Traditional ideas surrounding eCommerce – "shopping carts," "wish-lists," "guest checkouts"—are taken for granted today. Customers expect shopping experiences that make it effortless to find, retrieve, and make purchasing decisions. Sites and applications that don't do this will get left by the wayside.
At Icreon, we don't think of eCommerce in terms of "sites" or "apps." eCommerce is a shopping paradigm. Whether you're selling to businesses or consumers, the heart of every eCommerce project Icreon undertakes is about knowing the customer, and creating seamless paths towards completing purchases.
Customers are inundated with options from you, your competitors, and irrelevant vendors. We make the effort to ensure that buyers are intelligently provided alternative products in case what they were looking for doesn't work out.
25% of all browsing is done via mobile. If you're not displaying your products across tablets and smartphones, you're losing your customers as they access you when they're on the go. Building purchase points on mobile in today's landscape is a must.
What happens when customers are searching for your product? Do they see gigantic lists of results, or does your site try to make guesses to most relevant products and organic search results by departments, product genres and feature specifications?
At Icreon, we know products and services have different importance throughout the day, to different people, in different geographies. We focus on ensuring that product layouts are generated dynamically so that customers only see what's relevant to them.
Links to social sites aren't enough. Can users log-in to your services through their existing accounts? Are they able to share their purchases with their network? Do you pursue new accounts by promoting your brand through customer social feeds?
eCommerce has completed a full revolution and entered the physical space. Do your brick and mortar strategies translate successfully online? Are you able to leverage your physical real estate to drive eCommerce sales and vice versa?
When choosing an e-commerce website platform, like choosing most software platforms, as an IT manager, you must weigh the options of buying an off-the-shelf product or developing from scratch. e-Commerce retailers are split in half, with 52% opting for a custom built product and 48% buying off the shelf SaaS products. No solution is perfect for anyone and balancing business needs with budgetary restrictions are always difficult.
There are pros and cons to both sides. Building and maintaining a custom platform is more expensive than buying a product off the shelf, which often comes with maintenance, support and updates. However, if your business has nuances that an off-the-shelf product can't handle, then you may opt to build from scratch. Take this quick quiz below to determine your build readiness. Assign a "1" to questions you answer "yes" and a "0" to questions you answer "no."
If you scored a four or above, you may want to consider building a custom solution. However, when discussing options with your vendor, be transparent about your budgetary restrictions, if any, so that the most appropriate solution can be found for your business.
eCommerce Website design trends continue to change from one year to the next. As more and more online retailers seek to provide an optimal shopping experiences for customers, a significant number of eCommerce website redesigns are expected in the coming year.
Here are some of the latest trends in website design that are expected for eCommerce websites:
Relatively larger graphics that link to products are a major trend. Without the ability to handle the products they are contemplating buying, potential customers can only depend on graphics and HD images to inspect a product. The more attractive the products look to customers, the more confident they will feel about purchasing from the site.
Flat design is considered one of the hottest eCommerce design trends around. It has been adopted by Windows 8, Apple's iOS 7, and by dozens of other popular operating systems (OS) and websites. Flat design focuses on "simple, graphic style common UI... that contrasts skeuomorphism", the predominant form of design that attempted to replicate real-world objects (like a zipper or leather stitch).
While RWD is a trend that’s been around for a while, eCommerce websites aren’t utilizing it to the full potential. RWD allows online retailers to provide a consistent quality shopping experience for customers regardless of the device being used (tablets, smartphones, and PCs). An eCommerce website that has been optimized for easy viewing across all devices goes a long way in increasing sales. If a smartphone user encounters a clunky website experience, they'll head to Amazon or a better designed competitor site.
Increased mobile adoption by potential customers of is forcing designers to adapt their techniques to finger-friendly interfaces. Mobile users are now interacting with web pages using their finger, which require larger graphics, increased white space between page elements, and touch friendly infinite scroll functionality. Traditional website elements such as a header menu are disappearing in favor of app-like side bar menus that slide out.
One of the most important components of eCommerce website development is typography. Expect to see sites using more distinctive branded fonts that are customized for a brand. Crisp and sharp fonts are central to mobile users. With smaller screens, mobile versions of eCommerce websites benefit greatly from increased attention to the readability of written content online.
Mobile videos provide online retailers with a medium for providing meaningful content and detailed product information. HD video is the closest an online customer will get to holding and inspecting a product in real life. More and more retailers are beginning to include video and other rich media in their product descriptions and even their online advertisements.
Pinterest and Instagram have had a tremendous impact on the way brands design their eCommerce websites. Large product images, infinite scrolling, and social trending are features that originated with social media. As software development techniques advance to build better apps and websites, expect some new trends this year.
As 2014 progresses, aspects and functions of social media networks will begin to appear more and more on eCommerce websites. Even Amazon has taken a cue from Pinterest with the introduction of ‘Amazon Collections’ (a similar feature to Pinterest boards).
