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Depending on your perspective, 2020 may be the most disastrous year to be in business, or it may be the best year ever to have launched an ecommerce store. Analysts include cyber-selling as one of countless sectors disrupted immeasurably by one of the worst global pandemics in world history—and certainly in the United States.
While life and health represent the primary collateral damage of Covid-19, it’s harder to escape the tie-in between economics and well-being. As states began to implement closures of non-essential businesses, economic figures from the stock markets to GDP reflected a devastating side effect. A fascinating byproduct of that was a shifting of commerce from in-person to home-based, creating the kind of climate making ecommerce businesses naturally flourish.
And they have. Coinciding with a general transition to convenient online shopping, the Novel Coronavirus looks to be a windfall for the most prolific digital seller–Amazon–with niche entities following on their heels. For its share, Amazon’s net revenues by in the second quarter of 2020 soared to a dizzying $89.1 billion. With the holiday shopping season approaching, that number could double for the third and fourth quarters.
As goes Amazon, so goes the rest of digital commerce. Second-quarter retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. climbed by almost a third from the previous quarter, to just over $211 billion.
If becoming a digital store felt overwhelming, what we’re about to discuss may make you sweat. Don’t. It’s an up-and-coming topic developing in the changing world of ecommerce merchandising. It addresses how to collect on what you sell, and how to make it easier for your customers to buy.
Dubbed “BNPL” for short, the concept of Buy Now; Pay Later offers payment plans for goods–something that was once only a reality for big retailers offered through proprietary credit cards, or by accepting bank cards. That’s still a way to go, but what if you could ease the pain of customers who really want what you have, but are constrained by a temporary financial shortfall?
In the era of a global pandemic, creative financing has taken on various forms; experts believe the shutdowns have advanced ecommerce developments by up to five years. As shopping online has exploded, strategic agreements with underwriters mean even small businesses can entice buyers with offers to pay in installments.
Flexible payment methods are attractive to nearly 60 percent of consumers who purchase online. Those numbers might incentivize your decision to explore the possibilities. Though not without limitations, it’s at very least a marketing tactic that accommodates tough times.
Offering payment flexibility requires a direct integration through your point-of-sale system, and that initial step is big. Some players providing this service include Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, and Quadpay. PayPal, perhaps the most prolific online payment platform, announced in August that it would begin a launch.
One study analyzed data of BNPL programs over a three-month period, reviewing almost a half-million transactions across more than 300 retailers. They included the above five platforms. Here’s what they found:
It’s not every day you read a blog post that promotes other blog posts. In the growing sector of ecommerce, the novelty factor is still in play, and merchants can use all the help they can get. Trading ideas may be a boon for both parties, as small fish rely on big fish, and big fish discover trending new product lines, marketing strategies, and fresh ideas from the relative minnows.
Some of the best and most useful ecommerce-related blogs both sharpen the focus of online selling and invite an expansion of old ideas. They recount what works and what’s been more duplicitous or unwieldy. They draw readers out of a place of isolation faced by many who move from in-person operations to digital selling.
Here are some of our favorite blogs that explore comprehensive facets of online merchandising, in no particular order:
Ecommerce Nation Blog
Geared to a global audience, this site delivers news, tips, interviews with industry movers and shakers, and an assortment of creative topics.
Greeted by a sweet little basenji, your first experience with Nosto’s current post goes beyond the dog-eat-dog world and ferrets out the reimbursement element of commerce. Though nearly a year old, its most interesting entry addresses multi-currency as a solution to cross-border selling. Finance-related concerns rarely age, and on Nosto you’ll find a menu of useful topics laid out in a nice interface.
True to its name, ECF dazzles with an array of news and information relevant to both small and big businesses. From advice on customer loyalty programs to personal wellness for the ecommerce merchant, and from unconventional email campaign strategies to cathartic humor, this site makes it fun to devote your energy to online selling.
Don’t be fooled by a title – Big Commerce is just as useful for the little guy. With a bevy of tips from veteran online merchants, this blog offers incentives for experimenting with both proprietary and unconventional ways to conduct business from start to finish. Its clean layout is easy to navigate; its content is inspiring enough to peruse for extended periods of time. Many like sites add tips on the best ecommerce business ideas, but BigCommerce follows through with numerous examples sourced from outside their domain.
Volusion’s blog, “The Ecommerce Authority,” is a veritable treasure chest of information and tips. With Black Friday around the corner, its multiple posts related to holiday sales makes it a worthy read. Add pieces on personal merchant stories, web page optimization, rating payment platforms, and running SEO tests, and you have a blog source you will want to bookmark.
Last week we introduced the topic of inbound marketing, a new approach to integrating the lifestyle aspect of potential and existing customers with meaningful content that can lead to a longstanding commercial relationship. For ecommerce merchants, inbound marketing holds enormous promise.
