Grow Smart Business


Search Articles

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

Friday Small Business Roundup: Retail Tips and More

August 30th, 2013 ::

Got a retail store? Read Karen Axelton’s How Do Local Customers Find Your Business? to get tips on driving more foot traffic.

Got a retail website? Don’t miss Rieva Lesonsky’s post 6 Secrets to Decreasing Shopping Cart Abandonment.

Then check out our infographic to help you get ready for Holiday Retail 2013.

The Hottest New Market for Your Restaurant? It’s Not Who You Think. Learn more in Karen Axelton’s post.

Learn from the experts in Monika Jansen’s post 12 Valuable Marketing Lessons from 4 TED Talks.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Get Ready for Holiday Retail and More

August 23rd, 2013 ::

Is Your Ecommerce Site Making These 5 Fatal Mistakes? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post and find out what you might be doing wrong.

Then start getting your ecommerce site ready for holiday 2013 retail: Read 3 Ways Email Can Boost Your 2013 Holiday Sales.

Get more out of your social media presence. Read Monika Jansen’s tips on How to Become an Industry Influencer.

Then check out her post 13 Small Changes That Will Greatly Improve Your Social Media Marketing for quick tweaks you can make right away.

Are you marketing to moms? Learn the secrets to attracting these powerful consumers in Karen Axelton’s post, When Marketing to Moms, Mobile and Social Are Key.

How Do Your Healthiness Habits Measure Up? Learn how you compare to other small business owners in Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Productivity Pointers and More

July 19th, 2013 ::

There’s a hot new market you need to know about. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post Are Upscale Hispanics the New Baby Boomers? 

Want to attract more attention to your business? Read Monika Jansen’s 8 Tips For Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat to get noticed online.

Then take your marketing up a notch–read Monika Jansen’s post How to Self-Publish and Market a Book.

To get more done every day, start by reading Rieva Lesonsky’s post The 5 Habits of Highly Successful Small Business Owners.

Grow your business even more with crowdsourcing. Read Monika Jansen’s 4 Ways Crowdsourcing Can Help Grow Your Business to learn how.


Friday Small Business Roundup: Email Marketing and More

July 12th, 2013 ::

Is your email marketing getting the results you want? Read Monika Jansen’s Top 7 Takeaways From the 2013 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmarks Study to learn how to pump up your ROI.

Wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes…Most Small Businesses Aren’t Prepared for Disaster. Is Yours? Read Karen Axelton’s post to get ready.

Does your business slow down in summer? Check out Rieva Lesonsky’s post 5 Ways to Make Downtime Productive Time and get the most from your slow season.

If you’re feeling frazzled by all your mobile devices, check out Rieva Lesonsky’s post, Can Unplugging Make You More Productive?

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Make your blog posts, social media efforts and all your marketing outreach work better with the tips in 6 Effective Ways to Improve Your Visual Marketing, by Monika Jansen.

If you’re running a business without health insurance, you could be putting more than your health at risk. Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s Could Ignorance About Health Insurance Cost You Your Business? to find out more.

Make sure you’re marketing to customers and prospects the right way. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s How Tablets Are Changing Online Behavior to learn what consumers want now.

Did you know writing a book can be a great marketing tool? Read Monika Jansen’s post How to Self-Publish and Market a Book to learn more.

Showrooming, Meet Webrooming

May 6th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What do customers want from their retail experiences today? Well, if your business includes both an ecommerce site and a physical location, then you’re one step ahead of the game. A new study from Accenture found what customers want most is the ability to shop anytime, any way and anywhere they want to—so the more options you can offer, the better.

Some 89 percent of consumers in The Accenture Seamless Retail Study say it’s important for retailers to let them shop for products however is most convenient for them. But retailers still have a way to go to accomplish this goal. While 94 percent say shopping in-store is easy, and 74 percent say online shopping is easy, just 26 percent say it’s easy to shop on a mobile phone.