Social shopping platform Wanelo, which boasts more than 28 million visits a month, recently introduced a content marketing initiative. eCommerce websites and independent sellers alike can create ‘Stories’ that detail the production, history and production of a product.
Similar to a short form blog post, content marketing that accompanies eCommerce products will rise. The trend will not be limited to the written word. Trending videos and even specified mobile apps will enhance the brand experience for shoppers.
Fancy, a socially curated eCommerce website, offers a service where shoppers pay $40 a month to receive a celebrity curated package of products. Despite significant commentary questioning the subscription model for multiple businesses, it is growing in prevalence.
The model is even becoming a successful approach for small and medium sized businesses. LoveWithFood is an organic grocer that delivers all-natural snacks to customers for $10 a month. Expect a resurgence of subscription models in the eCommerce industry.
Social media and eCommerce have combined to produce several innovative websites and brands. Wanelo, Fancy and Polyvore are socially driven eCommerce experiences where users discover a crowd-curated list of trending products. Heavy design inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram can be seen in the web development and design approaches used for creating the site.
As soon as a shopper arrives at the website, they are treated to a newsfeed of product suggestions. The more the shopper browses and likes different products, the more personalized the product-feed. Expect socially driven curation of products throughout the eCommerce space.
Over 30% of tablet owners use the device as a go-to option for shopping online. In the past two years alone tablet ownership has increased by 282%.
When it comes to eCommerce development, tablet applications will be a priority for brands. Creating interfaces that are touch-friendly with appropriate finger-friendly layouts will drive mobile transactions.
High quality zooming to inspect a product in detail and high quality videos describing an item will be common place. With progression in pixilation and screen resolution, shoppers are expecting interactive media experience online.
In the same way that Pinterest has placed a renewed emphasis on product images, the gallery setup and interactive features are also set to improve.
It is estimated that online shoppers in the U.S. have spent $252 billion in the year 2013 alone. With eCommerce continuing to pull in impressive numbers, brands must differentiate their eCommerce websites. Some of the main ways to make an eCommerce website stand out rest with design, feature implementation, and the overall integrity and security of a site.
Day in and day out, a consumer's experience with the marketplace is becoming more mobile, visual and social. Although such features and expectations are great for consumers, the latest trends tend to complicate the process for eCommerce brands.
So here are some of the best practices for improving an eCommerce website and exposing a business to new audiences and increased profits.
Developing Websites that have easy navigation and are organized strategically, help to ensure that website visitors find what they are looking for. Consumers should easily know where they are on the website. Ideally there should be no impediments to reaching a transaction page and easily browse other options for related products.
Effective eCommerce websites also make sure that visitors are presented with strategic calls-to-action. Placement of landing pages, 'Add to Cart' buttons, and recommended up-sell or cross-sell products, are central to making it easy for customers to buy. The layout of page elements and the hierarchy of pages are also central components to easily navigable eCommerce websites.
Optimizing the sitemap of the existing structure of a website also helps search engines better map out how the website is organized (and thus appear higher in Google's search rank). This is important in terms of visibility, since it is one of the many factors that the major search engines take into consideration when ranking a website in search results for your product (shoes, skirts, watches, etc.).
Until this point photographs have been the primary means to display products on eCommerce websites. But in recent years videos have been playing a major role in eCommerce experiences across the board. This stems from improvements in website development as well as higher performing mobile devices with better screen quality. Studies have shown that people are more likely to share a video on social networks than a website built with text heavy pages.
With such facts in mind, incorporating high quality productions and HD quality videos can boost sales. Promotional videos around a product can also go viral (see Dollar Shave Club’s YouTube sensation). Another example are the product videos for introducing the latest iPhones that almost always make the rounds on social media and even national TV.
Another example of progression in the realm of presenting products online is the ability to zoom in and survey high quality images of a product. Amazon and JackThreads execute this quite well. Product zoom is a simple way to enlarge showcased products that allows visitors to see the minute details of products featured on the website. One of the biggest weaknesses of eCommerce development in general rests with the lack of ability to inspect and touch a product.
With product zoom, the online shopping experience feels much more similar to in-store shopping. This works on the psychology that customers usually prefer to touch and feel the product they are buying – hence this feature, that helps to only replicate this experience.
The use of social networks for initiating eCommerce transactions, often called social eCommerce, makes hundreds of shops accessible through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to name a few. Everything within these online shops is accessible through the social network itself. By engaging with customers through social interaction and social sharing, brands are able to increase exposure and communicate directly with customers and target markets.
For Ecko.com, Icreon Tech incorporated several social features that capitalize on the viral product videos throughout the website as well as live Twitter streams from fans and the brand itself. By clicking a specific social applet on the website, customers can instantly catch a glimpse of viral content and social activity related to the brand. Also after making a purchase, the customer can instantly share their purchase with their network.
Some websites go so far as to use these networking sites as customer support systems, often interacting with customers for enquires related to their orders. Twitter is becoming a major way for brands to respond to customer issues such as missing packages, defective products, and any other potential issue.
