When thinking about ecommerce strategy, you have to think about 3 things – the past, the present, and the future. What was successful in the past that is still working for you? What are you (and your competitors) doing today? What is on the horizon that you should be thinking about implementing? I have combined all three of these elements in order to provide a list of the top 5 strategies to implement in 2012.
Dynamic Site Experience
eCommerce websites have the ability to collect and store behavioral data on user sessions. They know which products a user looks at, which categories they spend time on, where they came from, and purchase history (upon log-in). By leveraging clickstream paths and inferred intent, etailers can customize the shopping experience for the top user demographics and focus on conversion marketing. For example, the Lax World website uses this information to decide whether the user is male or female, then displays the site in a custom way for that user. So a female shopper will see female-targeted banners, product recommendations, and even promotions – creating a personalized shopping experience. Their site could begin to understand which position the female player likely plays, and alter the experience to show even more specific products. Many times, etailers focus all their efforts on finding and attracting new customers and on converting abandoned shopping carts, but fail to put any emphasis on the customers in the middle of that sales funnel. With onsite conversion marketing along with the personalized shopping experience, etailers can save money by showing relevant product recommendations and upsells to convert traffic that has already found its way onto your site.
They say that trends tend to work like a pendulum, first going to the extreme left then moving to the extreme right. In 2012, we will begin to see the social media pendulum swing. In the past two years, it seems every major retailer has jumped on social media marketing, investing time and money into optimizing their profiles and acquiring fans. More recently reports show that there is increasing skepticism in social media. More and more businesses are finding that it doesn’t directly contribute to an increase in sales. It is no longer sufficient to just throw a Facebook page up and create a Twitter profile, at this stage in social innovation you must find, engage, and monetize through social platforms. Mid-range ecommerce site owners can’t focus resources on continually optimizing profiles, a better way to spend that time and money is to integrate social media into your ecommerce website in order to offer a social shopping experience. Allow your users to share their favorite products and recent purchases quickly and easily by including share buttons on product pages. The more you can fluidly combine social and ecommerce forces, the more likely you will be to convert your fans into loyal customers and impact your bottom line.
Mobile Shopping Tablet Shopping
All we heard this year was mobile, mobile, mobile. Whether it was developing apps, mobile sites, or investing in text message marketing, retailers everywhere were swan diving head first into mobile initiatives. The end of the year has helped shake out some answers around mobile…apps are for games and very well known brands, text marketing is for restaurants and local business driving physical traffic, and mobile optimized sites are for everyone. We have also begun to understand the difference between mobile devices as related to ecommerce sales. In 2012, the new rage is tablet shopping. Predictions from Forrester Research show tablet usage will reach 50.7 million next year. Research has also recently proven that while tablet traffic is a small portion of overall traffic, it packs a punch. Customers are more likely to convert on a tablet than any other device (3% for PC shoppers vs. 4 or 5% for tablet shoppers according to Forrester). They are also more likely to place larger orders, usually adding 10-20% more to their cart than other mobile and desktops users. Next year, make sure you make design improvements with tablet traffic in mind since they tend to reach a site through a browser and are unlikely to go to a mobile optimized site.
Shoppers increasingly expect online shopping to feel like offline shopping. This will really impact how they want to interact with products. An important ecommerce strategy is to optimize product imagery by either leaning on manufacturers to provide better, more consistent product images or to hire professionals to photograph all products. The idea is to allow customers to visualize the product within their lives. Can they see the product in all the colors, or just color swatches? Can they zoom in to see intricate patterns and the material? Do you provide 360 product views, allowing the customer to see every side? If you can’t provide a realistic interaction with products on your ecommerce website, it should be on the top of your list for next year. (Want more on product imagery best practices? Read "Design 1, 2, 3: Say Cheese! Product Photography," from Senior Designer Heather Van De Mark)
Site search is not new or cutting edge. What is new are the mind-blowing statistics around site search that prove it’s importance to ecommerce conversion. According to our benchmarking (published in our 2011 whitepaper), visitors who interact with site search are 3-5 times more likely to covert and of those orders the average order value is 25 to 50% higher. Of our clients, we have found that site search provides a 200-300% increase in the site’s average conversion rate. With stats like that, there is no reason an ecommerce site should be returning “no results found”. In the next year, third party site search providers that can optimize search results, suggest products, autofill, and display results using fuzzy logic will be a must.
In order to be successful into 2012, ecommerce sites need to provide a personalized shopping experience that empowers users to seamlessly interact with social communities, easily visualize products, and quickly find the exact product they want.
Want to discuss how we would implement any of these efforts on your ecommerce website in 2012? Drop us a line!