While online shopping is growing, and 43 percent of respondents say they plan to shop more online in the future, it’s not necessarily growing at the expense of in-store shopping. In fact, although 73 percent of shoppers engage in showrooming (examining products in a retail store and then buying them online), a whopping 88 percent participate in “webrooming”—looking at products online and then heading to a physical store to make the purchase.

Regardless of their original shopping touchpoint – in-store, online or mobile – consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience. For example, 73 percent of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61 percent expect a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

The biggest takeaway from the survey: Consumers expect the same pricing, promotions and products in your physical store and your ecommerce site. They also expect the same level of service and ease of use in both places.

How important is speed to online and offline shoppers? Well, that depends:

  • 25 percent would wait up to 2 weeks to get the product if it means they get free shipping.
  • 24 percent say a same-day delivery option is important.
  • Of those, 30 percent will pay $5 to $10, and 19 percent will pay $11 to $20, for same-day delivery.

Asked what they would do if a store had a product they wanted but it was after business hours, 39 percent would wait for the store to open and buy it there; 36 percent would buy it online from the same retailer; and 22 percent would buy it elsewhere online.

What type of advertising influences retail shoppers? Physical and email coupons and offers ranked number-one, cited by 56 percent of respondents. Almost half (49 percent) were influenced by in-store offers. The least effective ads were online popup or banner ads, with 69 and 62 percent respectively saying these ads “never” influence what they buy.

What’s the lesson from this research? Far from being a drain on an ecommerce business, a physical store is still a “crucial asset” in differentiating your business from purely online retailers, the report contends. If you have both online and physical locations, the key is to make sure your brand and your shopping experience are consistent at every stage of the purchase process, and every place the customer might encounter it.

Image by Flickr user lululemon athletica (Creative Commons)



The Future of Online Retailing

April 1st, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Spurred by the rapid adoption of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, as well as by major retailers’ investment in their websites, ecommerce sales in the U.S. are projected to rise from $231 billion last year to $262 billion this year—an increase of 13 percent–according to the latest forecasts from market research firm Forrester. Three product categories account for one-third of that total: apparel and accessories, consumer electronics and computer hardware.

Ecommerce currently accounts for some 8 percent of overall U.S. retail sales (or 11 percent, if grocery sales are excluded). Growth in online retail sales is projected to outpace the growth of traditional retail sales in the next five years. By 2017, total ecommerce sales in the U.S. should hit $370 billion.

Forrester says the increased use of smartphones and tablets is a major factor powering ecommerce growth. With over 50 percent of U.S. online users owning smartphones, many smartphone owners use any spare moment to go online. As a result, people are spending more time overall online than they would if they had to go to their PC or laptop to shop—and that means more browsing, shopping and purchasing.

Another driver behind ecommerce growth is that major retailers are rapidly making investments in their ecommerce divisions in order to better integrate their in-store and online shopping experiences. Even customers who head to a brick-and-mortar store now often end up buying merchandise online within the store, or using smartphones to find the same products elsewhere and order them online.

Surprisingly, new shoppers coming online for the first time are not a major factor in the growth of ecommerce. Just 4 million people are projected to buy online for the first time this year. Instead, growth is coming because people who are already comfortable with online shopping are now spending more money online, ordering more often, and buying a wider range of products from a variety of sites. Forrester says online shoppers typically become comfortable with ecommerce by purchasing low-risk items such as downloadable music or movies. Only then do they move up to more expensive purchases such as appliances or home furnishings.

Forrester’s report has some more good news, not just for ecommerce vendors but also for the economy as a whole: Ecommerce companies are powering employment growth. Currently, Forrester says, U.S. ecommerce businesses employ over 400,000 people, and that figure is expected to hit 500,000 by 2017.

Image by Flickr user Mosman Council (Creative Commons)

No Same-Day Delivery? No Big Deal, Shoppers Say

March 29th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you stressing because you know big retailers are increasingly offering same-day delivery, and your small ecommerce site can’t afford to do so? If you’re worried that same-day delivery is a game-changer that will make or break your business, you can breathe a sigh of relief. A new study by the Boston Consulting Group found that customers don’t actually care that much about same-day delivery, despite the emphasis that big ecommerce sites and retailers like Amazon.com and Wal-Mart may put on this service.

