E-commerce is, without a doubt, on an accelerated growing trend, and simply being active on the market is not anymore a guarantee of success. Quality, innovation and excellent customer service make the difference, as defined by the society we live in and by a more and more sophisticated consumer.
Going back 15-20 years ago, on a somehow blue ocean market, consumers had little alternatives when it came to online buying and prices were equivalent to offline prices. Online shopping stood advantageous only for people with little time to spend on shopping. However, offline stores saw tremendous opportunity in opening a new sales channel, with lower cost opportunities, as well as potential for increased sales volumes and awareness.
With time, the relevance of online presence grew constantly to this day when “if you’re not online, you simply do not exist”. And the evolution is still on, with this not being anymore enough. Year 2015 announces a shift in the online vendors’ approach, after a 2014 that showed the fail of classic marketing tools to bring the same return of investment as in the previous years.
In 2014, online stores vendors spent millions of dollars on online and offline advertising and had constant focus on SEO optimisation. Entering on a marketplace like Amazon or eBay was of very high interest and seen as a great tool to make the business more and more profitable – a valid point, but, then again, not enough.
A disputed topic in 2014 was responsive design. Being online doesn’t mean you are also mobile, which took the discussion to another level – responsive design versus native apps. Which is better, more efficient, and more lucrative? It’s true that responsive design e-commerce stores take less time to develop. The downside is that store vendors need to do a lot of testing, and still cannot be sure that it will work properly on any device, smartphone or tablet. Responsive design online stores will not obtain the same performance or capabilities that a native app can provide. These are very stable, still vendors need at least one implementation depending on the operating system on which they want to develop. Time to market will be a longer one. However, in 2015, the trend is favorable to native apps.
Equally, 2015 seems to be the year of simplification. This might seem odd, but not if you consider the overall purchase cycle. In 2014, the consumer was presented with more targeted products based on their search criteria and less options to choose from, and this strategy will become more and more refined in 2015. Spending more time searching between multiple options becomes a time consuming effort the customer is not willing to put in and personalization is key to successful customer experience.
This is supported by another ongoing trend that decreases time from purchase to the actual possession of the goods. Quick delivery or same day delivery bring added value to any online store, thus vendors are pressuring delivering companies to speed their processes and ensure customer satisfaction. To respond to this “eager customer” trend, offline stores are also keeping stock for many products, which customers want to save time for and are actually searching and purchasing online, picking-up the order from offline.
2015 – the year of the consumer
Considering these market trends and a constantly evolving customer, many U.S. and international publications named year 2015 “the consumer year”.
For every vendor, without exception, this means redirection of efforts towards store optimisation and customisation. The purchasing decision is made after a well-done research on the desired products online, as well as in the store. Trust will remain very important in taking a decision, and this goes beyond quality services. Customers will check both product and store reviews; they will look at product rates and comments, and rate the products themselves after purchase. Word-of-mouth, or better said, word-of-online, will be an important reputation builder, and this makes for a very sophisticated and empowered consumer which all stores have to adapt and properly respond to.