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E-commerce in the New Age of Online Shopping

Amazon does not have a monopoly on quality internet shopping. They have a vast system and good product, they’re leading the way and they’re doing it better than any other name in the game – but the rest of the web will catch them. Walmart is going hard on e-commerce and so far it’s working. In Q1, despite the struggle in the retail sector, Walmart’s net sales increased by 10.5% and their e-commerce sales were up 74%.

More customers are shopping online now than at the height of the pandemic, the environment is more competitive and brands are going to have to keep up to match user expectations. In February, online conversion rates were 8.8% higher on average than the same time last year, with a buying urgency similar to Cyber Monday.

There are more shoppers online and they’re ready to buy, now more than ever before. Is your brand doing everything it can to capture this new audience and improve conversions at the same pace as the rest of e-commerce?

Traffic Growth to E-commerce Sites

E-commerce has not only been growing, but the coronavirus has pushed a quicker adoption of online shopping habits by consumers and quicker pivots by companies to e-commerce as a way to make up for lost in-person purchases.

Spikes in e-commerce traffic peaks seasonally in November and December, with Cyber Monday and holiday shopping, but trends only continued upward as stay at home orders began and shops were forced to close.

Between March and June, SemRush reported average traffic growth of “36% across all the e-commerce categories,” with Home & Garden, Food & Groceries, and Sports & Outdoors showing the most growth.

But with such a quick pivot to e-commerce, it is vital that you set up your online store properly so that you are ready for success. There is a growing amount of competition online, so to capture an audience and a share of the market – you need to know what you’re doing.

Brick & Clicks or E-commerce Only

In April, Morning Consult released a poll concerning sentiment about American consumers returning to pre-COVID life, with 24% of respondents saying they wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a shopping mall for at least six months.

“Consumers are more motivated than ever to stay home and shop online, creating the ideal market conditions to fast-track, test, and launch new experience-driven mobile apps, sites, and touchpoints across their platform,” according to the Morning Consult Study as discussed on Forbes.

Some restaurants and retailers were lucky enough to have enough online demand to keep them profitable, but that’s not the case across the industry. Brands will have to reconsider business models and decide whether they even need a physical shopfront going forward. Many companies are seeing the advantages of pivoting to a digital-only model.

That includes restaurants – I imagine we’ll be seeing more ghost kitchens as a result of the pandemic, where a chef’s focus is only on pushing their brand and cuisine in online ordering and delivery rather than a full restaurant.

Emarketer expects 7.4 million new digital buyers in 2020, more than originally forecast because of how the pandemic has altered consumer behavior. Estimating 204 million people, ages 14+ will make an online purchase this year, two-thirds of which will be 45 and older.

Additionally, because older adults are more susceptible to the effects of the virus and are taking more precautions, they’re more likely to turn to online shopping, some for the first time.

How to meet the needs of this new audience

With this new, older-leaning audience, the assumption is that they will be less technologically competent and will be put off with complicated user interfaces and a low-quality user experience design. But our advice, to simplify the buying experience online, applies universally across demographics.

For brick and mortar shops trying to improve their online presence, it’s important to learn from the personalized customer experiences that made in-person buying a success.

For e-commerce only brands, it is very important that the online shopping experience you create exceeds customer expectations from the first time they visit your site.

Meet expectations from page one

If users have found your product from an organic search or paid ad, in all likelihood you were offering something that met their search intention. But only on a rare occasion would a consumer be happy with the first product they click on – just like when they’re in a brick and mortar store, they need the impression that you have a choice of products that will all meet their needs.

Let’s say you have an e-commerce clothing store and after a user searches for “blue cocktail dress” they find a dress you sell at the top of the SERP. Great! But then they click through to your website onto the product page and decide it’s not quite their style. If you don’t have other similar styles displayed next to the original product to inspire the customer, it is likely they will back out of your site and onto the next product on the SERP that catches their eye.

When we shop in stores, there are side by side choices. We know our own tastes and are able to, at a glance, decide when something is for us. It’s important to translate this experience into an e-commerce setting, where you can personalize the product landing pages for customers. There is no need for invasive, privacy-killing cookies and tracking, you just have to demonstrate that you understand what the customer is looking for, why they are on your page, and what needs they are looking for you to meet.

It’s hard enough to get people on your site, don’t make it easy for them to decide to leave. Displaying multiple products that meet the customer’s immediate needs will keep them on your website.

A common misstep we often see is people trying to sell accessories alongside products. The user hasn’t committed to buying the thing they actually want to buy, yet brands are already trying to up-sell. The cart is a good place for complementary accessories, or you could prompt the clothes shopper with a pop-up to “complete the look” as they proceed to checkout, and display shoes and accessories.

PPC and E-commerce

Especially if you are running ads, you should ensure that your landing pages follow our advice for best practices to improve your conversion rates.

Some businesses running online advertising might benefit from a reported drop in the cost-per-click (CPC) across most verticals due to reduced ad spending because of the pandemic. However, just know that this isn‘t consistent across all industries, and with a decrease in consumer spending you might receive lower returns and as shoppers are taking longer to decide on purchases, the conversion window might be longer.

If you are unsure whether your PPC campaigns are set-up to capture new leads in this boom in new online shoppers, work with a PPC management agency that can help you optimize your accounts, your landing pages, and build strategies that will set you up for success.

E-commerce is the future and if the pandemic hasn’t convinced you of that, I don’t know what will. As a brand, you should make sure you are set up with Google Analytics to measure (and improve on) your website data. But when it comes to selling online, it’s not about doing it first, it’s about doing it best!

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