As the technological landscape changes, so too does the expectation of consumers who shop in stores and online. Mobile technology, social networking and advanced analytics have aided in changing the shopping experience. It is no longer a question of whether or not consumers will migrate to online sales in greater numbers. For instance, regardless of whether or not they actually buy online, around 50 percent of consumers say they prefer to shop online. Age seems to make a difference as well – shoppers younger than 40 show the greatest likelihood of online shopping. One of the reasons more consumers are taking their shopping online is due to the perceived convenience. While the top choice continues to be shopping at a brick-and-mortar store where the consumer walks out with the product, the number of online shoppers has jumped manifolds since 2011.
The impact that tech-savvy customers are having on the e-commerce world is not just stronger than ever; it’s faster than ever. Technology today is helping customers keep track of their purchases, and altering the ways in which those consumers interact with online retailers. These trends, in turn, are affecting the big picture: As technology changes business-to-consumer transactions, new opportunities for both sides of the sphere are emerging. Consumers now have access to a range of tools that help them gauge prices, find alternatives, locate stores and receive coupons. Retailers are seeing benefits as well, as technology helps them make stronger connections with consumers and build their brands faster. Retailers with an e-commerce focus are pulling out all the stops to communicate with their target audience at every opportunity. With communication comes knowledge, and consumers are letting it be known that when it comes to the communications they receive from the retailer, it better be personal and meaningful.
Retailers providing excellent online and in-store services are meeting the needs of more consumers. Shoppers want their experience with retailers to be seamless and personal, both in-store and online. Furthermore, they expect to know exactly what items will be available to them online and at the nearest brick-and-mortar location. In this age of information, shoppers are less willing than ever to visit a store without prior knowledge that the item they want is in stock, which is something more retailers should be working to improve in their e-commerce channels.
Navigating the e-commerce landscape requires a deep knowledge of the customer’s wants and needs. This can take more than excellent communication skills and marketing know-how. It appears that the land scape has changed from “what can you tell me about this product,” to “what can you do for me?”
To better serve customers, e-commerce sites are finding they must adapt to the new customer service standards set by technological improvements. This means servicing customers on the various channels they have access to. Brand websites, email, Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram are all being used by customers to connect with brands. Today’s e-commerce sites have to (http://www.inc.com/guides/cust_tech/20909.html) use these platforms to connect with customers, as well. Convenience has been the number one driving force behind e-commerce sites’ success. With the increasing demand for convenience, however, same-day delivery features are posing new challenges. For now, sites aiming to gain a competitive edge are offering consumers faster deliveries with lower prices.
Overall, the (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2013/03/13/the-future-of-e-commerce-for-small-businesses/ – 4c91389979d0) future for small businesses looks increasingly bright for those jumping into the e-commerce market. Peer-to-peer e-commerce sites are giving tough competition to big retailers. Smartphones and social media are giving consumers a chance to discover brands they’ve never come across before. Technology is giving entrepreneurs the ability to startup businesses from home that’s why we are witnessing mushroom growth of startups faster than ever before.
[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan[/box]