Buy something online last year? You weren’t alone. According to The State of Retailing Online 2013: Key Metrics and Initiatives by Sucharita Mulpuru of Forrester Research, overall growth for web retailers from 2011 to 2012 was 28%. We at Blueport Commerce are thrilled about the continuing trend of increasing e-commerce activity. Statistics from this report we found particularly salient include:
The Explosion of Mobile
Currently Forrester’s mobile forecast shows less than 5% of e-commerce sales coming from phones. However, of the retailers surveyed, smartphone year-on-year growth hit 129%, and tablet year-on-year growth hit 178%. And while the actual sales may not be there yet, as many consumers use their mobile devices to browse while in stores, mobile has a net positive impact on retailers’ conversion rates, as 36% reported that mobile sales and traffic aided their company’s overall web conversion rate.
Blueport’s takeaway: Retailers should be prepared to optimize for mobile and tablet traffic in order to improve conversion rates, both on the web and on mobile.
The Need for Speed: Optimization
Retailers mentioned their top priorities in 2013 are improving their site’s conversion rates and redesigning their site experience, optimizing their site’s performance. The three top investment areas cited by retailers for long-term growth are site optimization (e.g. website redesign), mobile optimization and international growth (27%), with products and fulfillment to international markets, as well as localization and translation. Under the large category of site optimization, checkout and a responsive design framework were two sub-areas cited as needing improvement in 2013.
Blueport’s takeaway: Optimization boils down to a simple concept: what levers you can pull to make it as easy as possible for browsers to pull the trigger to become buyers. The need to reach consumers where they want and how they want is critical, and retailers should focus on ensuring all consumers’ browsing and buying needs are met with optimized site and mobile experiences.
The Exorbitant Cost of Marketing
Forrester previously found that web marketing usually consumes about 10% of a web retailer’s expenses. However, that figure is only increasing due to greater competition as email marketing continues to become harder to differentiate, SEO and SEM costs are skyrocketing, social media sites are now experimenting with paid models and there are additional costs associated with mobile marketing. Investment in the effort of organic SEO optimization is worthwhile given the ROI – it isn’t as exorbitantly expensive as Pay Per Click (PPC), and, done right, it can increase conversions. Additionally, the benefits of organic SEO last longer than PPC, whose impact goes away the second you cut off the funding.
Retailers surveyed also noted that IT investments were the most critical for continued revenue in 2013. Adding to their IT resources and improving core site performance were listed as top priorities, at the expense of social media, whose monetization effects haven’t yet been proven.
Blueport’s takeaway: Focus on the levers that will truly push your margin. Since SEO can account for up to 40% of traffic, maximizing low-cost alternatives like organic search are high impact/low cost.
Shipping as an Opportunity, Not a Pain Point
Same-day delivery and broad reach of fulfillment like Amazon’s was all the hype of in 2012, but other than the big players, few retailers are focused on their fulfillment or post-transaction experiences. Forrester recommends retailers follow the path of companies who focus on fulfillment as a differentiator: tactics such as shopper loyalty programs, expedited delivery programs, shipping clubs and store fulfillment.
Blueport’s takeaway: The key here for furniture retailers is not just focusing on the front end but also on the back end operations. In essence, while many retailers are focused on website redesign and optimization, the back end operational part of the site is virtually ignored. Furniture retailers have the opportunity to offer not only varying delivery options, but also the chance to rethink shipping pricing models overall. By implementing a truly localized omnichannel experience, furniture retailers who allow customers to choose between various delivery options are better set for success.