This is our seventh and final installment in the “Starting Your E-Commerce Store” series. Check out the intro here, part two (on payment gateways and merchant accounts) here, part three on building a better shopping cart, part four on converting window shoppers, part five on detecting and preventing fraud, and part six, which covers sales and coupons.
Like fashion, advertising is a field that is constantly under transition. What worked last season is old hat this season. Old trends come back unexpectedly, and then die back down just as fast. Or a new concept comes along, just to be killed weeks later when a blogger discovers its fatal flaw.
While it’s tempting to just throw your arms up and decide you’re going to ignore all the trends, you can’t really do that. Most likely, you’ll end up absorbing the most obvious trends six months late, which won’t help you as much as they should. Even worse, by not paying attention to trends, you’ll deploy those you do adopt poorly, which will just make you more cynical about the effectiveness of trend watching.
For the trend weary, here are five trends in e-commerce that are new enough to be a real innovation, but well seasoned enough to be relied upon for years to come.
It’s All About The Product
Many, if not all, e-commerce sites sell products. And products rarely sell themselves. While we all expect product descriptions and photographs from an e-commerce site, it’s increasingly common to see an even greater density of information about the product. For example, you might create a video that shows how your product is installed, used, or even modified. You can allow others to show themselves using your product, giving the product a chance to shine in social media.
By making your product as attractive as possible, you’ll be able to win over even the most skeptical customers. Furthermore, by designing your product listings so they can effectively be shared and studied, you’ll find that customers will be even more engaged with your products.
Try a Product Subscription
Subscriptions used to be for magazines and cheesy gifts like the Wine of the Month Club. But in the past year, e-commerce sites have learned that customers appreciate the convenience of subscribing to a service or product. Whether it’s a media streaming service or a monthly delivery of toothbrushes, the subscription model allows the customer to keep getting a service or product they need without having to go to the trouble of ordering it again.
From the retailer’s perspective, a steady stream of orders is a great way to build recurring revenue, and by attracting a reliable customer you can build a relationship that will pay off down the road. You might even consider allowing customers to design their own subscription, so it’s just as easy for a family of four to get their toothbrushes as it is for an individual.
Allow Your Customers to Sample, then Purchase
Sometimes, there’s no substitute for just trying out the product and seeing if it works. For e-commerce sites, this has long been their key disadvantage, but for certain products, it’s possible to just send you customers samples for them try out. This works particularly well for lightweight products, like eyeglasses and clothes, and you can use a hold on your customer’s credit card to ensure they just won’t take everything. By giving your customers the opportunity to see the goods, and return the ones they don’t need, they’ll trust you more and turn to you whenever they need to buy something new.
Go Live, and Dynamic
While no site is ever truly static, many e-commerce sites are making more and more of their content live and dynamic. From countdown clocks to maps tracking shipping information, dynamic websites can make a website appear as bustling as a crowded department store. Daily specials, personalized greetings, and social media integration allow your store to give visitors a fresh experience with each visit.
Increasingly e-commerce sites are attempting to integrate the impersonal, busy experience of buying something online with the social, rich experience of living in the world. Although the SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) trend is still fledgling, for e-commerce sites it has considerable promise.
Imagine that you know when your customer steps into the bricks and mortar outlet of one of your competitors, and you can respond by offering them a coupon that will give them the same product for less, but only if they buy within the next half-hour. Or, after your customer makes a purchase at a coffeeshop, you can invite them to share your deal with their friends, or the people sitting in the shop with them. While e-commerce sites haven’t yet fully realized the potential of SoLoMo, the possibilities are endless.
While trend-watching in e-commerce can be exhausting, it’s well worth staying on the lookout for things that will make it easier for you to increase sales and reach new customers. Not every trend is worth adopting, but there’s at least one current trend that’s probably perfect for your business.
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