When eCommerce first emerged as a new player in the world of standard commerce alongside the rise of the internet back in the early 2000s, it was thought that this spelled the end of traditional brick and mortar stores. And although this may yet to come as an outcome for commerce in the foreseeable future, for now, eCommerce and traditional stores stand not as competitors but two sides of the same coin. Yet what gaps that do exist between the two are slowly weaning away in favour of eCommerce, and here’s a couple of ways to help your store close in on that gap for good.
ECommerce vs Brick-and-Mortar stores
ECommerce still holds a clear advantage with respect to certain aspects of the shopping experience such as the ability to read product reviews, use mobile payment systems, customize the size and color of an item, check its availability, and generally customize an item to your specific frequency as a consumer. Yet as a species whose hallmark to fame rests on our social skills, we will always be drawn to real-time, in-person experiences, the conventional means of shopping being one of them. With brick-and-mortar outlets still holding the advantage when it comes to receiving your product, as there are rarely lengthy shipping times involved in the procurement of a product in person. Something eCommerce stores are yet to fully compensate for in their mode of operation.
Website optimization to drive cross-channel conversions
Convenience is a big part of the online experience, especially if you hope to drive conversions to your site. Customers rarely care about the channels, what they do expect from their online shopping experience however is a seamless, and convenient purchasing journey through your site. You can draw traffic to your site that uses their desktops to initially access your store, but who then switch to a mobile device to complete a purchase which is why cross-channel optimization is so important for any online store. This is due to the fact that mobile internet access surpasses desktop use, with the added benefit in the fact that mobile internet users spend twice as much time on the internet than their desktop/laptop contemporaries due to the portability and convenience mobile devices afford their users.
To really optimize the mobile experience for your users it helps to design a mobile responsive version of your store from scratch, as opposed to simply changing a couple of headers and fonts here and there to make it suitable for viewing on a mobile device. Not following or adhering to this rule can result in a mobile version of your store that is hard to navigate through with buttons that are hard to access, to indecipherable text. Problems that will most likely lead to abandonments, and a general lack of sales on your site.
Modern-day people aren’t known to be patient, with studies revealing the attention span of Gen Z to be less than that of a goldfish at times. And since you’re very likely to serve someone from this demographic on your store it helps to ensure that the user experience for your audience is reflective of this in its operations for those accessing it through their mobile devices.
Optimizing a website for mobile helps customers follow through on a task until it is completed, for store owners that task is making sure a visitor to your site makes a purchase on it. The less optimized a site is for mobile, the harder it is to accomplish a task on your store for the customer, which in laymen’s terms equals more abandoned carts, and a drop in sales, if any occur in the first place.
A good website that’s optimized for mobile should include the following features, as an indicator of its congruency with mobile devices. These include:
- Guest checkout option
- Multiple screens instead of scrolling
- Larger buttons
- Smaller images
- Auto-detect location settings
- Auto-fill form fields
Ensuring your journey to optimizing your store for the mobile experience is built upon the fiats and guidelines stipulated therein is a good way of ensuring a positive user experience for patrons of your site, which will most likely result in conversions, and not abandoned carts and checkouts.
One advantage that brick-and-mortar stores have over digital ones is location. And the importance of a location and the trust it generates to ease the worries of the consumers who patronize them cannot be neglected. With fraud on the internet, and its prevalence therein being thrust into the limelight with public ad campaigns geared at educating consumers on how to best avoid becoming victims of fraud themselves. Online stores that neglect on certain aspects of their online presence can find themselves unwitting casualties of this benevolent warning system, by losing the trust of consumers who patronize their store. One way to bridge the divide on trust is by giving your consumers the impression of trust tantamount to a physical location through store information. It has been proven in a study that stores that lack general information pertaining to the functioning of a store, alongside working contact information lose close to half of the traffic generated to their site on the grounds of a lack of trust.
