The E-commerce Tsunami is Coming…Are You Ready?
by Shane O'Neill, Vice President
The E-commerce Tsunami
It always seems that there is a “calm before the storm”. A sense of easiness before a sudden, usually violent event. These events disrupt the world around them and cause chaos, mostly for those who are ill-prepared. Technology is such a disrupter, as we have seen in the past 6-7 years. The iPhone, for example, only came out in 2007. Think about that. Think about what has happened with how you market your business in that short timeframe. Technology has become the gateway to endless possibilities and fundamentally changed how businesses market themselves. We’ve seen it with digital marketing and we’re going to see it with e-commerce. It’s not if, it’s when and, just like a tsunami, there is a calm. The sea recedes as if sending a warning to prepare. Some notice, some don’t, but, in the end, there is no stopping what’s to come. It’s happening with e-commerce now, some are noticing… most are not.
A little perspective on what’s happening in the technology ocean.
Technology’s exponential growth is hard to imagine, but may be best described by “Moore’s Law”, which basically says that it doubles every 18 months. That’s nuts if you do the math, but just take a look at how the world around you has changed in just the past 6-7 years. For example, digital and social marketing has become the single biggest disruptor in marketing and advertising in the past, oh I don’t know… 50 years and it’s only in first grade, but it’s getting older and more sophisticated. Its natural offspring is e-commerce, and it’s growing up quickly. (Forrester Research forecasts a strong compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the next five years). As technology continues its rapid advancement, it becomes easier for small and medium-sized businesses to successfully enter into online selling. As we are seeing now in the jewelry industry, retailers are increasingly entering the space as they understand the need to evolve, as we have seen in the large refresh over the past three years to web responsive websites, for example. I believe it’s when these small to medium sized businesses start saturating the market that the e-commerce tsunami will make landfall and those not in the space will slowly be swept away.
How to prepare.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record… it starts with your website. If you’re not dedicated to creating an amazing online experience, then there is no way you’ll be successful with e-commerce. The idea that “I can’t afford a website like that,” is a cop-out. There are many options out there today, and with thoughtful planning, you can get there regardless of your size. Plus, if you have any desire to capture the bridal market, digital marketing is a key component. Without that website experience, you’re just throwing money down the drain. At which point your business could be put in jeopardy.
Here are a few items to consider on your e-commerce journey:
1. Part of a great website experience is having products and pricing online. Yes, they will price shop you, so don’t bother trying to fool these e-commerce consumers; they are probably the savviest of shoppers.
2. Another key factor is to make sure you manage your products. Weekly audits of inventory or streaming directly from your POS system, such as The Edge, will make sure products are available if someone wants to purchase.
3. There are many options for payment processing and PayPal should probably be part of consumer options you provide. They are trusted, insured and many people feel comfortable with making purchases on most websites via PayPal.
4. Set your expectations low and build from there. Successful online selling will, most likely, require a change in how and where your marketing dollars are spent. It’s easier to sell sub $500 items than it is engagement rings, but those engagement ring shoppers still want to see and touch that ring first. That can be an advantage to an independent jeweler. Having an e-commerce experience may not always result in an online sale, but can still help secure a sale.
These are just a few pointers to getting started with e-commerce, but the message here is much bigger. It’s about being an early adopter to a space that’s only going to grow. You’ll experience learning curves as you finesse your online experience. Put yourself in a position to evolve, not jump in at the last minute. Yet, the bigger picture is the future of shopping. With the speed of technological advancements, things like virtual shopping and 3D immersion start to enter the picture. Those technologies will alter retail in a major way. Think that is too far down the road? Don’t! It’s already started. Always look ahead. Always prepare.
The good news is the tsunami hasn’t hit yet, but the water is starting to recede.