The Second Decade of E-Commerce: 5 Trends to Watch For
I remember my father making his first online purchase from Amazon.com in 2000. Though e-commerce had been around for a few years, people started shopping online en masse around 2000. The mass market potential of e-commerce looked promising, though the immediate challenges of slow-loading pages and relatively few bells and whistles made online retailing a far cry experientially from its offline, brick-and-mortar cousins.
What a difference a decade makes.
As we dive into the second decade of e-commerce as a mass market retailing vehicle, retailers should be aware of the following solutions that I predict will have as big of an impact on this second decade as live chat and free shipping had on the last:
- Video. By enabling shoppers to see products in real-use scenarios, video has become one of the top drivers for online growth today. Companies like SundaySky and idomoo bring products to life by automatically taking images and texts and creating product videos on the fly. Though most retailers won’t spend the time and/or money to film videos for most of the products they market, these new technologies can help you create engaging videos that improve product merchandising.
- Mobile. With the growth of smartphones, mobile commerce (or m-commerce) will grow too because of the time and location-based advantages of this platform. While mobile might someday rival e-commerce in terms of sales, in the near term mobile will continue to serve as a complement to physical brick-and-mortar stores, enabling consumers to comparison shop while in-store. To make comparison shopping easier, both PriceGrabber and Shopping.com have smartphone apps. Couponing is another location-based vehicle that will help drive the growth of mobile commerce. ShopText is a company doing interesting things in mobile couponing.
- Social networking. From friending products and even retailers to relying on recommendations from those in your social circles, social networking will play an increasingly important role in e-commerce. With their growing user bases and the ability for finite targeting based on location, interest and a range of demographic criteria, social networks provide online retailers with a way to better use targeting functionality. And despite Facebook’s more than 400 million users, it’s worth also looking at smaller and more targeted social networks. For example, Ning has millions of targeted social networks running its platform, and you can advertise on Ning via Google AdSense or AdBrite.
- Comparative pricing. Though it might be counterintuitive to mention a competitor on your product page, online retailers, including Amazon, are doing just that. And why not — online customers are already price checking competitors online. Today, marketing and merchandising is about joining the conversation. And most online retailers have competitors whom are also part of the conversation.
- Currency conversions. With the value of the euro rising, online retailers find themselves with an audience of foreign shoppers eager to buy. For example, a European visiting the U.S. on Black Friday 2008 got $1.27 for every euro. One year later, the euro's exchange rate was $1.44, or 13 percent more. With international shipping now commonplace, foreigners can now shop not only when they visit the U.S., but when they get home as well. To make it easier for international visitors to shop on your website, include a currency converter to enable visitors of different nationalities to see products priced in their local currency. Doing so makes for a more convenient shopping experience, which increases the likelihood of closing a sale.