E-commerce is more than a way to drive transactions. It’s a tool to evolve your customer relationships, build brand affinity, provide a great experience and ultimately turn customers into brand advocates. A transaction is just a short moment in time, but it’s a moment that needs to be nurtured from start to finish.
As marketers, part of nurturing an e-commerce strategy is making sure that we understand the dynamics that influence our audience and that we align our communication efforts accordingly. This most often involves staying up to date with technology and emerging ways to effectively connect with our customers. There are many variables that are in play with an e-commerce business model, but I’ve identified three that are significant and need to be considered when planning online sales.
1. Acceptance is real
It’s no secret that online sales have begun to dominate overall sales in recent years. Each year online sales for the holidays continue to outperform the prior year’s. A recent report distributed by eMarketer stated that 8 percent of consumers bought a grocery item online in 2015. That number is expected to reach 26 percent in 2016 — that’s a 325 percent increase in online grocery buying!
Acceptance and comfort in online transactions have increased dramatically over the years. Marketers have addressed site security concerns by incorporating and advertising a website’s use of trusted payment security applications that protect customer data, such as Better Business Bureau A+ accreditation, McAfee Secure, Norton Secured and more. Call it an understanding or a mindset change, but people are no longer afraid to provide credit card numbers or establish accounts with reputable brands. We all recognize that data from brick and mortar retailers can be breached as well, so online transactions are often viewed as more secure.
2. Mobile drives millennials
Nearly 70 percent of adults in the U.S. own a web-enabled smartphone. According to a recent report published by Adobe, half of all marketers rank mobile marketing as a top three priority for their organization. The experience on mobile has to be optimized for e-commerce transactions. Ensuring e-commerce websites are responsive for mobile is critical. The younger consumer won’t accept a poor mobile sales experience. Growth in e-commerce sales are evident across all age groups but clearly millennails demand an online purchasing option, with 50 percent using their mobile phones for shopping outside of retail stores according to eMarketer. With those kind of statistics, it becomes clear that in many cases the mobile commerce experience could be the only sales opportunity a brand might get with a millennial customer.
3. Social meets sales
Social media has been driving e-commerce sales for quite a while but will take it to a new level in 2016. Top social channels have recognized the opportunity to directly support a brand’s e-commerce strategies and play a role in the transaction. Facebook released the “Buy Now” button in 2015, so marketers can link directly to a specific web (transaction) page on their e-commerce sites — but that’s just the beginning. Pinterest has made “buyable pins” available to marketers on their iOS mobile app, which allow consumers to perform a sales transaction without leaving the Pinterest app. Instagram has action-oriented ads that include buy buttons as well. Facebook is currently testing a concept similar to Pinterest’s in which the full transaction can be completed within the Facebook application without needing to leave Facebook. Utilization of social platforms as an e-commerce sales channel will continue to evolve and provide marketers with a means to supplement their online efforts. For a closer look at emerging e-commerce trends in social, be sure to check out Hillary’s blog post on social media advertising in 2016.
Understanding your audience and adapting to their needs and desires is fundamental. To have an effective e-commerce sales model requires a commitment to stay on top of the trends in technology as they relate to the behavior and impact on your customers’ lives. This applies equally across B2C and B2B marketing. So keep these considerations in mind and happy e-selling!