The Truth About eCommerce
by Shane O’Neill, Vice President
Having eCommerce activated on your website is becoming a common talking point, although many retailers still resist allowing online purchases. The COVID-19 situation has forced many to rethink their online presence, as many stores were closed, and eCommerce transactions became the only real opportunity to drive sales. Year over year, online sales continue to increase as people become more comfortable and trusting in making purchases online. So, the real question is why are some hesitant to make eCommerce a reality? For them, the concerns include the ability to fulfill orders, inventory management, or even concerns about fraudulent purchases. Let’s take a look at the realities of eCommerce, expectations, and solutions that will allow you to think strategically about your online presence.
ECommerce isn’t just about online transactions. In fact, most retailers have well below a 3% conversion rate for online sales. It’s about the entire online “sales” experience that leads to online transactions, but also in-store sales that were secured by that online experience. Why are sales conversions under 3%? Well, to start, a majority of independent retailers naturally market their business within a specific radius around their store(s). Customers can easily stop in to see, touch, and try on the jewelry, which they still prefer to do, particularly with engagement rings. The biggest benefit of launching eCommerce functionality is that it forces you to create a better online experience. Not only one where you have robust product galleries with product titles, descriptions, and pricing, but also wish lists, product inquiries, and, of course, the convenience of buying online. Why is all of this important? It’s all about customer expectations. In a web shopping experience survey, 36% indicated they would outright abandon a purchase based on a bad experience and 30% would never return to that website again. More concerning, 33% would immediately go to a competitor. It’s important to note that consumer shopping habits have drastically changed in the past 10 years. Today people “shop” online first, where they explore many different sites for the products they are looking for and then make the final purchase decision based on the experiences they had on those sites. Basically, more than ever, they’ve made the decision to purchase before they walk into the store. So, what’s your online shopping experience like?
In terms of other concerns, do your due diligence in understanding the questions you have. ECommerce isn’t a new concept and most likely any concern you have will have a solution. However, if your concern is worrying about how you will fulfill the orders, well, that’s just an excuse. We should be so lucky as to be inundated with online orders… that would be a game-changer. However, as mentioned above, local independent jewelers have very low online conversions. The message here? Ecommerce is more than just online sales, it’s also responsible for in-store sales.
A few must-haves for a great online experience:
Current Tech – Mobile responsive websites are a must, but also current tech that makes the shopping experience more streamlined. Automated systems that reach out to site visitors and users who have products in their shopping cart are commonplace now.
Product Galleries and Details/Descriptions – These are your online showcases, make them fantastic.
Opt-ins and Communication – Make sure it’s easy for customers to contact you, including opting into email updates and appointment forms on pages like Custom Design.
Shopping Cart & Payment – Of course you’ll need to set up your shopping cart, but also think about payment options. Including an option such as PayPal is also important as many people feel secure using this option.
Reviews – Trust is everything. An overwhelming source for new orders is referrals. Reviews are the online version of person-to-person referrals. Consider platforms such as Podium to quickly build your review numbers.
In the end, website visitors need to have a great experience and that includes eCommerce. With situations like COVID-19 and other unexpected barriers to in-store visits such as weather, it provides a way to continue to do business and provide options to your customers. The truth is, some people would rather shop in comfort from their own homes – in particular customers who also have purchased from you before. There’s no way around it, eCommerce will continue to reshape how people shop online, and the situation we are all experiencing now may accelerate the already lower foot traffic into stores.