Written by Taylor Hawes
Staying ahead of technological curves and customer demands is essential to business success in a world that moves faster by the day. eCommerce in particular looks to be an area of intense development in the New Year, and the implications can mean increased revenue and reputation for your business. From going mobile to integrating your marketing approach, business is changing, and so should you.
Spearheading the evolution of eCommerce in 2014 is the evolution of mobile technology. As retailers recognize the importance of presence in a crowded market, those ready for the switch will see appreciable dividends from their mobile investment.
The concept is simple. With more individuals using their mobile devices to browse the web at their convenience, companies must respond in turn. Those unwilling or unable to recognize the importance of making shopping convenient for their customers will lose ground with competitors whose agile solutions better fit market expectations.
This agility comes in multiple forms. Responsive web design, a method of designing websites around the myriad sizes and interface limitations of a broad range of devices, will allow customers to view websites both at home and on the subway with equal ease. Mobile payment options, such as PayPal and Google Wallet will allow customers to make purchases without the cumbersome need to input card information manually. Finally, evolving methods of tracking sales conversion from mobile activity will allow businesses to better understand which efforts are paying off and which need improvement.
As businesses continue to recognize the importance of delivering tailored content, product offerings, and marketing to their customers, new platforms will evolve that facilitate all three.
Currently, businesses rely on eCommerce systems to complete transactions, content management systems to deliver content marketing, and a third platform to distribute email marketing. The problem with this approach is that individual platforms do not communicate with one another, permitting an unwelcome disconnect between customer behavior and information tailored to pique their interest.
In 2014, platforms will develop that will integrate this system in order to better target audiences and individuals based on product purchases and web activity. By observing trends in customer purchases and marketing information viewed, businesses and their assets can better respond to current and changing customer needs. The result is a more agile business that understands its audience and can make a stronger impression with current and potential patrons.
The customer’s focus is no longer directed toward one channel or another for an appreciable amount of time. The modern Internet user is a rapidly moving and engaged individual that uses multiple channels to achieve multiple goals over varying times of day.
This sea change requires that businesses adapt to browsing habits in order to maintain relevance. The manner in which this accomplished has been referred to as “multi-channel presence”; creating a coherent brand across all channels upon which customers spend their time. The result of this approach is a distributed but ubiquitous message that remains on customer minds wherever they go.
For your business, this requires understanding your target audience and bringing your marketing to their venues on interest. Prominent businesses are performing market research to paint a picture of user behavior and then create social media accounts with tailored content that engages users on that platform. A strong business might have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest, all with content that resonates with the respective audience.
As methods for tracking customer preferences and behavior develop, customers are learning to expect a more personalized experience both on and off. Instead of rote marketing emails covering a range of products, distributed content must offer recommendations or highlight sales that are relevant to individual interests.
This arises from a growing recognition that customers with to engage their brand more actively than ever before. Whether that engagement comes in the form of a comment on social media, a conversation in a brick-and-mortar store, or online shopping advice, discerning patrons want a personalized experience and a human face from their place of business.
Traditionally, venture capital was the primary source of start-up cash for businesses looking to make an immediate impact. Since that time, however, non-traditional platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have enabled “crowd funding”; a method of drumming up start-up capital through the largesse of interested, everyday individuals.
What’s unique about this method of funding, aside from the source of capital, is its reliance on narrative to build interest. Successful campaigns on Kickstarter have a well-developed back story, an engaging personality, and an emotional appeal that connects the requesting business with the generous supporters. For small businesses in particular, this is an excellent opportunity to leverage a relative size disadvantage into an appealing connection.
In 2014, more businesses looking to turn innovation and an appealing narrative into business success will utilize these platforms to great success. The key lies in emphasizing your human connection and giving back to more generous patrons with exclusive access to events and early product tests. The combination of engagement and involvement will help customers become invested in your business and build the resources needed to elevate your efforts.
The New Year promises to be one of customer involvement, engagement, and accommodation. Businesses who recognize the importance of mobile will find the benefit of existing where their customers do. Integrated marketing platforms and efforts will help make sense of distributed activities and presence. Finally, customer engagement will drive revenue and even generate funding in the process. Regardless of the specific venue, eCommerce is changing, and your business stands to benefit from the exciting evolution.
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