As Holiday 2014’s nice-to-dos become must-dos in 2015, eCommerce merchants will need to hone in on ways to get closer to their customers. Last year, retailers worked hard to earn consumer loyalty with mobile-optimized sites, faster shipping, and a more tech-friendly in-store experience. This year, eCommerce retailers need to ramp up to appease savvy shoppers who know what they want, how they want to get it, and can’t wait to share it. With one eye on growing the bottom line, the other should be on protecting it.
Here are three key trends to pay close attention to this holiday shopping season:
1. Mobile Commerce
Effective mobile commerce can be a force multiplier for all your channels. Mobile shoppers flipping between tablet, phone, computer, and store is simply the way things are done today. Consumers expect retailers to give them what they want, when and where they want it. Driven by technological changes that create opportunities to capture more of the market, payment, and delivery of goods across channels will become ubiquitous in 2015.
Mobile-centric strategies should continue to be top of mind with an emphasis on:
- Easy to Use and Secure Mobile Payment Options – Whether Apple Pay will live up to the hype and shine where others have failed to catch on remains to be seen. What is clear is that mobile payment options (POS or online) are a must-have.
- Optimized Mobile Web – Small screens are big and companies who optimize the mobile web experience (faster load times, user-friendly, and customized presentation) will be better positioned to capture market share.
- Hybrid Shopping – Integration between brick and mortar, online, mobile commerce and other platforms will be the norm rather than a game-changer this year.
2. Social Commerce
Citizen reviewers and raving fans and opponents, take to the blogosphere and Twitterverse to endorse products, share favorites, make or ask for recommendations and lodge complaints. Now, more than ever, engagement is key. As social commerce sales of physical goods are projected to grow by 93% per year in the U.S., reaching $14 billion by 2015, merchants will have to “socialize” more if they want to stand out from their competitors and protect their brands.
In addition to implementing effective mobile and omnichannel strategies, smart retailers will use social networks to customize product and service offerings. As people turn to their peers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for recommendations, social selling must be part of any eCommerce company strategy in 2015—a strategy that centers around:
- Data and Analytics – Data will be more broadly used to understand customer behavior and shape strategies to customize offerings. Companies can leverage “customers also bought,” wish lists, Facebook campaign “likes,” and Pinterest board activities to market to customers in niche product areas.
- Responsive content and interactive design – Responsive web design with functional customized views (based on social and other data), and personalized rather than corporate content will become brand differentiators.
3. Compliance in the Cart
Personalization and market-disrupting deals are only window dressing if the underlying infrastructure isn’t accurate and compliant. Compliance may not be sexy, but it is the only way to succeed in eCommerce these days. It can potentially make the difference between a banner year and going out of business.
Here’s how retailers can stay on the right side of regulations and requirements this holiday season:
- PCI Compliance – The news is full of hacked customer data and fraudulent purchasing. Not even the biggest brands are spared. PCI compliance originally set out to protect consumers from these kinds of breaches, but in-house auditing and assurance systems are often lacking. The costs of lost data to consumers and companies is in the billions. While this won’t scare many consumers away from online shopping, it might slow revenue growth if protocols aren’t followed and if strict protections aren’t in place.
- Checkout Accuracy – Customers expect to see a final price at checkout that includes accurate shipping rates and estimates, application of coupons, discounts, or incentives, and sales tax. Accuracy throughout the checkout process is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty and growing your customer base.
- Sales and Use Tax – If the national effort to require online sales tax succeeds, the already difficult, risk-prone sales tax problem will amplify. Sellers need a solution that can instantly and accurately apply tax rates and rules across channels and payment systems, including mobile, as well as across state lines. Automating eCommerce sales tax processes within the shopping cart software solves two of the key challenges facing eCommerce: 1) giving customers an accurate cost, including shipping and tax, and 2) accurately collecting, filing, and remitting sales tax to all the right jurisdictions at the right time.
Remember, retail is all about predicting trends, and what’s trending now is technology. Consumers are researching products and prices online, seeking out social media for recommendations and reassurance and using their smartphones to do absolutely everything—including shop. To keep their attention, retailers will need to be equally tech-savvy this holiday season. This means serving up customers personalized offers, creating a more integrated, ubiquitous web-mobile-store experience, nurturing their brands through social media and making it easy for consumers to shop their way.
About the Author
Asher Mathew is a noted business development and sales professional, and an expert on technologies relating to integrated e-commerce and e-payment processing. His enthusiasm for sourcing niche-specific solutions drives him to help start-up companies and mid-range organizations to realize their true multi-channel commerce potential. Amongst his many talents is his ability to align partner business models with packaged solutions that create value for customers, technology partners. In his current role at Avalara, Asher utilizes his deep technical knowledge to analyze problems and design software solutions that advance strategic goals, reduce costs, increase revenue and yield a positive return on investment. Asher earned his Bachelors of Computer Science degree with honors from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Avalara is a leading provider of sales tax automation software, helping businesses manage the complexities of transactional tax compliance. Founded in 2004 with the desire to make sales tax management easier, Avalara is now a top-rated technology company with tens of thousands of customers globally. Avalara cloud-hosted solutions streamline the complicated and burdensome process of managing tax-related activities and are pre-certified to integrate with 300+ accounting, ERP, and ecommerce platforms. Avalara processes millions of tax transactions daily, files hundreds of thousands of transactional tax returns annually, and manages millions of exemption certificates and other compliance documents on behalf of its customers.