The dizzying pace of futuristic strategies to enhance your online store has a somewhat new entry, and you might want to pay attention. Enter “augmented reality,” or AR, to the mix of methods for capturing and keeping a customer base devoted to revisits. This is a proven hack to showcasing the best of your product mix.
The definition of augmented reality is an overlay of computer-generated imaging over an authentic environment. In lay terms, it means AR picks up on an element in the real environment, then inserts objects related to it using varying levels of interactivity.
Sound complicated? It may, but as with any emerging technology, there is plenty of help to get you started. First, evaluate how useful it will be to your business. If your products are heavy on design (as opposed to strictly functional and generic), AR can make them come to life for potential buyers. All smart phones are equipped with AR-capable functionality. Beyond this, the visualization customers experience will put into context how the product will work in their everyday world. This is an ingenious invention.
Let’s talk numbers.
The perks of augmented reality are obvious. Whether you sell fashion, sporting equipment, home goods, or gardening tools, the ability to craft a moving image of how your products will appear in the real life scenario is invaluable. Furniture sellers may allow potential buyers to superimpose a sofa into their living room using AR over a smart phone, which saves them the trouble of imagination. You get the idea. It’s the next-level boost for remote commerce that is sorely needed.
But there are restrictions, naturally. Smart phone viewing scales down the actual size to virtual size. Though phone users are accustomed to this adjustment, it’s not perfect as a way to present your products. Counter this by getting tutored on a more streamlined, effective presentation.
Cost is another issue, as many e-tailers are budget-conscious. Complex apps for AR can be spendy. Consider this as part of your deliberations, taking into account the importance and likely success of capturing buyers through virtually real imaging.
There are other drawbacks, but also other definite pluses that aren’t mentioned here. Your best bet is to research, research, research. Start here for a comprehensive primer on how to make this technology work for you.
If augmented reality is not for you now, it may be in the future as your online store grows. Keep in mind its robust features and potential, and continue to study AR as its technology advances. But if you’re ready to take the plunge, there’s no time like the present.
It’s time again to revisit the various and sundry “tips and tricks” feature that serves up a reminder on how to make your online store work for you. Search engines are littered with hints from analysts, fellow ecommerce vendors, and influencers alike, all poised to help you kickstart or continue to grow your business. Peruse every hint you’re given; choose the ones that may fluidly be put into practice.
Just think! At some point you may be in a position to hand out advice. Until then, embrace the lessons learned by those whose trails were blazed before you, and those who have kept close watch on the booming commercial phenomenon of internet sales.
Here are four useful tips, in no particular order:
Youth is wasted on the young, a pop culture proverb says. Possibly, but it’s not wasted on ecommerce sales. If you aren’t in a niche sector tailored naturally to boomers or the elderly, pay attention. The market is now dominated by under-35ers.
Estimates hold that young consumers have driven the shift to online shopping, and this escalated following the year-plus long Covid pandemic shutdowns. Keeping in mind the importance of developing broad-based marketing strategies, it’s a good bet that targeting younger consumers will pay off big, for a variety of reasons.
First, and most obvious, they compose the lion’s share of online buyers. Second, they are influencers who are often called on by older relatives, coworkers, and others for ideas and knowledge of internet shopping.
Second, those young shoppers won’t be young forever. Cultivating and currying favor among them now will build loyalty – as long as you think carefully about how to tweak your marketing along the way.
Looking at expanding your reach to multiple social media platforms is an essential way to take advantage of the younger consumer base. They populate Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other apps that are not the standard Facebook (which, almost comically, has become a domain for the older set). Linking your online store through platforms like Shopify is a great start, although a bit of manual labor might allow you to skip that intermediary. Facebook, for example, and its affiliate Instagram continually update features to accommodate online shopping.
Make them happy
What do young shoppers want and expect from online sellers? There are a multitude of answers to that, but common answers include optimized search functions, intuitive interfaces, fresh content, a minimum of unnecessary communications (they are a busy set!) and – wait for it – splashy graphics. Visuals go a long way if they aren’t gawdy and overwhelming.