But it’s not as simple as its reverse strategy of outbound marketing. Sending emails, buying pop-up ads, and initiating contact at your chosen pace is waning as an effective way to win customers. Learning to work your marketing into the increasing online engagement of buyers takes patience, insight, a bit of technical know-how, and a sincere desire to improve the lives and livelihoods of everyone.
For newer sellers who may feel out of their league, here are some tips on how to make inbound marketing work for you.
Confused as you may be by the litany of jingo surrounding Everything Internet, there’s a term you will want to embrace: Inbound Marketing.
The “inbound” modifier sets forth an important distinction between the conventional idea of marketing employed by businesses for decades. It refers to a trending 21st Century concept of capturing both the lifestyle factor and the online engagement of customers and potential customers. “Outbound marketing” involves pop-up ads, direct-sales emailing, and anything produced as a proactive attempt to sell your brand or product.
With the proliferation of information made possible by online commerce, and the evolving comfort level of humans warming up to an increasing amount of time spent online, marketing strategies in current times demand more creative adaptations. Inbound marketing seeks to make your brand part of a consumer’s life, avoiding the tendency to disrupt their focus with unsolicited communications.
Analysts call this “interruptive marketing,” citing dismal results as consumers already inundated with an overflow of stimuli are more inclined to seek out their own personalized content that will lead to buying decisions. The advent of mass interruptive advertising and marketing has led to a greater demand for technology that blocks such content, and that demand has been mostly fulfilled.
Currently about one-quarter of web crawling prospective clients employ ad-blocking software. This is a disaster for any business still clinging to proactive, interruptive advertising. Worse, the traditional display ad on digital media shows a click-through rate of less than 1 percent among those who do not block ads.
As if conducting business over the internet weren’t challenging enough, there is a new, critical factor to consider. On Sept. 23, customers of online retailers Thrive Cosmetics were informed through an email that the sales platform they use to process transactions had experienced a data breach about one week earlier. That platform is Shopify.
Started in 2004, Shopify originally targeted sales of snowboarding gear. Now it has grown into one of the most prominent sales platforms, hosting more than 325,000 online shops for both individual sellers and huge companies like Google and Tesla.
Being big has its ups and downs. You can count security issues as a down, especially when the etiquette of online security and fraud procedures are still essentially in development. When mega-retailers such as Target joined banking giant Capitol One, food delivery service DoorDash, and even credit reporting agency Equifax as victims to one of a series of massive data breaches exposing various ranges of customer information, each responded in a manner ranging from timely to unacceptably delayed. The public and media outlets took rightfully gratuitous swipes.
Shopify’s recent breach raises questions of whether there has been transparency at all. The company has not responded to media inquiries for further details on how many customers were affected and what level of data was exposed. Shopify ultimately confirmed the breach more than a week after it happened, explaining that two “rogue members” lifted customer data from at least 100, but less than 200, merchants.
Information released indicates that only names, addresses, and order details were accessed. But follow-up reporting and information from merchants shows the last four digits of credit cards were included in the breach.
With online buying now a way of life among millions of consumers, the temptation to jump in as a seller has never been stronger. Digital consumerism has joined virtually every aspect of living as a go-to venue thanks to the near-universal availability and usage of the internet.
It makes sense that those turning to cyberspace to find out about filling their needs will also be lured into filling them online. Ecommerce growth is an exponential reality in the third decade of the 21st Century, with increasing emphasis on services and goods no one would have imagined 20 years ago.
If you’re tossing around the idea of joining the expanding array of those who conduct commerce over the internet, but are afraid of being lost in a vast universe, there are some intriguing ideas to consider. Perhaps you struck out when first at bat, and are determined to build a sustainable online business. Here are some hot topics finding eager audiences there.
If anything should be clear to new and not-so-new ecommerce merchants, it’s that there are no shortcuts in virtual selling. The wide swath of seemingly limitless buyers offered up by cyberspace is an automatic win for vendors who don’t have a physical presence or an unlimited ad budget, but that means the market is open to millions of others in the same situation.
An emphasis on actualizing goods to attract buyers is growing, and technology is keeping pace. Shoppers increasingly rely on digital devices for purchasing at a time when internet bandwidth is a competitive factor among cellular companies.
But this raises an issue among small-time sellers who aren’t up to speed on taking advantage. Hi-resolution photos, enticing videos, and other elements used to peddle products require effort. The goal is conversion.
Conversion is the process of attracting interested buyers andturning their interest into sales. It’s not a new concept in commerce, but in ecommerce, it’s that much more challenging. If you’re already in business, you have a functioning web site. A good start. But not enough.
Beginners and mid-level merchants should focus on the following areas if they want to play with the big kids. Mastering these will pay off through increased sales, and will build your skill set to a point where you may expand with more creativity through simple imaging.
As we took a break to celebrate Labor Day on September 7th, Particles is taking the week off.
We'll be back on September 17th.