There are various trends that have matured and contributed to the formation of popular eCommerce development strategies. But to understand the inherent value of incorporating insightful strategies into an online business, businesses must focus on the expectations of a shopper in today’s social and mobile infused world.
eCommerce companies have faced significant disruption over the years. Online shoppers are increasingly purchasing products from smartphones and using social media to assess final purchases. Shoppers are even using specified Tweets and hashtags (#) to conduct transactions on Twitter.
According to a report by Gartner, the eCommerce market is expected to reach $370 billion in the United States alone by 2017. With the market expanding and competition growing, eCommerce websites must attend to new trends in web development to keep their web presence and brand notoriety up to par.
Retailers must adapt to new conditions such as social media marketing, mobile shoppers and location based marketing. Without a strategy that incorporates and experiments with rising trends, eCommerce brands will be hard pressed to compete with their tech-savvy competition.
Poorly designed websites with inefficient ordering systems, slow loading times, and low-quality images are primary issues associated with underperforming eCommerce websites. Such problems must be attended to in order to increase customer satisfaction and retention.
Online retailers must develop and expand their services in addition to improving on a number of user related elements (like interactive galleries and faceted search) that are associated with a website. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru says that much of the growth in U.S. eCommerce sales will stem from online retailers improving their websites and services:
"This is particularly true of categories such as apparel and jewelry, which have integrated rich selling tools such as zoom, color switching, and configurators broader payment options and subscription plans for their buyers."
Innovative web applications and website functionality helps to engage shoppers and keep them on a site for longer. eCommerce sites must pay attention to website design, gallery presentation, search interfaces and mobile optimized shopping experiences. Without attention to such areas, an eCommerce site will fail to stand out in the crowded online marketplace.
Out of all the disruptive technologies to come about, smartphones and mobile shoppers are likely to become major revenue drivers for eCommerce in the near future. Gartner found that between 2010 and 2013 mobile eCommerce spending increased from $600 million to $4.7 billion. On Cyber Monday, 17% of all transactions on eCommerce were conducted via mobile device.
To achieve optimal ROI from mobile strategies, brands must adequately understand their audience and their device habits. Are they coming from tablets? Do the majority of visitors use Android? These are crucial questions to ask prior to instituting a mobile strategy.
One of the best ways to adapt to the mobile shopper is for companies to build sites using Responsive Web Design (RWD). Optimizing accessibility and navigation of a site for varying mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, will prevent mobile shoppers from abandoning carts due to poor web experiences.
Toys "R" Us for instance, has made numerous improvements to its mobile site including streamlining the checkout process. The upshot resulted in the toy store chain being conferred as the best mobile site user experience with a score of 83.5 out of 100.
With new technologies such as beacons and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) appliances, brands can deliver eCommerce shopping discounts to customers in-store. Geo-fencing, which delivers SMS messages or notifications to users with a downloaded app in a specific location, is a great way to innovate when it comes to eCommerce marketing.
With beacons and BLE, eCommerce brands can even advertise offline. Mobile tracking and mobile offers are creating huge opportunity for eCommerce marketers to identify and target customers through location based marketing campaigns. One of the most innovative location-based campaigns in recent memory was launched by Meat Pack, a Guatemalan shoe store.
Meat Pack set up geo-fences around competitor stores such as Nike and Adidas, and was able to target people shopping for sneakers. Any time a consumer with the Meat Pack app entered a competitor's store, Meat Pack sent a discount in the form of a countdown timer starting at 99%. The campaign was dubbed 'Hijack'.
The countdown reduced by 1% every second and the consumer had to reach the nearest Meat Pack shop where the timer would stop as soon as they entered. The user was left with whatever discount percentage was still displayed on the app. In a weeks’ time Meat Pack had stolen over 600 shoppers from competitors.
Reshaping eCommerce development strategies needs to take into account reorganizing and improving website design and usability. But additional strategies such as geo-fencing for targeted mobile marketing, and optimizing mobile experiences can expand an eCommerce brands reach and increase sales.
Today’s shoppers are spoiled with incredible web experiences, expecting eCommerce websites and mobile apps to hold up to the quality and craftsmanship of Twitter, Facebook, and Google products.
Take cues from some of the leading web properties across the globe. Focus on large high quality HD images rather than tiny thumbnails. Spend time on creative product details. And of course, ensure seamless navigation and quick load times.
Shoppers have become increasingly privy to superb technological interactions. Emerging technical and maintenance issues for websites and apps can have a tremendous negative impact on sales. For large brands, one hour of website downtime results in $500,000 worth of lost sales.
To prevent traffic issues, make sure to contact the web hosting company in charge of the brand’s main site. Taking a proactive stance to the technical capacity of a mobile site or app can prevent lost sales opportunities.
Mobile has played a substantial role in a wide variety of economic sectors across the globe. Education, corporate communications, entertainment and even healthcare have ridden the mobile wave towards higher efficiency, increased communication, and greater revenues. By optimizing an eCommerce website to embrace mobile as a legitimate channel, brands can substantially drive revenues and expand their customer base.