Considering younger internet users were the first to embrace social media, remember that they still congregate there frequently, even if their preferred platform choices evolve. Many will follow friends who offer inspirational input.
And don’t count out teens, a demographic increasingly gaining access to capital. Their direct buying power is a boon to your business, so treat it accordingly. Research trends and preferences, as well as which sites successfully attract them (see this Good Housekeeping piece from 2020). Respect their price-point limitations without attempting to sell them junk. They will spend more on one good item than four cheaply-made items.
Despite assumptions to the contrary, teens and younger buyers don’t demand high levels of information and an excess of graphics. They should be attractive and educational, but also simplified to capture and keep attention.
Finally, make it clear that you understand their technological savvy. Prove you want to make their buying experience as seamless as possible, leaving open channels of communication initiated by them. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of gaining trust and comfort as a way of forming permanent seller/consumer relationships.
There’s no place like home. The infamous line out of an iconic film tugs on emotional heart strings, but its practicality is inescapable. Perhaps no time in modern history have so many people around the world been reacquainted with the importance of establishing a livable, enjoyable home space as they are now doing more than a year after a global pandemic halted both outside and inside public activities.
The transition from a frightening experience in early 2020, when exterior areas that once bustled with activity were practically ghost towns, to a new hope for reopening, has been gradual and welcomed. That said, few expected the various lockdown mandates to last this long. Coping has been a struggle, between setting up remote workspaces, keeping kids entertained between online learning, and just generally curbing options for pursuits such as shopping.
But something else happened along the way. Consumers increased the already growing rate of online shopping – not just for staples, but for infrastructural home goods aimed at turning a living space into a pleasant permanent shelter. This was an unanticipated boost for merchants peddling related items. And the news gets better: estimates say up to 40 percent of customers who rarely bought online are now seriously considering it as a way of life.
Whether it’s textiles, décor, furniture, hardware, or anything else in the home goods category, shoppers have found the silver lining in COVID-19’s dark cloud by skipping annoying trips around town, in search of the right item. Spending so much time indoors has drawn attention to the living experience people want to enjoy, and this is a golden opportunity for online retailers of home-centered merchandise.
Home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, for example, reported a rare uptick in 2020 sales, despite four consecutive prior years of losses. Their digital sales increased 80 percent. That’s gargantuan, and inspiring.
Your online business may not be in the league of a BB&B or a Lowe’s, Target, or other big-time entities. But you have a product to offer, and if you pay attention to strategy, you may reap the benefits of this mass conversion to digital commerce in the home goods sector.
It’s critical to strike now, while the proverbial iron is hot. Large-scale job losses have spurred government unemployment spending, including decent-sized federal subsidies. Those are slated to end in August, but they already have been extended twice. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Your job today is to meet the needs of shoppers with capital.
The lesson here is to learn how to reach this new brand of consumer. Use the standard strategies of strong marketing, updated product inventory, catchy advertising, and fiscal health checkups to be sure your mechanics are in place. Tailor your advertising (and all communications) to those who have reevaluated the state of their home centers, and pitch with provocative language geared toward making permanent the current focus on home sweet home.
For inspiration and ideas on how to make your online store work for you, hit up Shopify. They’re always good for fresh, motivating content.
We're taking a little extra time to kick off the summer season this Memorial Day weekend and hope you're able to do the same.
Here's to warm summer sun, sandy beaches, backyard BBQs, and lazy days at the river!
With the ever-growing trend of online purchasing, the ability to gauge your success and popularity becomes a critical venture. A vast sea of competition has always been one of your greatest challenges as an ecommerce vendor. Figuring out how to stand out among the rest, as much as possible, is a worthwhile goal to focus on in the short term.
There are established strategies for measuring customer experience attitudes. These generally fall into four categories: Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Churn Rate. We’ll briefly explain each, but note that your operation may be too small to take on a full-scale task at the moment. If so, see the last paragraph for welcoming news.
