Bringing the Shop to You: Essential Strategies for E-Commerce Success
It's no secret that online shopping has taken off in recent years. According to Forrester, U.S. online retail sales are expected to reach $370 billion by 2017, outpacing growth in traditional brick-and-mortar stores during that time. This brings a number of opportunities for retailers. In order to truly be successful in the e-commerce age, however, it's critical that you're able to mimic the traditional shopping experience online.
One of the chief advantages brick-and-mortar shops have over their digital counterparts is that consumers are able to physically interact with products prior to purchase — e.g., examining the quality of the stitching on a blouse or the detail on a decorative bowl. While small thumbnail pictures available online are sufficient in providing a snapshot of a product's appearance and key characteristics, these images alone don't provide sufficient depth of detail to build consumer confidence to commit to purchase.
Dynamic imaging technology addresses this issue. Dynamic imaging enables retailers to easily deliver large, deep-level zoom, allowing consumers to examine product detail at great depth and obtain a more holistic image of craftsmanship. In addition to honing in on particular aspects of the product, dynamic imaging also facilitates 360-degree spin. This allows consumers to view the product from all angles and through alternative views, helping them uncover unique details previously undetectable in traditional flat images. For example, perhaps a pair of pumps has distinctive beading on the heels or maybe a satchel has a pouch designed to protect a tablet sown into the inside flap. As all retailers know, it's often details such as these that push a hesitant consumer to purchase. As such, dynamic imaging technology is a valuable tool in brands’ e-commerce arsenal.
Across industries, video is becoming an increasingly popular channel for consumers to interact with companies; retail is no exception. E-commerce marketers can employ video to provide a more engaging experience at every touchpoint of the website — from the homepage all the way to the individual product level. Not only does this offer a richer, more entertaining platform for consumers, it also increases the likelihood that they'll explore other pages on the site and return for future visits. Mobile video in particular is an effective avenue for consumer engagement. According to a recent study from Unruly, online video viewers are nearly three times more likely to click through to a brand's website from their mobile device than their laptop or desktop computer.
In addition to facilitating a more engaging customer experience, video is also a powerful tool for consumers to interact with individual products. The technology takes the interaction benefits of product spins a step further, allowing consumers to view how a product works, as well as how individual features function and look when in use. Imagine an online apparel retailer, for example. Video can be used to demonstrate not only how individual items fit wearers of different sizes, but also how the fabric falls and moves. These elements greatly enhance the shopping experience, and give online consumers a greater confidence in purchasing clothing despite the fact that they can't physically try it on.
As mentioned above, mobile is becoming an increasingly popular e-commerce platform. A recent comScore study found that mobile commerce is growing at a rate two times faster than traditional e-commerce. As such, providing a seamless customer experience across platforms is another consideration for success in the online age. Responsive web design (RWD) is an essential technology for addressing this need.
RWD enables efficient, optimized digital publishing across all devices and in all formats. This ensures that the website and all campaign content (e.g., interactive online catalogs, e-books, video promotions) is customized to deliver an optimal experience based on the platform at hand. By automatically formatting all web content to the specific screen size of any device, RWD allows retailers to provide a high-quality mobile experience. In addition to delivering this multichannel functionality, RWD also ensures a seamless buying experience for customers even if they use multiple devices in the path to purchase.
The elements outlined above can go a long way in providing an in-store experience online. In addition, retailers should consider how they can extend the benefits enjoyed by their brick-and-mortar customers to their digital shoppers. For example, perhaps a cookware and home goods store offers free cooking classes in select shops on a weekly basis. Why not also stream these sessions online and provide a merchandise discount to those who register for the classes? Not only does this provide a stronger link between the company's digital and brick-and-mortar identities, it can also help introduce new customers to the brand.
We can only expect e-commerce to become a more popular channel as digital segmentation continues. To compete, retailers need to take steps today to bridge the gap between in-store and online. Those that fail to do so not only miss out on the significant buying power of the online audience, but also risk losing their current customers to their more technologically advanced competitors.
Rory Dennis is the general manager of Amplience, North America, a rich media marketing and merchandising platform.
Rory Dennis, Co-Founder & GM, North America, Amplience
Rory co-founded Amplience and is GM of Amplience in the United States, developing Amplience's presence in North America. Rory previously worked as Business Development Manager for O2 Telefonica's Interactive Media Team.