How Small Retailers Can Take Advantage Of The Changes Coming To eCommerce

By Christina

Nov 30, 2020

It doesn't matter how small a retailer is, the changes that are happening can be used by everyone, including individuals.

Since the pandemic started the way we shop has changed dramatically and may never return to the way it was before.  We have been put through a lockdown twice with the potential for more, resulting in many businesses having to close permanently.

As I've worked from home since 2008 it has put me in a good position to see the massive increase in home deliveries throughout 2020.  It would seem if people can't get out to buy what they need, they soon turned to the internet to find the products they wanted.  And deliveries didn't slow down during the time between the first and second lockdown. 

By October some of the large retailers started to report huge increases in sales because of on-line shopping.  For instance, Amazon posted a 26% year-on-year increase in sales for the first quarter of the year.  Bloomsbury Publishing saw a 10% increase across their business.  Whilst their digital divisions saw a 47% increase in sales.  Like most businesses they thought they would also be struggling to make it through lockdown and were surprised by the increase in on-line activity.

During the freer summer months, foot fall didn't return to pre-pandemic numbers in the high street, which explains why I was still seeing lots of home deliveries.  But the high street was in trouble long before the pandemic, even the large shopping centres were starting to report decreases in foot fall long before the pandemic arrived.

Right now it's hard to know if people will return to the high street once the pandemic is over and if on-line sales will go back to normal, but if lockdown scenarios continue throughout 2021 then this gives people enough time to form new habits, such as buying what they need on-line for home delivery.

Smaller businesses shouldn't feel it is all over for them, they have the ability to change much faster than the big retailers.  They can still tap into the markets these larger businesses dominate if they can keep up with how consumers want to buy products and services. 

Here is how ecommerce is transforming, it's all about creating a seamless experience for the user and being right where the customers are hanging out:

Seamless Experience
The company that stands out most for creating a seamless experience is Amazon.  What makes it seamless:

  • the one-click purchase,
  • reliable and accurate search feature,
  • prime delivery,
  • personalised recommended products,
  • and subscribe and save. 

It's taken them years of monitoring customers and making tiny changes along the way until they got here, but they have made their customers journey through their website so simple which in turn helps Amazon to make even more money. 

Affordable ways smaller retailers can tap into these features

Implement a search feature - According to a study, almost 30% of website visits begin with a site search. 

Site search is a reasonably priced addition to any website and the information it can provide the retailer with is invaluable.  Retailers should take full advantage of this feature, and invest time looking at what their customers are searching for, which will help them to understand what needs to be stocked and placed in a prominent position on their websites.

Reduce the friction to purchase - websites need to be mobile-first, secure, fast loading, as well as customers being able to pay for goods without needing to reach for their card, remember logins and passwords, or set up an account via a lengthy form.

Payment systems - Because mobile traffic is now taking over desktop and tablet devices, integrating payment systems such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay is a great way to remove payment friction.  Most users will have connected their card to a payment app, so all they need to do when making a purchase on-line is validate the purchase with their fingerprint. 

Third Party Resources
Third party resources mean retailers can sell on-line through other peoples websites.  This can be helpful when wanting to test what it's like to sell on-line, as well as dealing with the problem of storing stock.

Amazon & Etsy
Both allow retailers and individuals to open up shops and list their products on their websites.  Amazon take care of all the payments, stock the product so they can fulfil the order, and deal with returns and refunds on the retailers behalf.

Etsy allows individuals to set up a shop on their website, they deal with all the payments and storing the customers details so the retailer doesn't have to.

Google Shopping
Retailers will soon be able to list their products for FREE on Google.  As it's free smaller retailers should take full advantage of this offer.

Google has also announced 'Shopping Actions' which is currently being tested in the USA.  They are allowing retailers to sell directly within the search results.  Google will charge a fee once a sale has been confirmed, but it means the consumer will no longer have to leave Google search to complete a purchase.  Giving ecommerce retailers the opportunity to generate extra sales through this shopping platform.

Facebook is introducing Facebook Shops, a simple to setup and manage platform for businesses to sell directly through their social pages.  Again it's being tested in the USA, but if it proves lucrative for Facebook it will roll out to the rest of the world.

The Future
The future of ecommerce will allow people to make purchases on or off-site, and to find and engage with brands at the right moment in time.

People want a seamless experience where they can pay without hassle and receive their goods tomorrow.  Any ecommerce business who can provide this to their customers will see an increase in sales and recommendations.

Do nothing and you'll get left behind
The next generation of shopper has grown up on-line.  On-line is their normal way of life, they are not going to tolerate any resistance from companies who don't want to sell this way.

To survive retailers must take advantage of market places like Amazon, Etsy, Facebook and/or Instagram if they haven't already done so.  They also need to make their websites ecommerce if they haven't already done so.  They can no longer expect their customers to come to their stores, because the customer expects the retailer to come to them.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also find the following useful:
How small businesses are fighting to survive the pandemic

15 step guide to starting a business

DRA Digital help businesses of all sizes attract new customers, with strategically designed and managed websites.

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