The Globalization of eCommerce and How Companies Can Adapt
As global eCommerce continues to grow at a rapid pace, the question isn’t whether retailers should sell internationally, but how they can best capture the growth opportunity before them. This starts with identifying and understanding how the eCommerce space has changed over the past few years and creating strategies for how to adapt to and satisfy new customer expectations.
eCommerce Grows on a Global Scale
Connectivity is the driving force behind the growth of global eCommerce. Customers have easy access to the internet and can be connected to any business with a website; able to view, compare, and purchase products in just a few clicks. To reach this growing pool of potential customers, online retailers are localizing their digital content for international markets and brick-and-mortar stores are exploring their eCommerce potential by creating user friendly websites with opportunities for online orders.
In 2015, the United States was joined by China, the United Kingdom, and Germany as top countries for eCommerce, showing impressive online purchasing growth in categories like electronic goods, apparel, and books. Other countries seeing a rapid rate of eCommerce growth include India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and the Philippines.
Changes in Online Purchase Behaviors and Expectations
Today’s customers are becoming increasingly savvy. Not only do they have an in-depth understanding of the product they are interested in purchasing, they have access to comprehensive reviews and product details. Brand is becoming less important and customers are placing a higher value on product quality.
We’re also starting to see a shift away from the traditional shopping experience where purchases are made in-store. Brick-and-mortar stores have lost their strategic advantage of immediate fulfillment as many online retailers provide fast, easy, and even overnight shipping. However, provide incorrect shipping estimates, delivery dates, or inventory availability, and stand to lose customers, or worse, make them angry enough to share their experience on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. It’s not just about meeting and exceeding customer expectations, but making sure nothing goes wrong from the customer’s first point of contact with the website to the final delivery of the product.
Mobile’s Heavy Impact on the eCommerce Industry
According to a recent study from comScore, 86 million Americans use their smartphones to shop and make purchases online. This means that mobile now accounts for 50.3% of all online purchases, just surpassing the number of purchases made from a desktop. Statistics present concrete evidence of the undeniable potential of mobile commerce (mCommerce). If a business wants to be successful in our technologically driven world, mobile-centric strategies need to be at the forefront of the growth plan, which we’ll discuss in the updating your eCommerce strategy section below.
Updating Your eCommerce Strategy
The best eCommerce websites are able to quickly define customer expectations, then surpass them by delivering a customized and relevant experience. If you’re planning on entering new global markets with your eCommerce website, you’ll need to update your eCommerce strategy to be in sync with new marketing trends by focusing on:
The Home Page
Customers are moving away from making in-store purchases and are going online to view and purchase products and services. To meet the needs of this new group of buyers, your website’s home page needs to be intuitive, creating a tailored experience for each user. Think of your homepage as the front door of your brick-and-mortar store. It should be able to deliver the same message that a sales clerk would if he or she was greeting a customer who just walked in. The actual process of “personifying” your homepage can be achieved by:
- Making sure the site has clear, relevant prompts
- Focusing on content that is easy to scan and relevant to your target demographic
- Using images that convey your brand, products, and/or services
- Adding a strategic navigation bar that guides the user to valuable content
Site Performance and Speed
Site performance and speed is directly related to positive customer experiences. Research shows that for each second it takes for your page to load, customer satisfaction drops by 7%. Add the fact that the majority of internet users expect a website to load in no more than three seconds and the importance of fast-loading websites is clear. Improve site speed by:
- Using or switching to a reliable web host recognized for speed
- Reducing the file size of photos, logos, and other website graphics
- Switching off plugins that aren’t being used regularly
- Hosting on a content delivery network (CDN)
- Enabling gzip compression to reduce the size of HTTP response
Reliable Security Features
For certain groups of internet users, making purchases online is viewed as being unsafe and many are reluctant to input personal data such as credit card information, home address, and phone number. The best eCommerce websites understand this concern and are able to build customer trust by safeguarding customer data and reducing the overall risk of fraud-related activities. Along with conforming to the rules outlined by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), business owners can adhere to website security best practices by:
- Using an eCommerce platform that uses a sophisticated programming language
- Implementing strong secure sockets layer (SSL) authentication
- Adding an address verification system (AVS) for credit card transactions
- Creating tracking numbers for all orders made online
Digital security experts recommend only keeping the minimal amount of customer information on your database. This is typically just enough information to charge customers for services and provide refunds when necessary.
Mobile Commerce and Optimization
Customers aren’t just viewing your website on their desktop computers, but on smartphones and tablets of all screen sizes. According to industry studies, mCommerce is growing more than 130% each year. If that isn’t enough motivation for mobile optimization, consider data from PEW research center that found that more than half of users reference their mobile devices while standing in the aisle of the product they’re thinking about purchasing. To make sure that your website is properly viewed on devices of all sizes, mobile optimization tactics must be explored. Start by:
- Making sure your website is designed on a responsive technology framework
- Updating all forms to be mobile-compatible
- Using conventional mobile icons to reduce clutter
- Ensuring any images are optimized by mobile
Brick-and-mortar stores now have a new function – they’re showrooms for viewing and trying out products in real life. Customers don’t necessarily buy when visiting the store, but finalize their shopping at home, on one or more mobile devices. This process is better known as hybrid shopping, and benefits businesses by providing additional “touch points” with consumers.
In order to provide the ultimate hybrid shopping experience for users, businesses can improve consistency across all channels or touch points, from brick and mortar stores to mobile devices. Branding, design, and product offerings should be consistent, and every platform can be leveraged to increase customer loyalty. Successful eCommerce websites are great at offering cross-promotional campaigns like alerting customers on their mobile devices of in-store programs and sales.
To take advantage of the global eCommerce potential, businesses must be able to present an organized, customer-centric website that can be viewed in multiple languages. This means localizing a website for various countries and their spoken languages.
Begin localizing and translating static content that is relevant for users such as your home page, the frequently asked questions section of the website, and pages with shipping and return information. If you have dynamic content that needs to be translated, a localization automation platform can help translate your website by pulling strings of content, translating them, and pushing them back out to your website so that your global customers are always viewing information in their native language. A localization automation platform can also detect when new content is added to the website, so you can focus on your core business responsibilities.
Increasing Leads, Sales, and Profit
eCommerce is being adopted by shoppers around the world and businesses must adapt and adjust their selling strategies to compete with competitors and increase leads and overall profit. If you want to learn more about localizing your eCommerce website and expanding into new global markets, view the Localization Benchmark Report and find out which industries are localizing and why.