The world of brick and mortar retail has changed drastically in the past twenty years and it continues to change. As we watch large and small retailers go out of business or close locations, we are forced to contemplate the undeniable consequences of online sales. While some retailers have found a comfortable balance between physical stores and online offerings, many continue to struggle with the concept of shifting products, customers and the shopping experience into the virtual world.
Consider the old paradigm of the shopping experience on Main Street in a small town or in a shopping mall. In the heyday of the brick and mortar shopping environment, retailers paid a lot of attention to dressing store windows and to product placement within the store. But, how does one translate that concept for the online eCommerce experience?
As businesses transform into online entities or attempt to complement physical shopping with the online experience, it is crucial to incorporate appropriate features and functionality to make it simple and intuitive for customers to find the site, and to browse, select and purchase products.
Beyond the design and navigation of the site, there is also the not-so-simple aspect of attracting and retaining customers in a world where eCommerce sites and shopping carts are as plentiful as grains of sand on a beach.
You may have designed and developed the best site in your market, but customers must know about you and know how to find you in order to buy your products. That means you will need to focus on search engine ranking, and an appropriate social media presence.
Most importantly, you must carefully consider and execute the design and development of your site.
- From the front end, the consumer must be able to easily find and review products with pictures and details to help them make a purchasing decision. They must have access to help if they need it and it must be easy for them to pay using whatever method they find easiest. The site must be accessible and easy to navigate, no matter what kind of device they are using (desktop, tablet, smart phone…even a smart watch).
- From the back end, the process of adding new products or content must be simple. Perhaps you’ll want to associate a blog so that you can write content that will attract people who are interested in a particular product or topic. Keeping content fresh is very important but that process will be hampered if you do not design a back end that can easily be used by those who have to add promotions, discounts, new products, content descriptions, pictures, etc.
You can be sure that your competitors are already working on all of this! So, if your online site is a mere shadow of what it needs to be or if you are trying to start an online business to adapt to the changing market, you should carefully consider all of your requirements. Think about customer purchasing behavior and your target audience. Consider the future of your eCommerce, online sales application. How fast will your data or customer volume grow? What kind of security will you need to ensure privacy and allow customers to confidently shop and store preferences and credit card information online? What do you need to upgrade and support the eCommerce site or shopping cart, and to integrate that site with data from other data sources, or integrate with other applications or software?
If your business is trying to survive and thrive during the global retail transition, it must have a firm grasp of what the market needs, what customers expect, how best to serve those customers with existing and new products and how to make it easier for customers to find your business in this crowded market. With the right planning and the right technical services, your business can adapt and succeed as the eCommerce and online shopping market changes.