5 Reasons Why Your Ecommerce Site Matters More Than Ever

shopping cart with holiday giftEvery ecommerce manager already knows that having a poor website is a major problem. And it can really bite during the critical holiday season which represents anywhere between 20–40% of annual sales.

But for those who need a little numerical validation, here are a few stats that make it crystal clear why your brand’s online presence is more important than ever:

1. Online sales are growing faster than offline sales

Consulting firm Deloitte forecasts a 14% increase in non-store sales, driven largely by the web. In contrast, overall holiday sales are expected to increase just 2.5 to 3% over last season. According to the National Retail Federation 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, nearly half of consumers (46.7%) will buy online, up from 43.9% last year.

2. The web influences almost half of offline purchases

More shoppers are than ever are checking a store website before heading out to the physical location. Forrester Research predicted in its U.S. Online Retail Forecast, 2009 to 2014 report that the web would influence 48% of 2011 in-store sales.

3. Holiday shoppers research more online in a shaky economy

Consumers use the web to research price and availability of products to purchase both online and in stores. According to the same 2011 NRF holiday survey referenced above, the average holiday shopper plans to do 36% of their shopping online – whether they’re comparing prices, researching products, or actually making a purchase. And data from Experian Hitwise indicates that website traffic increases in a troubled economy because buyers research purchases more carefully online to stretch shopping budgets.

4. Online is a major source of inspiration for gift shoppers

When beginning the hunt for holiday gift ideas this year, our own research – just released Halloween – reveals that 21% of U.S. shoppers browse retailer websites for inspiration while 29% peruse physical stores. And the younger the consumer, the larger the role the web plays. Download a free copy of the full report, Virtual Goods Mean Real Money This Holiday. When thinking of holiday gift ideas, where do you start your search? 5. Consumers planning to spend more on holiday shopping have an affinity for digital channels

Our research also found that shoppers intending to buy digital gifts – ebooks, music downloads, Facebook credits, and the like – are more likely to increase their gift budgets over 2010. While only 15% of all consumers plan to spend more this holiday season, a whopping 30% of digital gift shoppers will do so. Those purchasing digital goods also have bigger budgets—$440 on average, which is 40% more than their non-digital counterparts. The vast majority of digital gift spend will happen online.

And another survey, this time by web marketer Steelhouse, suggests that higher-income consumers are more likely than others to maintain their 2010 levels of holiday shopping, and will do more of it online. While 62% of all consumers plan to spend less this holiday season, 54% of households earning $75,000+ intend to spend as much as last year. 32% of these higher-income consumers say that they will spend more time browsing for gifts online instead of at the mall this year, compared to an average of 28% across all incomes.

Act fast to optimize your ecommerce site

With your site being more important than ever, what’s a multichannel marketer to do as the holiday countdown commences? It’s not too late to act on these tips:

  1. Don’t emulate Target and have your website repeatedly crashed by unexpected traffic. Plan for major traffic spikes to ensure your site can handle the load. Simulate peak loads, monitor site responsiveness, and measure application behavior well in advance of Cyber Monday.
  2. Speed up your site. Investigate using a content delivery network (CDN) like Akamai to speed up the delivery of rich content, including images and videos, to shoppers.
  3. As many holiday shoppers will be researching online and on their smartphones both before and during their trips to the store, integrate the in-store experience with relevant, timely and personalized website and mobile app info.
  4. Maximize the findability of your products online. By submitting a feed to Google Product Search, the Internet giant’s online shopping comparison engine, lesser known websites can improve exposure. Consider trying the Amazon Marketplace too. Or use Amazon Product Ads to place pay-per-click ads on category and product pages. Shoppers will see your ads when looking for similar products.
  5. Social media has hit the mainstream and, while not a primary channel for discovery, is gaining in importance, particularly to Gen Y shoppers. Add social sharing to product pages to turn customers into sales channels. Resolve customer service issues on Facebook or Twitter to publicly display your customer service chops.
  6. With cash-strapped shoppers carefully researching every purchase online before buying, follow the lead of sites like Amazon-owned toy site yoyo.com in making the shopping experience simple, efficient, and fun through gift finders, well-designed navigation, product filters and comparison tools, curated recommendations, and rich product details. At minimum, spruce up the product copy and images of your most popular holiday products, reinforce your value proposition, and make your shipping and return policies clear.
  7. Act fast to plug your leaky conversion funnel with simple and low cost website feedback and usability tools like Crazy Egg.
  8. Ask for an email address wherever you can, both online and in-store. Then squeeze as much value as you can from each of those email addresses.
  9. Implement remarketing campaigns to target shoppers who browse weeks before they buy.

Looking for help with ecommerce site optimization? Contact the Elastic Path consulting team at consulting@elasticpath.com to learn how our conversion optimization services can improve your business results.

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5 Responses to “5 Reasons Why Your Ecommerce Site Matters More Than Ever”

  1. The facts and figures in the first part of the report do seem very understandable as the ease of going on-line these days seems to be getting easier and easier. I am a little surprised TV advertising doesn’t appear in the table for point 4. I know you don’t physically go to TV advert to start your search for gifts, but with the amount of advertising on TV around the festive period, its surely a starting point for some?

    • Hi Lewis, you make a great point. But while TV advertising is definitely an influencer of gift purchases, it would be hard to say you ‘go there’ to look for gift ideas. Maybe when you can more easily self select the kind of ads you want to see?

  2. Cheers for a great article. It is about time businesses realised that the Internet is now the got to place for many shoppers and that they need to cater for them. The stats you quote are pretty easy to read – e-commerce is powering up the retail sector and will continue to do so long into the future.

    • Thanks! Ecommerce is certainly more than just another store, or a cheaper marketing channel. Too bad many multichannel companies are still failing to realize how important their ecomm site really is in supporting offline sales, and vice versa. Time to realize that it doesn’t matter where the sale comes from, as long as you make the sale!

  3. I like #2. Influence is a such and important part online and the web does influence heavily on people’s purchasing behaviors.

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