WooCommerce Wednesdays: The shopping shift to digital commerce

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The ecommerce evolution

If you run a small business, you can no longer ignore digital commerce. Ecommerce is rapidly changing the customer experience shopping for products, as more than 2.1 billion individuals around the world use the internet for buying.

The market was enjoying steady growth before the pandemic, but the forced closure of many physical shops led consumers to flock to online sales channels in even greater numbers, pushing the ecommerce market to new heights.

According to Digital Commerce 360, gross merchandise volume in the U.S. increased by $102 billion in 2020 and $116 billion in 2021 due to the pandemic.

And based on estimates from Statista, there will be over 290 million online buyers contributing to over $1.3 billion in online revenue in the U.S. alone by 2025.

There are many reasons why online shopping is attractive to consumers.

With digital commerce, people can buy from anywhere at any time and there are more resources for reviewing and comparing products. They can get the products they want without being limited to store hours or limited stock availability.

And with fast shipping methods, the delay in receiving orders is minimal. But buyers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from ecommerce.

As a business owner, you can leverage digital sales channels to reach customers in a manner not possible with traditional retail. Below, we will look at some of the most impactful ways ecommerce benefits product-based businesses:

How to benefit from the rise of digital commerce

Create more personalized shopping experiences

A distinct part of digital commerce is the ability to implement a personalization strategy. When you sell through your own direct-to-consumer website there are several ways to personalize the shopping experience through customer data.

For example, you can display unique product recommendations based on a visitor’s interests or you can send a buyer a special discount code that can be redeemed on your online shop.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can streamline this process by collecting data from your visitors and buyers to create detailed customer profiles.

These insights can then be used with different automation functionalities to create highly personalized experiences for each shopper.

According to Accenture, over 90% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that provide relevant product recommendations and promotional pricing offers.

Another study from McKinsey found that ecommerce shops can improve conversion rates by 15% to 20% by personalizing the shopping experience.

With physical stores, there is very little you can do to personal the shopping experience for each individual. You only have one storefront, and everyone that enters your shop will see the same products.

Lower operational costs

Without the need for a physical storefront, online sales channels can be stood up with minimal operating costs. Beyond the cost of sourcing your goods and getting people in front of them, the bulk of the expenses required for digital commerce are for tools needed to build and manage your website.

This will cost a maximum of a few hundred dollars monthly.

As sales increase, these low operating costs make it easy to scale your operations by reinvesting in more stock and new marketing and sales channels.

Because you don’t have any big property expenditures and less need to hire a large workforce, your margins will also increase as your business grows.

Ecommerce also impacts your supply chain management, in that it shortens the lifecycle for your products. This allows you to offer deeper and broader product assortments.

However, this also means that warehouses have high numbers of stock going in and out.

Strong inventory management is needed to avoid stock outs and overselling while ensuring speedy and accurate deliveries. If you don’t want to build this out in-house there are plenty of high-quality third party logistics providers that you can partner with to handle your supply chain.

Reach new customers with ease

Online stores aren’t bound to a single physical location meaning they are open to anyone with access to the internet and the desire to visit your site. You can use this increased exposure to help expand your audience base to new customers regardless of their location.

By implementing the right technologies and sound international selling strategy, you can adapt your shopping experience to cater to buyers in different locations.

For instance, your site can feature multiple currencies that customers can select when completing an order. Or, you can automatically translate your web pages into different languages which are then served to users in non-English speaking customers.

Between email marketing, social media advertising, and search engine marketing, brands have a myriad of ways to connect with target audiences across geographic locations.

With social media, you can continually engage with your audience to establish a connection and users can discover new products whether from you or their peers.

Plus, today’s social platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, offer way more than just marketing and advertising.

Many platforms now allow customers to conveniently browse and purchase products without having to leave the platform. These social shops can quickly be connected to your ecommerce store to automatically show your product catalog.

More details for customers, more data for store owners

Digital commerce gives you a greater ability to teach your customers about your products. In a brick-and-mortar store, you have limited space to describe your products but on a product page, you can add as much information as needed.

Beyond typical product attributes like color and materials, you can use this to provide detailed specifications, a size chart, how the item was made, or a care guide for maintaining the item post-purchase.

From the merchant’s perspective, digital commerce helps you collect valuable data on your customers.

For example, you can easily track a buyer’s order history, total spent, products viewed, and other preferences. This data can be analyzed to gain actionable insights to improve the shopping experience for the customer.

Such data collection isn’t possible with a traditional retail shop. A visitor could spend hours staring at a single shelf, but you have no way to save this information, let alone in a manner that can be acted on when needed.

How to tap into the growing digital demand

While there are a variety of reasons that customers buy from online shops, many of these motivations come from a desire for convenience. As such, it is essential for online sellers to create a seamless experience across their ecommerce sites.

This means fast loading times, easy-to-find product information, the ability to compare items, and a friction-free checkout process.

Once you optimize your website, you need to drive traffic to your site to get your products in front of your target buyers. Customers expect a consistent brand experience, so it’s beneficial to implement an omnichannel marketing strategy to connect each customer touchpoint.

For instance, someone signs up for your email newsletter and leaves your site with a product in their cart.

You can then send them an email reminding them of the product and encouraging them to come back and complete the purchase. At the same time, you can add this person to a remarketing campaign in which they receive advertisements for the product across different social media platforms.

Choosing the platform for growing an online store

To create a site that provides visitors a rewarding experience, businesses need feature-rich ecommerce platforms. Picking an ecommerce platform is one of the first decisions you’ll make but the choice must be made with the future state of your business in mind.

As your online store grows, you need a scalable platform to grow with you.

Open source platforms like WooCommerce provide both the flexibility to implement whatever features you want and the scalability needed for future business growth. WooCommerce also integrates seamlessly with the other software tools your business will use.

Equally as important is the platform’s ease of use.

If you are new to selling online and have less technical expertise, you can benefit considerably from having a platform that is easier to manage. WooCommerce is user-friendly with a simple design that beginners can start using without a significant learning curve.

Again, this ease of use is balanced with strong flexibility and customization options. As your technical knowledge grows, you can dive into the platform’s code to make any customizations you want.

Closing thoughts on the shift to digital commerce

Ecommerce will continue to grow as the Internet becomes more accessible around the world and customers become accustomed to the ease of transactions and personalized offers.

The process can take some time, but many small business owners are discovering new opportunities and reaching new customers by moving to digital commerce.