While these formal, data-driven methods offer an accurate measure of success, they may be more than you can handle right now. But your efforts need not be that official. Don’t forget the power of personal contact. Your customers may be eager for a vendor who wants to know them. They might respond positively to an organic outreach with tailored questions and solicitations of how you can do better even in small ways. Never forget that the epic divide between brick-and-mortar, conventional retail and digital shopping is rooted in the human touch.
Trends come and go in the ever-evolving world of consumerism, making it extra essential to stay on top of developments if you hope to keep your online business relevant and thriving. Product mixes, technology, marketing – all of these create daily implications for managing an ecommerce biz. What isn’t so unpredictable is the vast, often under-tapped market most skip right over: business-to-business, or B2B selling.
Typically the narrative of a business that caters to fellow merchants rests on wholesalers, banking, payment processors, and other niche industries that have kept large and small businesses going for ages. Maybe it’s time to shift the thought process and see what opportunities might exist for attracting a customer base among other sellers who are not competitors.
Companies servicing online sellers represent a hefty $6 million-plus in annual transactions. It’s true: to be a fixture as a B2B provider, your service or product must be one of two things. First, it must be of high quality and in demand, and reflect updated technology or demand conditions. Second, it absolutely must feature competitive pricing.
Perhaps you can’t offer discounts deep enough to entice fellow retailers who might use your products to add to theirs. Then again, perhaps you can. That’s for you to decide.
The majority of B2B entities serving ecommerce merchants, obviously, are either big-time wholesalers or behind-the-scenes tech and financial firms. But as the scope and direction of internet-based purchasing morphs, nearly any online sellers can take advantage of their unique needs. The secret lies in research, reputation, marketing, and adaptation.
Do your homework
Once you figure out the types of other ecommerce companies you might best serve, go to work developing a promotional strategy by studying the needs of that seller, and its niche. If you are able to deliver products that will streamline their sales and service functions, there’s no reason to assume they will pass you by in favor of a big-time operation.
The most common element in product sales is, well, products. It’s surprisingly easy to leverage an existing relationship with your suppliers to set up a brokering arrangement that takes the acquisitions and supply chain responsibilities off of other vendors. If you’ve done your due diligence in regular research of your own product mix and niche, you should be more than familiar with the tailored demands of that industry. Put your knowledge to work with networking, and with a reworked attitude that focuses not just on what you sell, but on how you can help wholesalers or other retailers make their operations more efficient.
The best part? You won’t need to abandon your core business model and product mix. That B2C function may smoothly co-exist alongside a B2B sideshow. In fact, maintaining a robust site devoted to selling will impress potential businesses considering your services.
It should go without saying that before even considering branching out to a B2B model, be 100 percent sure that your site is slick, engaging, and easy to navigate. The more knowledgeable and reputable you are within your niche, the easier it will be to make pitches to others in a similar position to sell.
Put away your airline mileage card and skip the scheduling resets to be out of the office, because one of the big events attracting retailers every year is set to unfold over a computer screen. After a full year of scaled down sales, drastically altered strategies, and personal sacrifices, the National Retail Federation’s Retail Converge 2021 conference is still on, scheduled for June 21-25. The best part? You won’t need to leave home (or work) to attend.
The NRF bills itself as the “Voice of Retail.” Its annual Converge event offers networking, team building, trend information, and a host of useful ideas for making a new or existing retail business successful. Like most industry-based annual shindigs, it features a litany of great speakers from varying walks of life.
The best industry soirees take place in summer, so count on Converge to kickstart a busy sales season while focusing on tweaked strategies that adapt to the current state of consumerism. It’s increasingly happening online. With educational sessions, sponsor-led sessions, lunch-and-learn sessions, product demos, and interactive roundtables, few stones are left unturned.
Note that NRF’s 2021 marquee event is over, having attracted an impressive crowd. “Forward Together” provided inspirational material and guest speakers to whet the palate of all sellers. But they aren’t done, and the Converge event is a great way to discover how others in the retail biz are coping with this uncertain, chaotic time in history.
