Digital Disruption: Understanding the eCommerce Revolution & How to Be Future Ready
Disruption has become a key phrase throughout many areas of contemporary business. Widespread access to digital technology has shaken up the way we operate and affected consumer behavior. The commercial arena has changed significantly from adopting cryptocurrencies in the financial sector to remote work for greater employment diversity.
One of the most common areas affected by digitization has been online shopping. A 2018 poll showed that 69% of Americans state that they have shopped online. This has, of course, been a cause for concern for some brick-and-mortar stores, but it also represents a revolution in entrepreneurialism. The open, accessible nature of the eCommerce marketplace has meant that there are few restrictions for those who want to own and operate successful digital sales spaces.
As we become more globally connected, it looks as though eCommerce will be the primary purchasing platform for the future. So how can businesses prevent being left behind?
When preparing our businesses for the future, it can be useful to examine where this digital disruption occurs. Delving into the trends in online stores can help focus our efforts and inspire innovations.
Subscription and personalization models have been popular features of eCommerce spaces for a few years now. This allows retailers to build regular curated selections of multiple items for customers rather than rely on individual sporadic purchases. The food and beverage industry, in particular, has been exploring ways to maximize the potential for eCommerce. It’s believed that successful wineries will be those that adapt to increasingly complex online consumer behavior. Subscription models seem to be a solution designed to respond to changing consumer behavior, introduce subscribers to new products, and collect data on customer tastes that can be used to offer similar products and drive additional sales.
Perhaps from a more straightforward perspective, dropshipping has emerged as one of the vital eCommerce trends in recent years — reportedly representing a 2018 market value of $102.2billion. For those who operate solely on this basis, it saves capital on warehousing overheads. For those with traditional brick-and-mortar stores, dropshipping can act as an additional revenue stream, expanding entrepreneurs’ product base with items similar to those stocked in store for little to no additional investment. The key is to understand how this method can best complement our business model; the profit margins can often be too tight to rely on as a primary income source, but it can certainly play a role in beefing up our online store presence.
For most eCommerce businesses, access to a computer and internet connection are the minimum requirements. While we’re not all technologically inclined, some of the most exciting and successful disruptions to the market are driven or supported by advanced tech. There’s little excuse to remain ignorant of using these digital advantages, with widespread, low-cost tech education available online — whether through YouTube tutorials, business podcasts, or eLearning platforms such as Skillshare. If tech can help grow our businesses, isn’t that an option worth exploring?
One of the most important developments over the last decade or so has been introducing the Internet of Things (IoT), our ecosystem of connected devices and objects. In manufacturing, low-priced sensors and paired devices allow businesses to track the lifespan of their products throughout the supply chain, all the way to customer delivery.
The IoT can also be a useful tool in providing eCommerce businesses with valuable data on their target audience. Every time a consumer uses a connected device, they are providing helpful information about their lives. Fitness trackers, coupled with social media, can highlight the activities most likely to be undertaken in specific locations, providing an area of focus for advertising-related products. Digital assistants collect data on the voice searches of their users; by gaining a deeper understanding of what users are looking for from your industry, you can be in a better position to offer relevant solutions.
Yes, it might sound ever so slightly creepy, but connecting with a data harvesting and analysis service can help entrepreneurs identify the prime eCommerce demographics or their products and help create a personalized approach for each customer. You can also use your own customer relationship management tool to do the collection yourself to collect the info and build personalization and loyalty.
While it seems clear that eCommerce is the future, it is certainly not without significant challenges, from the regulatory issues of operating across international borders to the implications of political changes such as Brexit. One of the primary problems that businesses face in such a wide-open online business environment is being heard above the noise of their competition. This has made it essential for eCommerce entrepreneurs to embrace a range of marketing tactics.
Unless there is a well-established brand in place, customers will likely find eCommerce businesses via search engines. This means that attention needs to be paid to ensuring our products rank highly on searches.
- Search Engine Optimization. Research relevant keywords for your particular niche. What phrases are customers using when searching for the products you offer? Don’t think generically — chances are the big-box competitors are going to rank highly for phrases such as “kitchen products” or “sportswear.” Go specific, find keywords related to products as well as categories. Then make sure your website, including individual product pages, is optimized with your keywords.
- Content Creation. Starting a blog, a vlog, or a podcast related to your eCommerce business can help cement your reputation for expertise. The key to good content is to make it valuable to the consumer rather than an advertisement. Tell a story, answer questions about your industry, interview others in your field. Some small businesses, such as Man Crates, have created entertaining unboxing videos that provide a humorous approach and a platform for their products.
- Social media. Businesses should be taking an intelligent approach to their social media use as a valuable source of marketing. Don’t just post ads across every platform, instead choose the platform favored by your demographic and use it to make connections with them. Give your customers a personal insight into your business and the people behind it.
eCommerce has been a disruptive influence upon our business landscape, forcing us to change how we approach operating and adapt to new practices. As we rely more upon our digital environments with each passing year, it seems likely that eCommerce will continue to become a primary purchasing platform for consumers. By putting in the effort to understand the models that are best suited to eCommerce, developing our knowledge of useful technology, and exploring marketing options, we can help to bolster our business for the future.