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.
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.
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.
Lost packages. Late packages. Packages lingering in an unknown location within a postal facility. Welcome to ecommerce in 2020.
At a time when a global pandemic shutting down in-person commerce all over the country and even the world, one might think this is a golden opportunity for merchants conducting business online. And it is. With one exception.
Logistical wrangling related to a shakeup at the United States Postal Service have intervened to present a full-scale nightmare scenario for consumers, direct mail marketers, and especially ecommerce vendors of all sizes hoping to get essential and non-essential goods to customers in a better-than-timely manner. In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, delays were anticipated and experienced, but those leveled out as the USPS stepped up.
With the installation of a new Postmaster General in June, the directive is clear: cut costs and increase efficiency, even at the expense of a desperate public. The seismic shift has left analysts, public officials, and especially online shoppers scratching their heads. A provision in the US Constitution sets forth a postal service to be established and monitored by Congress. Its purpose back in the day was to transmit important correspondence from Point A to Point B at a time when planes, trains, and automobiles were more than a century away from reality.
After jockeying for the top spot as a favored shipping service, the USPS competed with UPS, DHL, and FedEx to curry favor. Enter ecommerce giant Amazon, the most prolific internet seller, and the picture changes with a contractual agreement. USPS is the most heavily used service for Amazon and other sellers of all sizes. Even its competitors use USPS for rural deliveries. Now its very future is in question.
Just over two decades ago an entrepreneur near Seattle embraced the idea of using business owners to help pad the success of another business. He called it “friendship marketing,” and wrote extensively on it as a way to generate leads and brand familiarity.
That was in the pre-eCommerce days. The field now is far wider; the competition much stiffer. But the ideology remains, and it’s now known as “affiliate marketing.” Though not quite as personal, it’s a way to piggyback off of successful businesses to both generate and divert sales. For the most part, it involves allowing other businesses targeting the same audience to receive commissions from their willingness to refer out to you. Sounds simple.
It’s a bit more complex, but the possibilities are plentiful. The obvious big-time affiliates range from Shopify to Amazon Associates; from Ebay Partner Network to Coinbase; and from ClickFunnels Affiliates to Wayfair Affiliate Program. Each offers a varied payout structure and a different set of unique benefits. On the low end, commissions may amount to 5 percent of each sale. That said, individual arrangements may spice up the deal with kickbacks as high as 50 percent. Your mileage will vary.
For newer or smaller online sellers, it’s a way to get established as you are building what hopefully will be a thriving business, and earn revenues in the process.
It may sound counterintuitive to send business away, but consider this: if someone is already signed on to you as a seller, they will buy a product from you unless you don’t carry it. This is where affiliate marketing referrals kick in, earning you a slice of the pie.
Not that you needed more bad news to round out the myriad chaos surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, but it could throw a curve into your business. And in a very, very bad way.
For a multitude of possible reasons, mail delivery through the United States Post Office has hit a major snag. Formerly a reliable service with on-time deliveries, the mother of all shipping magnates is bogged down with complications from various factors including sheer volume, employee shortages, and political wrangling.
An internal memo leaked to the press reveals that carriers are instructed to avoid overtime and unnecessary delays by leaving some mail at distribution centers if it may cause them to spend more time on their shift. A baffling development for the hundreds-year-old icon of delivery, this new policy follows a series of high-profile changes and concerns.
We’ll leave the messy controversy over this administration’s newly appointed Postmaster General alone for now, saying only that allegations of attempted election suppression are not helping. But the upshot is that mail delivery is increasingly faulty and late, with packages delivered to wrong addresses, delivered late, or not delivered at all. Bad for ecommerce.
The US Post Office experienced a massive $4.5 billion loss in revenues after its second quarter of this year. The reasons for that are complex and varied. The government-contracted agency is forced to find cost-cutting measures. For obvious reasons, this is an unimaginable ecommerce nightmare. Doing your part as a vendor to market, lure, sell, and package merchandise is hard enough. Now knowing that your good faith attempts to get it sent to buyers may be in vain is more than you should have to accept.
Pres. Trump has suggested the USPS triple or quadruple shipping prices. While some don’t take that seriously, it implies an intent to adjust pricing, at very least. That will impact your bottom line.
Meet Shoploop, Google’s latest toe-dip into creative digital selling. It’s been called everything from a “Tik Tok for shopping,” to a new version of an old idea, to the next hottest thing in the future of online buying. Some even liken it (for better or worse) to telemarketing for ecommerce.
Somewhere in the middle may work. It goes without saying that the younger generation of consumers is already fully on board with video. They’ve cut their teeth on it, be it through large-screen gaming to Instagram feeds. That captive audience is fruitful, but older shoppers are also taking to the medium in large numbers. The upshot is an intriguing way to personalize and expand your marketing.
The Google surge to dominate online buying explores the spiking reliance on video to entertain and inform, turning the tables and using it as an ingenious way to offer detailed visual and audio product information. Shoploop is under the Google “Area 120” umbrella, which explores ways to expand its reach into ecommerce. Unlike close competitors and platforms, its video services come grouped, eliminating the need for multiple apps.
At rollout, its focus is on the obvious sectors such as clothing, cosmetics, and skin care. Expansions are inevitable as the trend catches on.