailers, other companies also benefit from optimizing their online consumer experience. They can set up and manage appointments for everything from healthcare to home improvement, buy movie tickets, conduct banking, and schedule food delivery.
A well-defined and integrated consumer insights plan is critical. It should include in-depth strategy research, with conceptual and usability research as enhancements are planned and executed. Research should be conducted among the loyal and higher-value consumers and among the key consumer segments in order to understand the customer journey, including how that can be leveraged with e-commerce. Key metrics should be captured and measured to provide analytics that can be married to the consumer insights program and help inform the business and make changes as the consumer expectations continue to evolve.
Questions will continue to arise. How will mobile pay options, Facebook “bots,” and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to evolve and impact e-commerce?
E-commerce is critical to your success, and it is ever evolving! It is the best thing since sliced bread, if done correctly with consumer insights integrated in each step.
About the Author
Bonnie Janzen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Executive Vice President of Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
Copyright © 2016 by Decision Analyst, Inc.
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