Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When the pandemic hit, workers were sent home, schools closed and shopping became a high-risk activity. Retailers scrambled to survive by implementing methods to continue selling their products, including daily necessities, to home-bound consumers. Our favorite stores and activities amped up their online presence, new platforms came out to streamline sales, and for everything else, there was Amazon. Everyone adapted, and as a result, we realized how much valuable time and effort we could save by shopping online.
Even as retailers reopen their doors, ecommerce is unlikely to slow down any time soon, but to cash in on the boom, business owners need to up their online game in these three areas.
Related: 2021 Ecommerce Trends Entrepreneurs Would Be Foolish to Ignore
1. Work harder to stand out
Between convenience and improved user experience, nothing is likely to abate the growing momentum of ecommerce. In 2020, US ecommerce continues to grow staggeringly and is predicted to surpass $ 1 trillion in 2022. In groceries, that distinction was even more profound. Reports also indicated that 49% of US households were shopping for their groceries online, another statistic that is expected to continue growing. With more variety and luxury options found in the palm of your hand and delivered right to your door, online shopping is likely to keep spreading across all retail categories.
Along with the boom in ecommerce will come a boom in the number of merchants, sales channels and, critically, tools to help SMBs (small and medium businesses) compete alongside the industry giants. Before the pandemic, trend reports were already showing that lowered costs were driving established organizations and large enterprises to lean into ecommerce, and online marketing tools had been rapidly advancing business capacity for the past decade. Ecommerce sellers today have to work even harder to both stand out as a platform among many and be the one that buyers choose over industry leaders. SMBs can still compete by focusing on high-quality products and services, but not if managing the complexities of ecommerce takes up too many of their limited resources. With more options emerging than ever before, every SaaS (software as a service) solution that SMBs can implement to simplify that process will be critical.
Related: This Is Why You Need to Adjust Your Ecommerce-Channel Strategy Today
2. Prioritize sustainability and perks
To rise to the top in ecommerce, find out what consumers are demanding and do it the best. Influencer marketing has become one of the fastest-growing online methods for customer acquisition because businesses gain faster access to evolving consumer demands. In 2014, one in five consumers reported learning more about a product through an influencer’s unboxing video, and retailers have sharpened their focus on creating special out-of-box experiences ever since. With 70% of customers looking to prioritize sustainability through their purchases, sellers can no longer get away with boxes full of cheap plastics or styrofoam peanuts. Instead, to create the memorable out-of-box experience that consumers want, focus on easy assembly, minimal waste and damage control.
Another table-stakes expectation for customers these days is fast, free shipping. For over 60% of online sellers, free shipping has brought in significantly more customers. SMBs can integrate shipping into their online offerings and consider promos that offer free shipping when customers add items to a cart. Too many freebies can hurt your bottom line, so stick with one free for every three. Consider how long these investments keep your revenue going with less effort, and they become much more affordable.
Related: What I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Ecommerce Business
Go fishing where the fish are
With ecommerce accessing so many potential clients around the world, coming out on top requires tapping into the biggest marketplaces – in this case, social media. Reports in October 2021 estimated over 4.5 billion global social-media users spend about 15% of their waking lives on these platforms. With US adults more likely to buy something through Facebook, social-media marketing is leading innovation in new features, like Lego’s Facebook chatbot to choose the perfect gift. Twitter lets users “shop now” through a tweet and is reportedly “starting to explore ways to better support commerce.” Even TikTok is expanding its resources, from shopping features turning user-profile info into mini-storefronts to apps that let its sellers run their shop from a cell phone.
Even without the vast resources of major corporations, SMBs can ride popular ecommerce waves with an expanding catalog of SaaS services that streamline the process for both them and their customers. For example, experts predict annual growth among consumers in the option to “buy now pay later” by 22% over the next seven years, prompting the growth of pay-later shopping platforms like Klarna and Afterpay, which already connect 250,000 merchants to 90 million users worldwide. SaaS companies are only successful by helping SMBs be successful, which means getting and retaining more paying customers. Do the research and make the best decision for your needs because I guarantee you, a solution for improving your ecommerce business is already out there and will prove to be worth it time after time.
Ecommerce today is brimming with opportunities beyond buying and selling online. It now comes equipped with a myriad of tools and platforms to optimize access to your customers on a single control panel and, in the process, improve their user experience. As we move away from lockdown and stores reopen for business, do not expect to see the demise of ecommerce. Rather, the next big thing to come for the industry will be blending the benefits of online shopping with in-store capabilities to improve them.