The BCG study found that consumers care much more about low prices and free shipping than they do about same-day delivery. Only 9 percent of consumers polled say same-day delivery would improve their online shopping experience. In contrast, 74 percent say free shipping would and 50 percent say lower prices would.

The study notes that lots of dotcom companies touted same-day delivery in the first dotcom boom in the 1990s-2000s, and that the service didn’t prove popular enough to keep those companies afloat.

There is one niche market that could be willing to spend on same-day delivery. Affluent, urban Millennials with incomes of $150,000 or more have shown greater than average interest in this service. If that’s your target market, you may want to consider this option.

However, even so, keep in mind this advice that BCG offers for making same-day delivery work without breaking the bank:

  • Charge additional fees for same-day delivery. The average respondent in the survey was willing to pay $6 for this service; affluent Millennials were willing to pay up to $10.
  • Limit same-day delivery offerings. It’s best to offer same-day shipping only for smaller, lightweight products, like electronics, office supplies or apparel, that can be quickly packed and don’t cost a lot to ship.
  • Focus on high-margin items. Products where you’re making a higher profit make more sense for same-day delivery.
  • Consider your location. If your customers are primarily in upscale, urban areas where delivery is common, such as New York City or Boston, it may make sense to test same-day delivery. If you’re in a rural or suburban area, however, it’s likely not going to be cost-effective.

Keep an eye on what happens with same-day delivery so you don’t get caught behind the eight-ball if the concept takes off—but also keep in mind that currently, BCG found that only 2 percent of online purchases are delivered the same day, meaning demand for this service is far from widespread.

Image by Flickr user Lachlan Hardy (Creative Commons)

Etailers Rejoice: Ecommerce Spending Hits New Records

February 26th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

You know that ecommerce spending is growing—but did you know by just how much? In 2012, online shopping in the U.S. grew by 15 percent compared to 2011, reports comScore’s recently released full-year 2012 data. This was the strongest annual growth rate since back before the recession began. Overall, U.S. online shoppers spent $186.2 billion in 2012.

In the fourth quarter of 2012 alone (which includes the holiday shopping season), ecommerce sales grew by 14 percent year over year, reaching approximately $56.78 billion. ComScore had originally forecast a higher growth rate for 2012 ecommerce holiday sales, but last-minute consumer worries about the “fiscal cliff” appear to have had some effect on dampening online holiday sales just a bit.

Of course, the fourth-quarter sales are still nothing to complain about. Fourth-quarter 2012 was the first quarter ever that online sales hit $50 billion. It was also the thirteenth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and the ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth.

What kinds of products contributed the most to the growth in ecommerce sales? The strongest areas (those where online sales increased by at least 15 percent year over year) were digital content and subscriptions, consumer electronics, toys and hobby-related items, apparel and accessories, and books and magazines. So while digital content still leads the way (not surprisingly), most major retail areas are well-represented.

Overall, the number of U.S. ecommerce buyers rose by 6 percent, showing that more consumers are more comfortable buying online. In addition, the average spending per buyer rose by 8 percent.

All told, U.S. online spending accounted for 10 percent of total U.S. retail spending last year (excluding spending on food, gas and automotive). That makes 2012 the first time that U.S. ecommerce spending has hit double digits.

While comScore hasn’t yet made a projection as to 2013 ecommerce spending, the report says that as long as the lower-than-expected fourth-quarter 2012 sales were just a temporary setback, rather than a foreshadowing of decreasing economic confidence among consumers, 2013 is highly likely to see strong growth as well.

