Thursday, 5 December 2013

Get Online or Fail – Why Your Business Needs an Online Presence

In the past, shoppers had to brave the roads to make it to their favorite bricks and mortar store where they could then peruse the goods at their leisure before waiting at the checkout, then fighting traffic back home. Shopping in store continues to have its merits – certainly testing the merchandise in-hand before purchasing – however, shoppers continue to flock to online retail sites in increasing numbers.

In today’s retail world, having an online presence is not an option – it’s a must for businesses that want to succeed.

According to recent figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 60 percent of British adults purchase food, music, clothing, and more over the internet. This stunning percentage is good news to British retailers in particular, as this is more than double the amount of online shoppers from any of the OECD’s other 34 member countries – including France, Germany, and the United States, making Britain’s citizens by far the largest online shoppers in the world.

Interestingly, the United States has the largest broadband network in the whole world – yet, only 33 percent of Americans shop online. The UK has the fifth largest broadband penetration worldwide, placing it behind the United States, Japan, Germany, and France – yet, it is still the largest online shopping nation in the world. Unfortunately, UK retailers are missing out on a huge growth and sales opportunity, as – according to the OECD – the UK has the fifth lowest number of businesses using the internet in the developed world.

In fact, in 2012, retail sales in the UK grew by 14 percent to more than £50bn with predictions of continued growth into the following years – a trend which looks like it will be proven true, though final numbers will not be available until early 2014.

Retailers often fear that launching an online storefront will harm their physical store presence, however, e-commerce can actually have the opposite effect, retaining potential customer interest and helping to close the deal. In 2012, 83 percent of United States shoppers used retailers’ online sites to research products before completing the purchase in store. Alternately, some customers do choose to visit a product in store to see it in person before completing the purchase online.

The Mobile Factor

One of the factors helping to grow online sales and activity is the increased availability of consumer internet access. Mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, keep consumers connected at all hours of the day and present the advantage of shopping anytime, anywhere – whether that means from the couch, in bed, or even at the store.

Although tablet ownership continues to grow, smartphones are still number one in the UK with ownership continuing to grow. According to eMarketer, there are an estimated 30.9 million smartphone users in the UK alone. Per a joint study completed by  eDigitalResearch and Portaltech, 50 percent of smartphone owners have used their device to complete some sort of online purchase – a 20 percent rise over just nine months. Eleven percent of smartphone users use their devices to make a purchase on a weekly basis.

Perhaps even more astounding is the impact that tablet shopping is making in the UK retail world. Though a relatively new technology, 69 percent of tablet owners make a purchase every month using their tablet (according to an InMobi and Mobext study). About 10 percent of these customers are willing to use their tablet for big ticket purchases. Although tablets currently account for a smaller frequency of purchases, they account for a higher sales amount; the average order value is 21 percent higher than purchases made by customers using smartphones or desktop computers.

However, smartphone use for shopping extends beyond the actual purchase – many users also use their devices to research products in advance of a purchase or to browse related products. Some of this research is done from home in advance, while some is completed while at the store. A recent study reports that 40 percent (or an estimated 12.4 million users) of UK smartphone owners use their mobile device while in store to help with shopping. Of the consumers who use their smartphone while in store, 66 percent of UK shoppers use them to compare product prices while 57 percent use them to check customer reviews.

Tips to Make Your Online Store Succeed

This customer engagement does not come free – the customers have growing expectations for their online shopping experiences. For example, 31 percent of smartphone users say that quick browsing is an essential feature for online sites – this is up by 11 percent from the previous year. Customers also have growing demands related to online security, zoom functionality for easier page viewing, fast load times, and more. That said, it is imperative that online retailers provide a quality, reliable, safe storefront in order to secure customers who complete orders.

One of the common recurring frustrations to online retailers is cart abandonment – a term to describe an online shopper who has added items to their cart, but fails to complete the purchase. Although frustrating, there are known reasons for why this occurs. According to Statistica, 56 percent of shoppers have abandoned their cart after being presented with unexpected costs. Some of the other leading causes include:
  • Found a better price elsewhere (36%)
  • The website navigation was too complicated (25%)
  • The website crashed (24%)
  • The process was too cumbersome and took too long (21%)
  • Concerns about payment security (17%)
  • Unsuitable delivery options (16%)

Avoid these pitfalls when designing your mobile site to increase transaction completion rates.
Customers are also more likely to complete purchases through their mobile devices when they feel engaged. There are countless emerging technologies that enable retailers to better identify and reach their clients. For example, geo location technology allows retailers to present customers with custom, tailored discounts and offers when they visit their stores. What’s more, 46 percent of UK shoppers are open to receiving personalized messages and offers while they are at a store.

There are many ways to succeed at online retail, but the only way to for certain grow your business is to launch an e-commerce site. Brick and mortar stores and online storefronts can work together to provide customers with a full-circle, well-rounded shopping experience that provides them with convenience, great prices, and access to customer service personnel. Help your shoppers to shop in the way that works for them – the online storefront is critical to your success.

If you're thinking of branching out online get in touch to see how we can help. It's free to chat to us and we do nice coffee!

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