Riding the E-Commerce Wave
There’s never been a better time to sell products online. Every week brings new platforms and marketplaces on which to sell. Technology has afforded us speed and access that were simply unimaginable just a few years ago. Yet with every additional improvement to online selling, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged by the lumbering moving target that the marketplace has become. Here are some trends worth addressing and a few simple ways to steer clear of shark-infested waters.
Thanks to advances in technology in software, hardware, accessibility and globalized distribution, it’s now incredibly cheap, easy and fast to sell online. In the past, it was difficult to challenge larger organizations or level the playing field. While there are certainly a few big guys looming large, it’s easier than ever for people with new ideas to start and grow businesses. There’s an appetite in both the entrepreneurial and buying communities for new, innovative, and transformational solutions. Folks are out there figuring out how to fix problems, create and find more efficient products, and bring more customer joy. The market has expanded as a result and this disruption is a huge paradigm shift.
The challenge created by this extremely complex ecosystem is for sellers to be really clear on their business fundamentals. What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? How do you intend to solve the problem? Who’s your target demographic and where do they shop? Owning these answers can save you from losing focus and getting lost at sea.
As a tsunami of digitization sweeps across the globe, it becomes both easier and more difficult to share, communicate and use data. Fortunately we’ve seen a new sophistication of platforms and systems on the back end and a refreshing simplicity has been created on the front end, allowing people to make smarter decisions. Gone are the days when you’d expect to have a room full of people doing your analytics, importing and exporting data. There’s an expectation now that systems should talk, data should work and transactions should flow effectively from a consumer standpoint.
Regardless of your company's size, it’s possible to make data work for you. There are now business tools in place that make it incredibly simple and easy to find the data you need and gain insight from it — even if your sales are spread across multiple channels. It can be as simple as getting to know repeat customers and identifying your most profitable item, or as complex as predicting which month sales might dip in 2016. Either way, data can be a real lifesaver.
There’s a profound change occurring in the public’s expectation of making transactions in the marketplace. Today people expect that at any time, in any place, in any way, they should be able to transact. That could mean comparing prices, buying goods, running their business, managing their distributions, tracking a shipment, etc. Both consumers and sellers expect that on any device — desktop, laptop, iPhone, watch, tablet, reader, and now via the “Buy” button on social media — they should have access to all e-commerce transactions in real time.
Take a look at your shoppers’ experiences from a functional level. Shop your own store and channels from various devices and platforms, and introduce sharing options to each transaction. It’s a worthwhile investment to make sure your sales are optimized for any device.
We’re becoming more aware in the aggregate, and also at the detailed level, of what people are buying and selling as well as how, where and why they’re transacting. When you overlay the globalization of technology with socialization of technology, things get very interesting. For example, a woman buys a sweater on Pinterest and all her friends can see it, so they might go and buy it, too. With what’s happening on YouTube, anyone with a mobile phone is now a publisher. They’re creating their own content, sharing it, marketing it and turning it into a business, which in turn influences and expands the e-commerce marketplace.
All data love aside, see where you might be able to inject a bit of consumer joy into the buyer’s experience. The life-changing magic of social interaction cannot be predicted, underestimated or found on a spreadsheet. And to this point, take a moment to remember why you began selling in the first place. Whether you’re just making ends meet or building an empire, sometimes stepping out of the minutia and getting back to your passion is the tiny ripple in the water that leads to a tidal wave of sales.
Steven Power is the former president of Bigcommerce.com and serves as executive advisor at Webgility, a provider of e-commerce accounting integration software for small and midsized businesses.