Image by Flickr user SamahR (Creative Commons)



7 Reasons Customers Buy (or Don’t Buy) From Your Business Website

February 14th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

eConsultancy recently highlighted the top 7 reasons people buy from online ecommerce sites instead of brick-and-mortar stores. Based on research from MIT, Facebook, Google and Target, the key drivers of online shopping are:

  1. Value – 75 percent say online prices are more competitive. Can a small business always offer the lowest price? Clearly not, so how can you compete? eConsultancy says despite the emphasis on low price, 81 percent of those surveyed report they have paid more to get better service. If you can’t beat big-box retailers’ online prices, make sure you provide something else that’s special to make up for it.
  2. Open – 63 percent prefer being able to shop at any time of day or night. Be sure your site is up and running as smoothly in the middle of the night as it is during the day, and that you can handle increased traffic at any time. Also be sure that your customer service options—such as live chat or the ability to call and talk to a customer service rep—are 24/7.
  3. Delivery – 59 percent are persuaded by free delivery. That doesn’t mean you have to offer free shipping on everything, of course. You can keep it affordable for your business (while still meaningful to consumers) by setting limits such as “free shipping on all orders over $50.”
  4. Speed – 55 percent like being able to get products the next day. Again, that might be tough to offer, but in a separate eConsultancy survey about holiday 2012 shopping habits, 26 percent of consumers said they had paid extra for next-day delivery.
  5. Ease – 48 percent say online shopping is just easier. Make sure it’s easy by having a website that’s simple to navigate, allows for ease of sorting and searching, provides all the information a customer might want about products (including reviews from other customers) and has a wide range of product shots and even videos.
  6. Range – 46 percent like being able to see what’s in stock and available at a glance. Make sure your site is well stocked and your inventory management/fulfillment system is top notch. Also enable customers to sort for specifics such as size and color quickly.
  7. Choice – 40 percent cite the ability to buy new or otherwise unavailable merchandise. This is where small online retailers can really shine. Design your site, write your copy and develop your marketing materials so they emphasize the unique, custom or hard-to-find aspects of what you sell. Make it clear this isn’t your average big-box retail site—this is something special.

Keep these 7 key factors in mind, and you’ll do better at converting visitors to your site into buyers—and return customers.

Image by Flickr user ganesha.isis (Creative Commons)

Are You Ready for Holiday Retail 2013?

February 12th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

It may be hard to believe, but with the 2012 holiday shopping season just behind us, smart retailers are already prepping for the 2013 holiday retail rush. Shop.org and BIGInsights recently conducted a survey of retailers in which they asked them what they plan to do differently this coming holiday season. Here are the most common responses:

  • Better inventory management. Retailers plan to do better in terms of planning their inventory, managing it and being better-stocked with the most popular products on hand.
  • Improved online infrastructure. Online shopping was huge for holiday 2012, and that trend will only continue in 2013. No wonder that retailers are focusing on improved server capabilities, faster-loading pages and an overall better online experience for users. Shop.org notes that testing your site on multiple platforms and mobile devices is an important part of having a strong online infrastructure.
  • Better marketing. Areas where retailers plan to spend in 2013 include keyword purchasing, email marketing, organic and paid search marketing efforts. Better strategic planning–of marketing channels, marketing messages and marketing spending–was a key theme among respondents seeking to avoid last-minute scrambling and changes.
  • Cross-channel shopping and improved customer experience. Customers increasingly view shopping as a holistic experience where they move seamlessly from online engagement with your brand to buying online or in-store. Smart retailers are working to improve that experience at all touchpoints, and are harnessing data and analytics to understand how shoppers buy and interact with their companies both online and off. A full one-fourth of companies in the survey were planning a website redesign this year.
  • Mobile commerce. Retailers are still feeling their way in the world of m-commerce, but companies are investing in areas including responsive Web design, optimizing their sites for tablet use and enabling mobile checkout. Shop.org cites another survey which found that 43 percent of retailers named tablets and mobile as among their top three initiatives for this year.
  • Better customer service/fulfillment. More than 3 in 5 retailers say they will be investing in a wider range of shipping options for the coming year. Among the alternatives companies are considering: ship-to-store for in-store pickup, same-day delivery and free returns. Companies also say they want to provide better last-minute shopping options, better guarantees of Christmas delivery, and faster delivery in general.

Image by Flickr user Mike Kline (Creative Commons)