New technologies are
evolving the Internet,
and are also assisting in
the growth of the
In fact, first quarter 2012 saw online retail
spending reach more than $44 billion — up
17 percent from a year prior.
This represents the 10th consecutive
quarter of positive year-over-year growth,
according to comScore. While the state of ecommerce
is on an upswing, merchants
cannot take a passive approach. Instead,
merchants must stay on top of emerging
technologies and strategies in order to stay ahead of their
competition, attract consumers, engage site visitors and increase
And since everything from product images to promotions
can impact a retailer’s success, merchants should focus
on these five key areas in order to gain the best return on investment
(ROI) in the current state of e-commerce.
Few factors contribute more to a consumer’s decision-making
process than product images.
While basic best image practices — such as providing
them in appropriate lighting and at the right contrast, as
well as providing zooming and rotating features — are
important, merchants should also push the envelope
when it comes to how they showcase their products. This
can be done by offering virtual fitting room technologies
or augmented reality features.
For example, Fits.me offers apparel retailers the ability
to bring virtual fitting rooms to the Web. The company uses
shape-shifting robotic mannequins and photos to display
how clothes look on various body types. Then, when a consumer
visits a participating retailer’s site, they have the ability
to type in their measurements and gauge how specific
sizes of an item would appear on their body.
However, Fits.me is far from the only solution that
enables merchants to feature their products in a unique
way. Other solutions, such as Shoefitr or the Webcam
Social Shopper from Zugara, also offer interactive technologies
to feature products within the e-commerce industry.
Learn more about these and other product showcase platforms here.
Serving Customer Service
For consumers, the online shopping experience is significantly
different from the brick-and-mortar shopping experience,
which is why merchants should focus on customer
At the minimum, merchants should offer their customers
live chat, which is proven to help increase conversions.
In fact, one Oracle study reveals that 57 percent of
consumers believe that live help is among the most important
features of a website. However, if you want to improve
your customer service initiatives, look no further than virtual
assistants from providers like CodeBaby and VirtuOz.
“It’s really about online self-service and allowing the
customer to engage with the brand how they want, versus
how marketers might want to direct them,” said Dennis
McGuire, CEO of CodeBaby.
For example, CodeBaby’s CIVA (CodeBaby Intelligent
Virtual Assistant) technology provides clients with a virtual
talking assistant, which pops up on a site and guides visitors
to specific actions. This technology improves navigation
and enhances the customer experience, and can also
decrease abandonment rates and increase conversions. Additionally,
by answering common questions, CIVA reduces
the likeliness of users being escalated to the company’s call
Learn more about bringing your sales team to the
Creating a Community
Social media’s popularity is another avenue that is boosting e-commerce sales,
which means that merchants must leverage their networks within their online
Aside from simply adding social sharing buttons to a site and maintaining a presence
on popular networks — such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram — merchants
can rev up their social strategy by adding social login options, which enable consumers
to make a purchase without creating a new user profile. This technology isn’t only convenient
for customers. Social login also provides merchants with customers’ detailed
profile data, which can be used for segmenting future marketing campaigns.
Merchants can also create a community-type atmosphere by adding reviews on
their product pages, which can encourage consumers to make a purchasing decision.
Merchants seeking a more innovative way to add digital consumer content should
explore user-generated video reviews.
If your online shopping destination doesn’t prominently feature promotions, you are
most definitely missing out on valuable conversions. This is because many consumers
use the ’Net to browse for products, but when it comes to making a purchase they will
go to the nearest brick-and-mortar location to avoid shipping costs.
However, merchants can turn these browsers into buyers with the right promotion.
According to Mitch Harper, co-founder of BigCommerce, merchants should be innovative
and test multiple options when it comes to launching promotions.
“Look at what the big guys are doing and see if you can get some ideas. Typically
free shipping and a 14/30 day return policy work really well, as do BOGO promotions,”
said Harper. “This is where you can really be creative as a merchant so try multiple
promotions and test what works.”
Another way to encourage consumers to purchase is with VIP promotions. For example,
after a consumer completes a transaction, merchants can send a follow-up email
that includes a 15 percent coupon code, valid for the customer’s next online purchase.
Merchants can also launch VIP coupon codes on social networks to reward brand enthusiasts
and entice more customers to join their social following.
Moving Forward with Mobile
A recent IBM report reveals that mobile purchases made up 13 percent of total site sales
in March 2012, which is more than double the percentage of the previous year. Furthermore,
mobile devices accounted for 17 percent of overall site traffic in March, which
is a three-fold increase from the year prior. This means that if your site is not optimized
for mobile yet, you are in serious danger of falling behind your competitors in the digital
Many e-commerce shopping cart platforms, including BigCommerce, Volusion and
Shopify, offer a mobile-optimized version of websites to their clients. However, regardless
of the service a merchant chooses, simplicity and usability should always be
top of mind when it comes to mobile
“Mobile shoppers are simply more likely to buy when they can get to what they
need fast —they’re likely on the go after all,” said Harper. “Also optimize for the ‘wow
factor’ upfront, putting your best product photos front and center, and not hidden farther
down into the site.”
Staying Ahead of the Industry
The current state of e-commerce offers merchants an endless amount of plugins, extensions,
strategies and technologies that can be leveraged to help boost site conversions
and engagement. However, merchants must first be familiar with these trends and
emerging technologies in order to successfully implement new features into their own
sites. After all, by staying up to date with the current state of e-commerce, merchants
can prepare for the future of e-commerce.
About the Author: Allison Howen is an associate editor at Website Magazine, writing
primarily about e-commerce and social media.