Ecommerce has become an imperative strategy, touching all types of industries, manufacturers, suppliers, shipping and logistics organizations and more. After all, the convenience of clicking a button, providing your payment information and addressing and waiting for your new items to show up at your door is something that many consumers now prefer over brick-and-mortar shopping.
What's more, new avenues are being paved within ecommerce all the time. Currently, the rise of monthly subscription boxes shows the robust, recurring profits that such offerings can provide. And with continual interactions with customers, subscriptions like this may become increasingly popular for growing a business's client base and supporting brand loyalty.
All of these factors and more and contributing to considerable growth within the global ecommerce market. According to a research from eMarketer, worldwide ecommerce sales reached $2.29 trillion in 2017, and are on pace to surpass $4 trillion by the end of 2021.
Remaining competitive: It's all about riding the waves
As the overall ecommerce sector continues to expand and more businesses take advantage of this style of service and merchandise delivery, companies have to work even harder to maintain their competitive edge. After all, it's simpler than ever for customers to find similar, or even the same products provided by one brand from another company, and this could even come with the benefit of a lower price and better customer support.
As organizations look to differentiate themselves from the competition, they must understand how the industry has worked up to this point. As VentureBeat contributor and HotelTonight app founder and CEO Sam Shank pointed out, there have been three major waves within the ecommerce sector so far:
- The first wave saw the connection of businesses to a network, enabling support for electronic purchases. This formed the foundation for ecommerce capabilities.
- The second wave involved the inclusion of customers to the network, allowing them to shop and purchase things through online platforms.
- The third wave was marked by mobile capabilities, wherein users are able to purchase things from the palm of their hands, in near real-time.
The fourth wave: Making ecommerce limitless
According to Shopify contributor Herbert Lui, we're currently in the midst of the fourth wave of ecommerce, wherein companies and customers are increasingly connected to a global market, allowing shoppers to purchase "anything, anytime, and get it delivered anywhere."
In many respects, some brands have already achieved this milestone – take ecommerce giant Amazon, for instance. While some sellers aren't able to deliver to specific areas, many customers enjoy this type of anything, anytime, anywhere usability.
Other organizations, on the other hand, have a ways to go before they're able to consider themselves part of this important fourth wave. This could involve expanding their shipping and logistics network, as well as working toward more real-time support for shoppers. Luckily, this isn't the only important factor impacting the industry currently.
There are an array of key trends that ecommerce organizations can take advantage of as they continue to ride the waves within their industry.
Shoppers want to spend their money online: Ensure they're able to
Forbes recently reported on StyleCycle's 2017 Ecommerce statistics, highlighting the fact that ecommerce in the U.S. grew by 16 percent in the last year alone. Overall, this means that customers spent an additional $453.56 billion online, compared to 2016 ecommerce levels.
"Shoppers are continuing to flock to the internet to spend money," Forbes noted. "Businesses need to consider adding ecommerce to their repertoire if they haven't already or risk being left behind."
As noted, it isn't hard to understand the popularity of online shopping. There's no need to leave the house, fight for a parking space or carry heavy bags to and from the car. In the current environment, any business that provides physical merchandise, or an offering that lends itself well to being sold online, should take part in an ecommerce strategy that enables its customers to interact with the brand and make purchases online.
Beyond the third and fourth wave: Consider IoT
"U.S. ecommerce grew by 16 percent in the last year alone – customers spent an additional $453.56 billion online."
While some would argue that IoT-enabled ecommerce may fall within the category of the third wave of ecommerce (which, as a refresher, involves mobile capabilities), others note that the Internet of Things could be considered its own wave altogether.
When one considers the interesting and innovative ecommerce features and capabilities that connected devices can offer, it's clear that IoT belongs in a class of its own. From connected refrigerators that allow users to add items to their shopping list and have them delivered according to a certain schedule, or smart home systems like Alexa that allow customers to use voice command shopping, the IoT is creating unique waves in the industry.
"These types of devices bring tremendous benefits into our lives, but they also represent a huge opportunity for businesses everywhere, especially ecommerce retailers," noted IoTforall. "Online stores don't have the benefit of meeting their customers face-to-face like traditional retailers, so internet-connected devices give them the opportunity to get to their their customers in a meaningful way."
Support valuable communications: UC for the win
Although it may appear obvious, it's imperative that ecommerce retailers take the time to ensure they have robust communication capabilities available and accessible to customers. Because all interactions take place within the digital realm, any issues shoppers have – from questions to requests for returns – must be handled in a clear and supportive way.
Especially when it comes to the return or exchange process, communication is key. Customers want to make sure that they're getting the right item and the most value for their dollar. And when a return or exchange is necessary, any disconnect or lack of clarity can quickly break down customer satisfaction.
In these, and other instances where shoppers require customer support, having robust unified communications platforms – including those that map to the channels that customers seek to use – is essential. This encompasses imperative features like live chat, email, crystal-clear VoIP calling, video conferencing and more to ensure that customers can leverage the most appropriate and preferable means of communicating with business representatives.
To find out more about how unified communications technology can make the difference for your ecommerce organization – particularly where customer support and satisfaction is involved – connect with the experts at Teo Technologies today. n