Year after year, more shoppers are making purchases online and through their mobile devices. According to the “Quarterly Retail Ecommerce Sales 2nd Quarter 2015” report by the Department of Commerce, ecommerce sales in the United States increased 14.1 percent in the second quarter of 2015 when compared to 2014. With ecommerce business on the rise, it is important for merchants to focus on their online channel as a strategic sales channel.
Improving and operating an online store can seem daunting for merchants already tasked with managing other facets of their business, such as manufacturing, wholesaling and new product development. However, by partnering with a firm experienced in launching and managing an online shop, they can entrust their ecommerce operations with the partner and concentrate their efforts on running their brand.
By turning to an ecommerce partner, fashion and lifestyle brands can dedicate their attention to brand development and management. And as evidenced through the year-over-year growth in online and mobile shoppers, the online channel will continue to be critical for fostering greater business growth. Therefore, for companies that don’t have the time and resources to manage an online store, the expertise of an experienced ecommerce partner is invaluable.
This article shares the benefits that an ecommerce partnership can bring in terms of improved customer experience, optimizations for mobile devices and increased traffic to the online store.
Improved Customer Experience
Product presentation is a critical part of the customer’s online shopping experience and ultimate buying decision. For fashion and lifestyle brands, product presentation via the web can be difficult because so much of a customer’s buying decision depends on a product’s physical characteristics. For instance, if customers go to a brick-and-mortar furniture store to buy a new couch, they can touch its material, test its comfort, see its color and gauge its size to determine if it will fit in their living room. Online, customers can only rely on images and product descriptions. If unsure about how a product will appear in person, then customers are less likely to make a purchase.
An ecommerce partner can optimize a fashion and lifestyle brand’s online shop to better translate the physical shopping experience to the web. For example, the partner can develop ways to enhance the customer’s online experience by implementing zoom functionality and 360-degree views into product pages. By being able to zoom in and rotate a prospective item, customers can get a better sense of how it will appear in real life. Customers are then more confident in their purchase, leading to higher conversion rates and fewer returns.
Optimization for Mobile Devices
Today’s online consumers are no longer limited to shopping on desktop computers. In fact, in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2015 “Total Retail” survey, 47 percent of respondents reported making mobile purchases, whereas in its 2013 survey only 30 percent did. As mobile adoption increases, merchants need to assure their online shop looks good and provides a seamless experience on all devices. If not, shoppers will turn to a merchant that does.
An ecommerce partner can optimize the online store with flexible, responsive design to make it just as easy for smartphone and tablet users to browse and purchase products. Optimization entails more than just scaling down the traditional desktop site to fit on a smaller screen. The ecommerce partner must take into consideration the ease of navigation, number of products displayed, parts of the desktop site to leave out, menu bars and loading time, among others, to provide a coherent shopping experience.
The partner will tailor the mobile optimization of the desktop version of the website across different formats – tablets, small tablets and smartphones. They will then individually review each page to ensure it offers an exceptional experience no matter the device.
Increased Traffic to the Site
“Build it and they will come” does not apply to online stores. Thankfully, ecommerce firms have extensive knowledge in search engine marketing. While companies engage with customers through social media and blogging, an ecommerce firm can help drive traffic to the site through search engine optimization (SEO). It will ensure that product descriptions, names and headlines are copy-rich to achieve higher rankings in online search results. It also can take the reins of any email marketing, including newsletters and retargeting campaigns to email shoppers who previously visited the site but did not complete a purchase. Leaning on a partner’s marketing acumen allows fashion and lifestyle brands to retain loyal customers and enable new ones to discover their products.
Uwe Bald is Vice President, International Business Development, Hermes.