If you are involved in a product driven business, you can’t afford to not be on the ecommerce bandwagon. I’ll try to clarify a few things.. Where did ecommerce come from, where is it going and how your business can get the most out of it now!
To some, ecommerce is relatively new; but to most adept internet users it’s been predominant for about 10 or so years, appearing around the infamous ‘bubble’ period. For many, eBay was the first real glimpse into the time saving marvels of maxing out a credit card without leaving your IBM 386 (complete with turbo button), but these days whether or not to sell it’s second nature to sell your products online.
According to Forrester, this year US online commerce is expected to reach $173b USD and by 2014, $248b USD with 8% market share of all USretail.
This may seem very impressive, but it’s been a long time coming. Let’s look back over the history of ecommerce and we start to get an idea about how long it has taken to arrive at this turning point.
Ready to make the plunge? Then read on..
The ecommerce industry is heavily saturated at the moment with hundreds of options for payment gateways and shopping cart builders so it’s hard to choose a viable option and once you have chosen, knowing how to build and run an effective store that cuts through the competition.
How do you choose which platform?
Igloo has worked with many incarnations of shopping carts and have had to deal with all kinds of horrendous ‘code’ but like all warriors, we have emerged victorious. There are a few viable options. We are big fans of Magento which has both a free and an enterprise edition and sports an impressive set of features. Other solid products are OSCommerce and OpenCart, but rather than me go through them all, check out this article comparing the top 10 open source options.
When the time finally comes to deciding which platform you decide to go with, draw up a list of the 5 most important features your ecommerce experience needs and start googling! We strongly recommend partnering up with an established digital agency, showing them your wish list and have them recommend you a platform, but at the end of the day, its most likely that any major platform can do what you need it do. It’s simply a matter of whether your chosen developers have the skills to do it properly.
As you can see in the Google search trends below, OSCommerce has been very popular in the past, but is losing ground to Magento and more recently also to OpenCart.
Need some inspiration? How about a success story.
In 2006 Domino’s launched their online ordering platform and was last in the category to go to market. They needed to close the gap quickly and asked the agency to develop a strategic plan that would enable them to hit their aggressive online sales goals, identify new digital sales, marketing and innovation opportunities, new audiences and differentiate their shopping experience.
The most effective way to reach their goals was to become the preferred tool to shop for pizza on the internet. They set out to develop two ordering tools. The first, Pizza Tracker, became a best in class tool to see the progress of your order in real time. The second, Visual Builder, allows users a fun and intuitive way to create their pizza order. An animated visual representation of the pizza displays the nearly limitless number of possible combinations available.
Within 16 months the creation of the revamped ordering system and the integration of the online ordering tools resulted in a 70% increase in site visits, while online orders increased 1.5 times. The overall site conversion rate increased in excess of 50% and over 10 million new users registered on Dominos.com. These massive gains ultimately allowed Domino’s to move to first in terms of market share.
source: The Internet Case Study Book
So, what about the future of ecommerce?
At our work at igloo, ecommerce is often a natural extension of our clients’ online presence and this usually comes to life in the traditional form of an online catalogue of products. However I want to explore what the future of ecommerce is and where the potential lies in becoming early adopters.
- (economics) A financial transaction for a very small amount of money
As peoples lives become more and more web-centric, business are looking for new revenue streams. One of the founders of the Pirate Bay believes they have found just the right solution.
Called Flattr, its purpose it to allow members to store an online wallet. When the members find a website they like, they pledge a micropayment to that site. At the end of each month the members wallet will be allocated to the chosen sites.
“The money you pay each month will be spread evenly among the buttons you click in a month. We want to encourage people to share money as well as content, It’s a test to see if this might be a working method for real micropayments.” said Peter Sunde from The Pirate Bay.
Adaptive Payments are one of PayPals more recent offerings however the freedom offered to developers will surely spread to other providers in the coming years. Some of the features of adaptive payments include:
Adaptive Payments offers a number of cool features, including:
- Pay anyone with an email address. Make payments to another person as long as they have an email address or mobile phone number, with or without a PayPal account.
- Receive payments from anyone. Customers, with or without a PayPal account, can make a payment as long as they have an email address.
- Pre-approved payments. Customers can pre-approve future payments.
- Chained payments. Send a payment to one individual, who in turn shares the payment with multiple individuals.
- Split payments. Divide a payment among a number of individuals.
They are just a few of the many exciting emerging trends in ecommerce. Hopefully you will have scope to explore these in your next project, but of course it’s not always feasible. A good agency will be able to guide you through these trends and recommend when it makes sense to push the boundaries.
How to get the most out of your ecommerce
Now.. you’ve chosen a platform and your site is getting built, how do you maximise ROI?
- Most importantly, make the shopping experience simple and easy to use!
- Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. At every checkpoint in the development process, use the site as a customer and think about point 1
- Capitalise on your market differentiator. Use every unique feature of your business in your arsenal to win customers
- Photos > Text. Make sure your products are well photographed and look appealing, it will make a world of difference
- Market your site! Launching your site is only the beginning. There is SO much competition in this space, you must put your marketing hat on
Hopefully you’re either inspired, or have a new appreciation for the possibilities of ecommerce. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch.
Good luck and I hope your business can dominate the ecommerce space!