Due to technological innovations and our increasing reliance on technology, eCommerce has overtaken traditional retail to become the preferred method of purchasing new products. The popularity of eCommerce had already been rising quickly over the past several years, but after the advent of the global coronavirus pandemic, eCommerce sales underwent a meteoric rise. It’s estimated that 84% of consumers shopped online on an eCommerce website during the pandemic, and with the ongoing effects of this crisis combined with consumers’ preference for the convenience of eCommerce, the popularity of online retail is only expected to rise.

How popular is eCommerce?

It’s impossible to deny the advantages of running an eCommerce website alone or in addition to a traditional brick-and-mortar shop in this modern economy. The statistics speak for themselves: in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, worldwide retail eCommerce sales reached 4.28 trillion US dollars, and this is predicted to rise to $5.4 trillion in 2022. In addition, these 2020 eCommerce sales amounted to 18% of the total retail sales globally, which is eCommerce’s highest ever share. The eCommerce business model is certainly becoming more and more lucrative each year, so if you want to take advantage of this trend, setting up an eCommerce website as soon as possible is the best move for your business.

What are the advantages of eCommerce compared to traditional retail?

Of course, as mentioned above, eCommerce was already rising in popularity before the coronavirus pandemic, so this surge in sales is not only related to the greater accessibility of online shopping during lockdowns. Indeed, many consumers now prefer to shop online due to the better experience and convenience compared to physical shops, and business owners prefer the lower costs and the opportunity to use digital marketing techniques when running an eCommerce website. Here are the main reasons why eCommerce is leaving traditional retail behind:

1 – An eCommerce website is not bound by geographical limitations

Whereas a brick-and-mortar shop is confined to a particular location, an eCommerce website can be accessed around the world, which opens up your eCommerce business to a much wider range of customers and allows these customers to find products they can’t get in their local area. It’s also much more convenient for consumers to be able to shop from the comfort of their own homes and avoid the hassle and cost of travelling to a physical shop. Additionally, the accessibility of eCommerce means that consumers can also browse online when they’re on the go by visiting these websites on their mobile phones. In fact, this mode of shopping is becoming increasingly popular, with 61% of online retail traffic now coming from mobile phones.

2 – An eCommerce business is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Traditional retail is restricted by the opening hours of brick-and-mortar shops; you couldn’t go clothes shopping at 3 a.m.! However, an eCommerce website is open at all times, which allows customers to buy products whenever they want. The convenience of being able to shop online at any time is perfect for those who work irregular hours or simply find it difficult to get to certain shops while they’re open, so this is a huge advantage of e-commerce over traditional retail.

3 – Starting an eCommerce business requires a lower investment

In addition to these benefits for consumers, eCommerce is also very desirable for businesses in comparison to physical shops. The costs of rent, equipment and hiring staff can be extortionate when setting up a physical location for your business, but by opting for an eCommerce business model instead, you can save on these investment and running costs.

4 – It’s easier to find information about products online

In a shop, it can sometimes be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for and to compare different products or different prices between retailers. This is why eCommerce is quickly leaving traditional retail behind. Online, customers can easily search directly for what they want or use a website’s navigation system to browse specific categories, which is much more convenient than searching through a shop. Consumers can also look at product information and read customer reviews before making a purchase. Indeed, it has been found that 68% of consumers search for information about products on Google before purchasing them. This demonstrates the power of online information in comparison to browsing in shops.

5 – eCommerce benefits from online visibility

Following on from this, the popularity of searching for product information online is directly linked to increased traffic to eCommerce websites. In fact, over 30% of eCommerce traffic comes from organic search results. Therefore, for eCommerce business owners, search engine optimisation (SEO) can drive traffic to your website and hugely increase sales. In addition to being highly successful in attracting consumers, SEO and digital marketing are more cost-effective than conventional advertising, which is often used in traditional retail.

What are the strategies for developing eCommerce websites?