Get a feel for the timing and nature of each individual event on this page. It offers an easy-to-read schedule that will allow you to zero in on whatever intrigues you.
Are you feeling more connected to merchants operating in brick-and-mortar locations? You should. It seems as if each year that passes, the chasm between ecommerce and commerce-commerce shrinks. This is a telling moment in time, and a perfect opportunity for the two disparate entities find common ground.
The Converge conference is self-explanatory, as it draws a variety of merchants together to address issues related to commerce in general, including asset protection, supply chain, data privacy, marketing, corporate strategy, and leadership. It also incorporates ecommerce, digital, and mobile, to reflect the merging platforms on which merchants sell.
Tune in for motivational deliveries from Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser in the Obama administration, and Elizabeth Spaulding, president of Stitch Fix. Save time for the Speaker Spotlight address by the inimitable Diane von Furstenberg, an icon who has had to adapt to shifts in trends and regulatory influences over the decades. Other notable industry influencers are also slated to offer their expertise.
The Retail Converge conference may ignite a spark to cure the blues many are enduring after a year of uncertainty. Fees range from $395 for $595 for individuals, dependent on date of registration, and $250-$350 per person for retail team members (also contingent on timing). Register to participate here, and come prepared to experience invigoration.
The National Retail Federation’s mission statement includes the following language: “The (NRF) has represented retail for over a century. Every day, we passionately stand up for the people, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.”
Is a sustainable ecommerce business for you?
One week after Earth Day, much of its symbolism may be lost among the general public. But increasingly, consumers are listening to the growing wave of concern with respect to sustainability, climate control, and all red flags pointing to a devastating forecast for the planet’s well-being.
Whether or not you are personally committed to the cause, incorporating its elements into your business is not an unwise move. Following an unusual drop in interest in environmental conditions, Americans have expressed a sharp increase in concern for the planet’s health over the last decade. Many direct that concern beyond their personal habits and straight into purchasing decisions. This also holds for many European countries.
Meet their challenge in your ecommerce business by evaluating your operations from the ground up. Visible efforts range from sustainable packaging and shipping materials. Often resellers hone in on actual products that represent a respect for the environment. Beyond that, proactive messaging can express an honest concern even if an immediate switch to sustainability may be a fiscal nightmare in the short term.
The gradual move to online shopping, which accelerated in the pandemic year of 2020, made cardboard boxes a household staple. To many, that opened eyes and raised concerns.
Real life stories
High-profile shoe retailer TOMS went all in with a comprehensive focus on environmental advocacy reflected in its packaging (made of mostly recycled waste material and printed using soy ink). TOMS shoe products incorporate sustainable materials including natural hemp, organic cotton, and recycled polyester as an alternative. Other fashion and home-related sellers followed suit, realizing not only the PR benefits, but the ability to recruit excellent employees, and to minimize expenditures on graphic design that typically target high-end art with a range of vibrant colors. As it turns out, the fave shades of the day are brown and green.
Followed by a litany of fellow merchants, the TOMS approach demonstrates the power sellers still hold in making marketing decisions. Consumers who are on the fence about spending a bit more than planned may be convinced if a business has an honest and enduring commitment to sustainability. On the flip side, those not necessarily passionate about conservation are also not offended by green-friendly packaging. It’s a win on both counts.
So where do you start? First, you are the best judge of how much you can afford to devote to running an eco-friendly ecommerce business. Newcomers or low-margin stores may not realistically sustain sustainability, but words count. Formulate a message and make it clear in your marketing, on your page, and in personal messages to customers.
Adopting environmental-friendly business operations is a goal within reach to merchants with a solid customer base and decent revenue stream. If so moved, consider the following to begin putting your passion into practice:
It’s no secret that consumerism mirrors culture, and vice-versa. Proudly focusing on an honest desire to contribute toward a healthy planet will be more than just personally fulfilling. It will be a show of integrity that will at very least impress potential customers, and at most will earn a loyal base.