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E-commerce is evolving – you should too

The e-commerce industry has been making headlines this month with household brands, including Myer, David Jones and Harvey Norman, all coming out with innovative plans for improving their online experience. 

This will come as no surprise, with e-commerce firmly on the rise here in Australia. According to the latest NAB retail sales index, online sales increased by around 12% in the last year – generating revenue topping $19 billion. Yet this figure accounts for just 7% of total retail sales, on- and off-line, indicating that businesses have only scraped the surface of what’s possible in the e-commerce space.

As more consumers move their shopping habits online, brands are busy refreshing their e-commerce strategy and adopting the latest technology to get ahead of the game. Only last week, eBay and Myer announced their first virtual reality department store – taking online shopping to the next level.

But with signs that e-commerce giant Amazon is looking to set up shop in Australia – it’s not all fun and games for local retailers. In fact, recent research conducted by SLI Systems found that more than 50% of brands are concerned by the rise of international competition.

While it’s possible for every business to enjoy a slice of the increasing e-commerce pie – retailers must adapt. And fast. In the face of a changing e-commerce landscape, here are some practical tips for giving customers a great online experience – including one that keeps them coming back for more.

1. Help your customers find what they really want

When setting up your website search function, there are numerous little tricks you can employ to help users find what they are looking for. Having an autocomplete function on your website’s search bar is a great way to increase the speed at which customers find what they’re looking for – only having to type in a few letters to find the search term they require. You can also take this function to the next level, by placing synonyms in your search bar – for example, boardies and board shorts. You might also want to test the most effective position for your search box. While most retailers position their search box on the right hand side, some brands have seen site search increase when they move it front and centre. And don’t ignore other search options – you can set up your dropdown menus to ensure they list the most popular options, making it easier for shoppers to narrow down the perfect product.

2. Make your search results work harder for you

Half the battle is getting people on your site, so once they are there, make sure you keep them there. Just like you would put your bestsellers front of shop – put your most relevant and highest-performing items first in your search results. Always include key selling points in your search results – such as a high-quality image and the price tag; shoppers shouldn’t have to click through just to find out that a product doesn’t meet a key requirement. And make sure that no searches result in zero products. Shoppers in a rush could miss-spell words – so ensure that your site-search picks this up and still returns relevant results.

3. It’s time to get personal

In order to differentiate themselves from others in the market, many retailers have increased the personalisation of their content. By storing visitors’ recent searches and presenting them when they return to the site, you can improve your site’s search usability. Using search history personalises the shopping experience and helps visitors find previously viewed items. If you offer this feature, add simple controls so visitors can delete the recent searches if they wish. Simple tricks like “people who like this product also liked,” or “you might also like,” can also be a great way to encourage those on your site to continue to browse and maybe even make a purchase.

4. Be mobile friendly

It’s a well-known fact that Australians are early adopters of smartphones. And we’re using them to shop; mobile sales now account for 11% of all e-commerce – with this figure set to rise. Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm makes it mandatory for websites to play nice with smartphones and tablets.  As a result, it is critical that your site is optimised for mobile and allows customers to easily find what they’re looking for on a small screen.

By implementing just a few simple tips, retailers on any level can ensure that they are able to latch onto the e-commerce movement.

About the author

Aparna Gray is the Head of Marketing in APAC for SLI Systems. SLI Systems helps online retailers increase sales by connecting shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy. The tool serves as many as 1.5 billion search queries a month and operates on more than 1,000 websites with customers on five continents. Aparna has more than 15 years’ experience in the marketing and communications industry, spanning roles across Australia, USA, UK and China.

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