Online Sales 101: Understanding the Current E-commerce Climate

Once upon a time, when a new purchase was in order, Americans took to malls, storefronts and lots. We would wade through traffic-laden intersections and aisles crowded with shopping carts to browse through a range of products, make our selections, lug them up to a cash register, out to our cars and back to our homes. Ah... the good old days!

Just last week, I was in search of a spray bottle for watering plants around the house. I hopped in my truck and headed to a large retail outlet, figuring I'd be able to make a quick selection and head on home. No more than 30 seconds after stepping foot in the gardening section, I found myself red-faced and flustered. Where was this thing? If it wasn't next to the watering cans, would I have to troop around the entire store to find it? Why isn't it right here, right now?!?!

Unfortunately, I'm not the only one with this type of immediate frustration. Like it or not, consumers everywhere have had their expectations about buying completely reframed under something called "The Amazon Effect".

 

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Amazon makes shopping painless, immediate, and possible from anywhere on earth. In being exposed day in and day out to this type of seamless experience (in 2018, almost 50% of all online purchases) our brains have been completely rewired to expect this type of frictionless service everywhere we go.

One of the primary reasons both physical retail locations and other online stores lose out on customer purchases is that they simply can't compete with this type of buying experience. Not only does Amazon facilitate one-click purchasing and immediate checkout, but they service nearly every geographic location in the continental United States. Now Amazon may seem like a colossal behemoth that threatens to undo us all, but let's give them some credit here... They are successful because they have landed on the experience that buyers want: PERSONALIZED. EASY. IMMEDIATE.

And that's the current e-commerce climate. It's a world where everything has been adapted to the consumer's most personal needs, from research-driven web designs that map to intrinsic human psychology, to products loaded into configurators for the perfect DIY touch.

But don't let this overwhelm you, because this leaves us with two pieces of good news:

The first is that Amazon has spent millions of dollars in research and platform development to land on this proven recipe. They've identified what works, and now these highly tested processes are something we can all implement when it comes to selling online.

The second is that all of the technology that underlies this proven recipe is available to us all. There is no reason that even a small business owner can't generate substantial amounts of revenue by creating their own frictionless online experience. In the wake of the Amazon e-commerce revolution, here's the basic outline of the technical components you need to compete:

1) A website with a clean, user-friendly layout;

2) A way for buyers to customize products, and visualize changes;

3) A price estimator that keeps track of those changes in real time (limiting the involvement of a sales person);

4) The ability to purchase, no less than one page deep on your website;

5) All of the above, on mobile (by 2021, over 50% of all online purchases will take place on mobile).

If the above steps feel like a lot to take in, don't worry! Our next few posts are going to sort through them one by one, so that anyone in the build-to-order industry can have a clear understanding of how they can get the most bang for their buck by selling online.

In our next blog, we'll dive into #1 and outline the "do's and dont's" of web design from a user psychology standpoint. Stay tuned!