Ecommerce is an ever-changing field, and while many small and medium-sized businesses are successfully offering their products online, it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd and stay ahead of industry shifts that can massively influence your sales and profits. Much like most digital marketing efforts, your ecommerce strategy is not a "set it and forget it" solution, and the price of growing your online sales is contant vigilance and maintenance.
Hopefully you've enjoyed a big 2016, but no matter how big your success or how new your store, 2017 will bring lots of new challenges and opportunities for your ecommerce efforts. Let's take a look at five ways it will change in 2017 and how you need to react to help your business reach its goals!
1. International Growth
Everyone knows that companies like Alibaba are revolutionizing ecommerce in China, and that all the trends are shifting away from retail stores towards the ease and simplicity of ecommerce. But in 2017 it's going to be both more important and less difficult to take your brand worldwide. While globalization makes it easier for large companies like Amazon to ship reliably around the planet, a rising tide floats all boats. That same infrastructure can be utilized more than ever to get your products to Europe and Asia and South America.
But more importantly, soon this won't be a luxury, it will be a necessity if you want to see your sales continue to grow. While the United States was obviously a driving force in the rise of ecommerce, it is not growing as much anymore here compared to years ago, while international growth is much greater. While there are always avenues to increase eccomerce conversions and grow traffic through inbound marketing domestically, in 2017 there will be significantly more emphasis on growing global brands that are targeting countries near and far. Don't let your national company stay that way and miss the opportunity to sell your products everywhere!
2. Give Your Customers More Answers
If you haven't looked into live chat or chat bots for your ecommerce store, 2017 will be the time to jump on the bandwagon. People often have many questions before they buy anything online, and the more questions your site can answer organically, the more likely someone is to buy. But if they have a specific question, users want the path of least resistance, and that doesn't mean picking up the phone or shooting off a tweet. Giving customers a live chat option to ask about product sizing, pricing, variants, or anything else will give them more of the value they need to see in order to make that purchase, and will lower bounce rates and abandoned carts as the get distracted or find a product elsewhere.
3. Understand Shipping Changes
Starting next year, FedEx is changing their shipping pricing away from actual weight towards dimensional weight. This means instead of paying for what a package weighs, your ecommerce store may soon be paying for the total space taken up by the package instead. For some smaller packages, this will not make any difference, but if you have been shipping in boxes too big for your product and filling the leftover space, you might see your shipping charges go up because of the size of the box. Regardless of the pricing changes, it's smart to box your products smaller so you pay for the right size box. Ultimately, this move will be positive for shipping companies, vendors, buyers, and the environment, but there will be some growing pains first. Curious what the shipping costs may look like for your company's standard shipping box? Use this calculator!
4. It's Gonna Get More Crowded
If you thought it was hard this year to stand out from the Amazons and Walmarts and other big box retailers, it's going to get more difficult in 2017. With retail stores struggling, most brands are already going all-in on their ecommerce solutions, turning their retail stores into pop-ups or glorified fitting rooms where you don't even leave with the clothes you buy. It's happening down the street from the Revenue River New York office in SoHo with companies like Bonobos and Indochino (both are great) right now. In 2017 we'll see more retailers go heavy with their ecommerce, shuttering retail stores or replacing them with a version of the try here, buy online model.
So what's a small-to-medium sized ecommerce store to do? Cranking out more content isn't the answer, as buyers are being innundated with messaging and stories and blogs, and even the very best have trouble standing out. Turning the knob to 11 on your PPC and Facebook spending won't work except in the most niche markets, because you're going to have trouble buying keywords and clicks away from bigger companies with deep pockets. The answer probably lies with some combination of:
- Providing a better buying experience by showcasing more value and benefits.
- Cultivating brand loyalty that is more than just people who follow you on Twitter, but transforming them into brand advocates.
- Using the content overload to be critical of your own and make better and different content that people actually like.
- Becoming more targeted and understanding your buyer personas so you don't outreach to people who won't be buying.
The market may be changing, but in all likelihood, your ideal customer won't be changing that much. But, their habits might, so finding creative ways to get interesting content in front of them is better than an arms race with Amazon.
5. Desktops Still Exist
Everyone looks at stores on their phones, every Google or HubSpot report is telling us that. But mobile conversion rates are still worse than most traditional browsers. Is the problem with the mobile site? Is it not responsive enough? If you've answered those questions and still aren't happy with the mobile conversion rate, it's okay. Mobile may be where people look at your site, but it's not where most revenue is coming from. In 2016, people switch between their computer and phone and tablet within seconds, so don't look at your bad mobile revenue as a red flag when it might just be reflective of modern buying habits. You still need to do serious analysis on both your mobile and desktop sites to increase the conversion rate on both, but it's unlikely that mobile revenue is going to rocket past desktop revenue in 2017.