Small business ecommerce operators may be in for good news in the New Year. We spoke with a couple of ecommerce experts to get their perspective on how the ecommerce industry will shape up in 2015, and which trends are likely to affect small business etailers.
Top Small Business Ecommerce Trends for 2015
1. More consumers shop with mobile devices
Mobile isn't trailing as a platform anymore. "For the first time in history, we saw more traffic coming to online stores from mobile and tablet devices than the desktop," says Satish Kanwar, director of product at ecommerce provider Shopify, pointing to data his team collected from the last quarter of 2014. The mobile shift that experts have predicted and that businesses have long been waiting for is here. And 2015 is the year small businesses need to capitalize on it.
What does this mean as far as ecommerce goes? "In 2015, small businesses will have to adapt to serving their customers in a mobile-first way," Kanwar says. Small businesses have historically designed websites with desktop platforms in mind and only later optimized their baseline structure for mobile devices. Kanwar stresses that website architecture—from navigation to capitalizing on screen real estate—needs to be suited to the mobile device experience.
2. More mobile shoppers become mobile buyers
There has been a long-standing disconnect between the number of customers who peruse product lists on a mobile device and those who actually complete a purchase on a mobile platform. Harish Abbott, CEO and co-founder of Symphony Commerce, an ecommerce solution provider, says that's changing.
"In 2015, I see the gap between visits and conversions narrowing." More mobile-friendly payment solutions, such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, are one reason. "Also, businesses are investing in technologies that make the checkout experience and the discovery experience almost seamless on a mobile device," Abbott explains.
Small business operators need to rethink the way they view the mobile experience if they want to take greater numbers of mobile consumers through the sales process all the way to the final purchase. "Mobile actually has advantages in some cases," Abbott says.
Browsing through product images is often a pleasing swipe on a mobile device, where desktop users must click their way through links, pop-up images and sometimes even multiple page loads. When it comes to giving shoppers the information they need to make a buying decision, Abbott says, "Businesses need to start using mobile more for that."
3. Social commerce ROI becomes clearer
Small business operators have spent years building and nurturing their social media audiences, but how those efforts affect the bottom line has always been a little fuzzy. "Seeing a strong return on investment has been challenging, as has deciding where to focus your social media time and energy," Kanwar says.
As 2015 marches on, the fruit of social media labor is likely to come into sharper focus. "We're starting to see the social network [platforms] pay more careful attention to ecommerce," Kanwar explains. In-line buy buttons and other features are popping up on several social media platforms, giving small business more ways to sell their wares and also greater visibility into how many social media followers influence the bottom line. "We think this will significantly help [small business ecommerce] in 2015," says Kanwar.
4. The democratization of ecommerce helps small business
Ecommerce, once solely the domain of large retailers, is becoming more SMB-friendly, and that trend will continue into 2015. From the storefront to fulfillment, Abbott says, "Small businesses can partner with companies that will help them get access to very high quality commerce infrastructure."
He isn't just talking about shopping carts and websites—this is an end-to-end democratization of how ecommerce happens. "Orders taken on site get fulfilled in real time, they have very high-quality return processes, and the various components within the entire system talk to each other," says Abbott.
It's no accident that small business ecommerce sites can now provide a very Amazon-like experience. "That trend is speeding up, and it lets small and medium businesses focus on what they do best," Abbott explains. In turn those small businesses should put real thought and effort into building their brand and prepare to differentiate themselves in 2015.
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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