This article was published on March 4, 2018

The ecommerce industry could be a lot better — here’s how

The ecommerce industry could be a lot better — here’s how
Megha Parikh
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Megha Parikh

Megha Parikh is an experienced digital marketing specialist handles many aspects of marketing such as identifying a target market, helping t Megha Parikh is an experienced digital marketing specialist handles many aspects of marketing such as identifying a target market, helping to create a brand image, creating marketing campaigns and tracking marketing effectiveness.

Every single day hundreds, if not millions of websites get successfully launched. A good number of them are ecommerce stores that try to sell everything from pins to planes. But, only a handful of them taste the success of the notoriety of the famed ones like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and the likes.

Almost every ecommerce entrepreneur begins his or her venture with the dazzling dream of becoming the next big giant. While the giants and their success stories have already given us much feed for coffee conversation, there is something that most of us, including the aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs, fail to take notice of.

Ecommerce has a lot of problems.

Yup. You read that right. The much glorified and trillion-dollar market size boasting ecommerce industry does have its shortcomings. And, these shortcomings are becoming critical with the growth of automation led by AI and machine learning.

I know that everybody’s a critic and just pointing out problems doesn’t get us anywhere. That’s why I’ve decided to outline the four major problems facing ecommerce and include what I think could help us solve them. These solutions should go a long way in making shopping not just a casual affair, but a relationship that goes beyond business transactions.

Problem 1: It’s not ‘human’ enough

Admit it. That joy of being personally attended and being helped by a sales assistant in a real store is missing in ecommerce. Even with chatbots for online shopping and AI-powered product suggestions, online shopping is not ‘human’ enough. It lacks a personal touch to it.  Poorly designed websites with a slow loading speed and cluttered navigation only make things worse.

Solution: Create engaging and personalized copy

Well-thought and personalized website copy can help overcome the lack of a human connection. The copy should preferably be in a conversational tone, without being over salesy. Reading ‘Buy now, buy now, buy now!!” often would turn off your customers. Not just your website copy, even product descriptions must have a personal touch to make customers want them more. plays it neat with copywriting that shines with brilliance not in landing pages but also in product descriptions.

Problem 2: Marketing is not persuasive enough

On an average day, a working professional receives about 121 emails. Only a small portion of this staggering number is actually opened and read. Industry estimates cite a 18 percent open rate for marketing emails.

The problem is that an opened email may not necessarily convert. If the marketing email is too salesy, or if it’s not aligned to the interests of the customer, or if it does not retarget a previously shown interest, then the marketing campaign is bound to fail. Personalization holds the key to marketing success.

Solution: Create personalized campaigns

You need to care for customers like any other people you have a relationship with. Of course your relationship with a customer is based on his or her desire to pay you for your product or service offering. But, customers are people and they need to be treated as such, so the tendency of a large cross-section of ecommerce stores to looks at customers as mere numbers is unacceptable.

The good news is that you can do better than your competition by treating customers like people, like in a true relationship. Personalized campaigns that are tailor-made to the customer’s needs and aspirations are the need of the hour.

In fact, global brands like Starbucks have gone a step ahead to create everlasting customer relationships. The coffee brand sends their customer birthday wishes as well as issues them special offers or discount for the day. Truly a thoughtful way any business can treat its customers.

Credit: Starbucks Melody

Problem 3: It’s facing cybersecurity threats

Cybersecurity is more of a threat than a challenge to ecommerce. Even big players like Target, eBay, and Home Depot have been affected by cyber-attacks in the past. Despite the rise in mobile commerce by 20 percent and in-app payments by 55 percent, customers still have a fear lurking in their minds when it comes to making ecommerce payments. Online payment statistics report that at least 10 percent of customers still prefer a prepaid or gift card as the safest means.

Imagine a 10 percent annual loss of business for an online store that does not accept prepaid or gift cards!?

Of course, there are tons of online material that show how to safeguard your store from being hacked. Still, there is a need to assure customers that you are a secure website that they can share their private and payment information with.

Solution: Display trust indicators

Customers want explicit proof that your website is a safe place to carry out online payment transactions. Trust indicators like HTTPS bar, authorized dealer badges, etc. on checkout pages will help customers feel at peace.

Installing a SSL certificate will give the HTTPS prefix and a green address bar for your website. The HTTPS address bar is great since it signals your visitors that your website is safe to entrust information with. You can choose from Organizational Validation, Domain Validation, or Extended Validation certificate that will secure your website as well as boost customer confidence.

There is a growing need to make ecommerce a digital fortress. Things are already looking up, thanks to Google, WordPress, and several other internet organizations that are driving the web towards a safer environment. HTTPS everywhere and similar movements are bound to make ecommerce more secure for customers.

Problem 4: Brand engagement ends with the store website

Ecommerce is actually an incredibly broad term, despite the fact that we’ve come to accept it as the synonym for online shopping. There isn’t any major harm in this common misconception, but it has led retailers to limit themselves to selling on their websites — which is a mistake you should avoid.

In today’s omnichannel world, this website-online business model can backfire. We live in a hyperconnected world where customers use more apps, social media, and instant messages more than anything else. Ecommerce has become closely tied with social networking and instant messaging. Unfortunately, not many retailers are leveraging social networking the way it should be. Despite a 133 percent higher conversion rate, social commerce in the US amounted to only five percent of the entire ecommerce market.

Solution: Meet customers where they are

Your ecommerce venture does not end with having a good website along. To thrive digitally it also needs to build a social media presence across multiple digital channels where customers frequent. Social media, has given birth to a whole new breed of ecommerce called social commerce. Image-sharing platforms Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, are turning into virtual POS outlets where customers can buy the products that they see and like.

Zappos has a rather funky way of capturing the social crowd’s attention with its social media campaigns. You can get plenty of inspiration from their social media handles like Hootsuite, Oreo, and Gatorade.

Credit: Socialated

Ecommerce is great, but it could be awesome

Ecommerce has come a long way from the classified looking home pages. On demand ordering and same day deliveries are shaping the next frontiers of ecommerce. Drones are all set to take over the delivery process and Amazon Go promises cashless checkout. All this and much more to feel great about online shopping.

Nevertheless, it’s not foolproof and is riddled with some shortcomings like what I have tried to express in this blog. The industry as a whole needs an upheaval of sorts which customers and their shopping experience would be put right at the center.

To sum it up, an ecommerce store that is humane and takes care of the wants and needs of its customers will leave any competitors in the dust.

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