Including stuff such as the physical location of your base of operations, business email address and a dedicated line for customer services and inquiries makes up for the lack of a physical outlet for your store as compared to your brick-and-mortar contemporaries. Adding additional on, and offline information such as product reviews is another way of bridging this gap and displaying and making known that information both on your store and in paid for ad campaigns is a great way of building a solid reputation around both your products and store in the absence of an actual corporeal presence.
Update your inventory on a constant basis
To keep your business afloat amidst a sea of competition it helps to keep the content in your inventory fresh and updated to avoid becoming stale and losing the appeal of your store to one of your nearest competitors. It is also one of the most effective ways to bridge the eCommerce- brick-and-mortar store divide in customer experience. Keeping your store up to date with the trendiest products in the niche you serve, all expertly sourced off Product Mafia is the best way to stay ahead of not only your competition but stores that have a physical presence in the commercial sectors of society.
And once your bases are covered on this front it puts you at an advantage to canon modes of retail, due to the number of aspects of the shopping experience that eCommerce stores offer, which conventional stores cannot by virtue of the limitations of operating out of an actual store as opposed to selling your wares directly off the internet.
Prioritize shipping for better customer experience
Perhaps one of the biggest noticeable gaps that exist between canon and online commerce is the acquirement of a product for which a consumer pays. In the traditional shopping experience, this is usually done in person as soon as one completes their payment for an item, with the exception of large items that require specialized delivery. All online purchases are subject to delivery, and with the globalized, close-knit network that constitutes the internet one store can service a wide array of customers from all over the world, which is why shipping times are so crucial a step to bridging the online-offline gap. This aspect of the online shopping experience is where the biggest steps are to be made in closing the gap between online-offline purchases.
In a study carried out in the first quarter of 2019, the importance of shipping in the eCommerce sector were made apparent with the study finding that:
- The majority of consumers surveyed were found to want free delivery on all the items they purchased from an online store, most claiming they are willing to meet stores halfway towards this end. With many of the respondents surveyed claiming they’d be willing to pick up their packages halfway from their point of origin if this meant they could save up on shipping costs, however paradoxical such affirmations may be. It was also found that on completion of an order of a product that carries with it free shipping, many consumers go on to further browse a store’s inventory for more items. Meaning shipping is vital to building up a loyal consumer base around your store. Most interesting of all the aspects of consumer behavior highlighted in this study was the fact that under amicable shipping terms offered to a stores patron, respondents surveyed saw no difference between canon, conventional retail outlets, and online stores, they were one and the same in consumers eyes.
- It was also found that 75 percent of consumers surveyed expected their deliveries to be completely free of charge, even for orders that total a purchasing price of under $50. Baby boomers being the generation that is most expectant of free shipping, an astonishing 88 percent demanding it on right of purchase. With the figures sitting at 77 percent for Generation X (1965-1980), 61 percent for millennials (1981-1994), and 76 percent for the latest generation, Generation Z (1995-2001).
- The most interesting find in this study being the fact the most consumers surveyed claimed to look up the shipping of an item before making a purchase, 65 percent of respondents to be exact. With the speed of the delivery acting as another caveat by which consumers make their choices to purchase online. 39 percent expecting two-day delivery to be free, and 29 percent backing out and abandoning a cart when an items delivery was found to be charged. 70 percent of the consumers surveyed cited delivery times and cost as the main factor that pushes them to make purchases in conventional stores as compared to purchasing an item online, highlighting the importance of prioritizing the shipping of a product should you hope to close the gap as far as your store is concerned.
For the longest time eCommerce’s biggest adversary was touted as the lack of modern conventions that years of in-store purchases that customers had become accustomed to. But eCommerce has broken the mold of expectations to become the titan it is today in the business sector globally, with some eCommerce juggernauts even surpassing their in-person contemporaries, and if they can do it so can your store. All you need is a blueprint on how to go about it, and the keys to victory are yours!