Global Connectivity and eCommerce: Preparing for the future

global connectivity

With so many developments in the eCommerce industry, it can be difficult to future-proof your solution. Here’s the latest update on global connectivity, and what you can do as a business to prepare for it.

We live in an era of global connectivity, and for many eCommerce businesses this can be a challenging topic to get your head around, and hence the same can be said for planning a future strategy. What is needed is a fool-proof, future-proof approach, but with the relationship between eCommerce and connected devices becoming increasingly stronger, and developments in technology speeding up the process, this seems almost impossible to do.

In the eCommerce industry, we constantly look for new trends to predict where we should be focusing our efforts, and for now, this is definitely leaning towards connected devices, website optimisation and the ability to see your marketplace in much broader terms. Last year, £748 million was spent online in the UK on Black Friday – a 40% year-on-year increase – while on boxing day, UK retail websites received 156 million page views – a 20% year-on-year increase. 

When we fast forward to this year, the average UK consumer will make 21.2 purchases online  by the time 2015 comes to an end, more than any European consumer. We can only imagine what the Black Friday figure will be for 2015 year, given that 15% of UK retail sales will be made online this year.

These figures demonstrate how much stronger eCommerce has become and how far we have come in its technological facilitation. Its leap forward these days is thanks in part to the global shopping access people have to brands they never knew existed, and what is driving this forward is the huge developments we have made in connected devices. Here are a few facts and figures for you: 

• There were an estimated 12 billion internet-connected devices globally at the end of 2014
•  420,000 wearable devices were sold in the UK in 2014
•  1 in 3 US consumers who have owned a wearable device stopped using it within six months
One billion connected devices will be sold globally in 2015

If you’re looking to the future for your business, then you need to take these statistics seriously. Connected devices, contactless payment methods, wearables, the Internet of Everything – these are all terms which are being given more clout as time goes by, but this is not something to disadvantage you. If you adopt a global-friendly approach now, you will have a huge advantage over the competition!

What can I do?

There are three main tips regarding future-proofing your eCommerce plans that will stand you in good stead no matter what the next few years bring:

1) Mobile optimization – if you’ve read some of my previous articles on the uptake of mobile commerce, you’ll already know how crucial this is to your future success. Bearing in mind Google’s recent algorithm change, this should be at the forefront of your website design thoughts, because this is all about the consumer experience and getting to the top of search engines. Think how irritating it is to shop online or browse your favourite pages on your phone when those sites aren’t optimised for mobile; they rarely load and when they do the images are missing because the files are too large. The writing is tiny and unreadable, while zooming in means you have to constantly move the page along. These days, customers will instantly hit the ‘back’ button rather than compete with these sites, so this tip will drastically reduce your bounce rate.

2) Centralise your content management – if you have multiple websites, advertising campaigns, marketing content and tonnes of product information, you can easily become overwhelmed with the effort of ensuring that it all fits your brand guidelines and the same high standard. If you centralise your content management system, it will save you huge amounts of time, effort and money, and it’s not just you who benefits. The customer is faced with a streamlined, easy-to-deal-with, brand-cohesive company on all sides. 

3) Make sure you’re equipped to deal with market expansion – this is the major area you will need to focus your attention on when looking at your current eCommerce solution, if you haven’t already. With this global nature of business, functions like multi-lingual and multi-currency are crucial, but this isn’t necessarily enough; you need to take the above two points into consideration too. If your site isn’t mobile optimised to deal with foreign languages, it could translate into an awful design at the other end. Similarly, running these sides to your business will become too much to handle if you’re entering a new marketplace with a content management system that doesn’t fit your needs.

The importance of staying local

It has never been more important to ensure that your offline efforts correlate with your online ones. If brick and mortar is to survive, it has to adapt and use the benefits of an effective online presence to its advantage. The importance of not forgetting your local stores cannot be exaggerated, because your customer service needs to extend right across those virtual barriers into reality; Click & Collect has served as such a dominant method of providing this connection.

In a survey conducted by SessionM, a mobile loyalty company, they chose to ask 12,000 random US smartphone users about their mobile shopping habits. Not only did the survey reveal that 85% claimed that their mCommerce buying had increased compared to the previous year, but most shocking of all was the fact that 90% used their smartphones in-store whilst shopping. The top activities included 54% who made price comparisons, 48% who looked up product information, and 42% who checked reviews online.

And they aren’t alone in their findings; a recent Think with Google study  found that 50% of mobile users visit a store within a day after conducting a local search, while 18% of local searches lead to sales. Never has the online reputation of a local business been more important; while conducting their Local Consumer Review survey, BrightLocal also found that 88% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses – I’m sure this is something we can all relate to. If you want to reach new customers, they have to be sure that your customer satisfaction rate is high, your service is excellent and your products are worth paying for, all before they walk in your door. 

The three online techniques above will help you to plan for the future, but if your local brick and mortar stores don’t work cohesively with that online strategy, you will fall at the first hurdle when a customer searches for you. The idea here is not to have two separate companies offline and online, but one unit that serves all your customer’s needs, no matter where they are or what device they use.

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