If you haven’t heard about the retail apocalypse, we’ll give you a quick summary. It’s a rather broad term for explaining how brick and mortar retail spaces are starting and continuing to fail, and how eCommerce is succeeding. This in no way implies that there’s no hope for physical retail stores; in fact, smart businesses are using mobile retail apps to boost sales and encourage and reward visits to stores. Yet, it also opens the door to all the possibilities that online retail stores possess, and we’re going to highlight a few ways that retailers can optimize these marketplaces.
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Just Be More Like Amazon
Amazon is the king of online retail stores. It continues to grow at an astronomical rate, adding more and more inventory by the day, and there’s almost nothing you can’t find there and have delivered to your door. Obviously, you can’t just be Amazon; their size, business model, and logistics are almost unmatchable. What you can do, though, is take note of all the features that make it great and consider adopting a few of them where you can.
- Reviews: Amazon’s review system is so large and detailed that savvy consumers will often come to the site just to research a product, which gets consumers to the site without even trying. Honest reviews lend trust and social proof to the site and the products, and their practice of lining up similar products with all their information lets the user comparison shop without leaving the page.
- Shipping: According to this report, over half of all households are Amazon Prime subscribers. This comes with several benefits, but the most notable is selected free shipping. Unexpected shipping costs near checkout is a big reason shoppers abandon full carts, so making these fees clear and obvious throughout the buyer journey is a smart move. Consider offering expedited, discounted or free shipping, especially through some sort of reward or loyalty program. It’s a smart move.
- Checkout: This is always a space prone to pain points. Too many information requests, insecure sites, confusing process…there’s a number of ways things can go wrong. Amazon’s checkout process is well known to be smooth and secure, letting you use securely stored payment methods and various shipping addresses all on one page. If you install the best security measures, make sure your consumers know about it, and make sure there are easy ways to contact customer support in case anyone needs personal help.
- Returns: One of the biggest issues with buying online involves return policies, and it makes sense. If you can’t see, feel, or use a product in person, it’s natural that some of these products will be returned. Amazon’s return policy is excellent: the item is shipped with a free return label, and there are no questions asked within 30 days. This gives the consumer a feeling of safety and trust when making their purchase, and that’s something every retailer wants.
There are many more ways that Amazon consistently leads online retail stores. Superior UX, smooth navigation, and flash discounts and holiday special events are a few more examples of how Amazon has defined the online retail world. Utilizing their methods is a good way to get your online retail store going.
Other Trends to Watch
There are a lot of technological and philosophical trends to keep an eye on. Here’s a list of various aspects that will define the future of online retail.
- Artificial Intelligence: Every industry is tapping into AI to better utilize the mountains of data and customer behavior to better understand and predict what’s working and what’s not. The more powerful your AI processing is, the better you’ll be able to accurately predict how and why your consumers do what they do. Additionally, integrating inventory control will optimize your site and affect your buying acumen. AI is mandatory for almost any new online presence, and online retail is no exception.
- Work Force: The face of the retail work force is changing drastically. Traditional outbound marketing isn’t particularly relevant in today’s digital world, so online retail marketers need to be experts in paid social advertising, and all the nuances of each platform. UX/UI needs to be carefully crafted to satisfy today’s consumer; namely, personalization and custom experiences for individual use, so developers need to incorporate that. Checkouts need to be as smooth and click-free as possible, and designers have to craft this important part of the process accordingly. The work force is getting younger, and digitally agile talent is prioritized.
- Content: No, emphasis on content creation is not a new trend. Yet, the philosophy of how and why it works is changing. Assuming your website or app is technically perfect, the emphasis swings back to the top of the sales funnel with informative blog posts, clever entertaining video, and other SEO-rich content, replete with backlinks. Thoughtful distribution and targeted platforms are even more crucial than ever, especially considering the huge amount businesses are spending on paid social advertising. Finding the brand’s voice and consistently applying it throughout all the various content is essential to an online retailer’s success.
- Back to Local: For all the praise we’ve heaped on Amazon in this post, there is a down side. Third-party producers can often supply inferior products, and consumers may start to turn towards locally based brick-and-mortar stores to assure quality with their own eyes. That doesn’t mean that the digital presence becomes any less important; in fact, this puts more importance on local retailers to develop and optimize retail apps that encourage the partnership between digital and physical locations. Smaller independent retailers have a window of opportunity here, and they’d be wise to develop their brand in that way.
The future of retail is digital by necessity, but personal by design. Continued refinement towards custom experiences for the individual seems to be the best way to carry on in online retail stores. Your next app development partner needs to be expert in these areas, so make sure you carefully discuss these trends with your business analyst from the beginning.