Although eCommerce has surged in popularity in recent years due to the convenience of this mode of shopping, the benefits for businesses and the effects of the pandemic, simply setting up an eCommerce website isn’t a guarantee of success. Indeed, a recent survey revealed that 54% of shoppers like to browse online and buy in shops, and 53% said they are likely to do the opposite – browse in a shop and then buy the product online. This indicates a preference for an omnichannel shopping experience rather than a purely online one. This is also reflected in the fact that 71% of consumers prefer making first-time purchases in a shop, and then continue to repurchase online. Since eCommerce isn’t always the go-to shopping method for consumers, what techniques can eCommerce businesses use to drive traffic to their website and increase their conversion rate?

1 – Work on the website

It’s common knowledge that consumers are attracted to an engaging, clear and easy-to-navigate eCommerce website. Therefore, sticking to a consistent brand image that showcases your company’s personality and maintaining clutter-free web pages are some of the best strategies for developing eCommerce websites. You should also make sure that consumers can easily navigate your website by providing sidebars and search filters. Finally, perfecting your website but only for desktop users can limit the appeal of your website. Optimising your website for mobile users is a necessity nowadays since up to 61% of online retail traffic comes from mobile phones.

2 – Develop an eCommerce SEO strategy

As mentioned earlier, SEO is essential for ranking highly in organic searches and thus increasing website traffic. If customers can’t find your website, they won’t be able to purchase your products. In addition to developing an eCommerce SEO strategy, it’s important to make use of social media to attract potential customers. Social media marketing is absolutely essential for modern businesses, and you may find your eCommerce business relying more on this type of marketing than conventional advertising methods, which are often used for traditional retail (television, print media). Additionally, the greater effectiveness of digital marketing in the modern era benefits eCommerce over traditional retail due to the ease of linking to an ecommerce website.

3 – Make use of popups

Although they’re seemingly small additions to your eCommerce website, popups can make a real difference to your sales conversion rate by encouraging purchases and helping you collect emails. Popups that ask website visitors to input their email addresses actually perform well for eCommerce, converting 4.76% of website visitors into subscribers. Having these emails is also crucial for email marketing. Consumers signing up for accounts will give you access to a large amount of consumer data, which will allow you to analyse the characteristics and behaviour of your target audience. This knowledge can then inform your email marketing strategy and eCommerce SEO strategy, making them more effective at increasing sales. This use of data is one of the many reasons why eCommerce is more effective than traditional retail at targeting consumers.

4 – Reduce cart abandonment

According to statistics, the average cart abandonment rate for eCommerce websites is a staggering 69.8%. Therefore, this area has a lot of room for improvement, and you can start reducing this abandonment rate and increasing sales by doing something as simple as sending emails to notify customers that their items are still waiting. These abandoned cart emails actually have an open rate of 45%, showing that this simple email can potentially boost sales.

5 – Provide the right information

Earlier, it was established that 68% of consumers search for information about products on Google before making a purchase, demonstrating the power of online information in influencing purchasing decisions. So, to increase sales, it’s important to provide as much information as possible on your eCommerce website, especially as customers cannot see and touch the products they’re interested in. Providing high-quality 3D images or videos of your products is a great way to make consumers feel more inclined to make a purchase; this can actually increase your conversion rate by 250%. Since an eCommerce business also may struggle to provide the same level of communication as traditional retail, live chat options on your website can enable customers to get the help they need.

What’s the future of ecommerce?

This surge in the popularity of eCommerce doesn’t seem likely to slow down soon. Instead, online retail is expected to continue flourishing in the coming years, especially with the development of AI and machine learning for customer support and targeted marketing campaigns. There are also many trends that are predicted to arise in the eCommerce industry, such as a greater focus on sustainability and social initiatives. Overall, although traditional retail isn’t going to disappear and will likely form an omnichannel experience with online retail, eCommerce is growing much more rapidly and has certainly left traditional retail behind.

If you want to learn more about ecommerce SEO to help improve your website’s ranking in the SERPs, then get in touch to find out how we can help with your SEO strategy.