Not all of us have the strength and the motivation to start a new business. You need to possess not only knowledge but also an open mind and a high capacity to adapt to new realities, trends, and budgets, to face the unknown and solve problems on the go.
However, when it comes to eCommerce, there are two categories of entrepreneurs. First, there are those who possess the qualities listed above, who are willing to learn as much as they can and do things by the book. Secondly, there are those who do not possess the knowledge, do not wish to learn and live with the preconception that things are more accessible online, you don’t need to invest, that every new eCommerce store is an instant cash cow. Of course they are in error, but nevertheless, a small part of this group will still be successful, out of luck or due to a very profitable niche they have selected.
However, this article is addressing only the first category of entrepreneurs: those who are willing to learn and start on the right foot. We will try to pinpoint some of the most important trends in eCommerce branding, marketing, and design and list some of the most critical aspects of starting an eCommerce store for the new generations of online shoppers.
The mobile factor
Technology is not static, and nor are the changes it triggers in our society. One of the most significant difference was the widespread of mobile devices, especially smartphones. While a few years ago only a small percent of the population owned a smartphone, these days the penetration rate in America is over 77%. This is the first thing an entrepreneur should think about upon starting an eCommerce website.
Are smartphones the primary source of eCommerce income?
Well, unfortunately, the answer is no, they are not. It may seem like a paradox that I am talking about the importance of mobile devices and at the same time, about their inexplicable poor conversion rate (1.55% for mobile phones, 4.14 for desktops in 2016) but the fact is that they do matter and I will try to explain why.
First, let’s take a quick look at a report published by Criteo. What do they say?
- „Retailers who optimize their mobile sites generate many more mobile transactions than those who don’t. Optimized sites have a better conversion funnel at every stage”.
- „Apps generated almost 50% of mobile transactions for retailers who have made their app experience a priority: Mobile apps perform better than any other channel, including desktop”.
What does this mean?
Well, the facts are quite obvious. Poor conversions have nothing to do with smartphones. People are browsing the Internet a lot from their mobile devices these days, and they are less and less willing to connect from desktops and laptops. Why are mobile conversions poor? The main reason for this issue is the fact that not all the marketers and developers give much thought to adapting their eCommerce themes to mobiles.
Most of the today’s themes are already responsive and mobile friendly, but this is not enough when it comes to an eCommerce store. It is not a blog. The screens are obviously smaller on smartphones than those of the tablets and computers.
Therefore, you need an eCommerce store theme that will effectively display your products on mobile phones and make them accessible to browse, add to cart and ultimately, be bought.
Examples of practical mobile themes for an eCommerce website
We’ve seen a couple of screenshots taken from Criteo’s report. However, to make this chapter more comprehensible, I have also chosen some other examples.
Watch the images or browse their stores to better understand what the concept of mobile-friendliness means for an eCommerce store.
Example 1: Shutterfly. This is an online shop dedicated to prints such as photo books, cards, calendars and home décor. There are a lot of stores in this niche, but at the same time, not all of them have the two things that Shutterfly has: a web theme perfectly adapted for mobile browsing and a dedicated app for regular customers. I will speak about why a dedicated app is recommended in the next chapter. Now, let’s take a look at some screenshots for their mobile theme:
As you can see, the main menu is visible and accessible to access, the products are displayed efficiently and overall, everything looks neat and visually appealing.
Example 2: Etsy. This example comes not from a simple eCommerce store but from a global creative commerce platform. The basics, however, are the same. Etsy aggregates mini-stores from thousands of individuals who handcraft unique products, but at its core, it functions as any other eCommerce website. Let’s see some screenshots I’ve taken on my mobile phone:
As you can see, their theme is similar to what we’ve seen in the first example. The categories are easy to find and navigate, products are displayed correctly, the main menu and the search bar are easy to spot and use.
Example 3: Creative Tim. The third example comes from an eCommerce website that offers Bootstrap based design elements that help designers and developers save time with their work. The store features premium templates, themes, and UI Kits.
As you can see, their design is basic but at the same time easy to navigate and browse. The images and texts are centered and readable while the landing page features a description, a search bar, and an access menu.
The dedicated app
Another great way to adapt to today’s society and the behavior of your customers is to build a dedicated app for your eCommerce store. Maybe you will not need it at first, as you will need first to attract some customers and grow awareness on your brand and store. However, as time passes, nothing can be more mobile friendly than a dedicated app.
A regular customer is more likely to install the app than to navigate to the website and shop from the browser.
Why paying for an app?
There are many reasons to consider building a mobile app for your store. Statistics show that the average American adult spends almost 3 hours on their smartphone every day. Don’t you think that it would be great for your business to at least try to capture their attention during this time? What a better way to do it than through a dedicated app?
The users unlock their screens several times each day. To get to a specific app they need at one moment, they scroll through the list of apps where your app is also visible. Moreover, through your own app, you can push notifications and thus, keep your audience informed about your offers and at the same time, engaged with your store.
Examples of eCommerce stores with efficient, dedicated apps
The social media factor
When you are trying to adapt your business to the way your customers behave in 2017, social media is another fact that you should not ignore. People are mobile these days, and we’ve already established the fact that they are more likely to use their smartphones to purchase if your eCommerce website is mobile friendly. However, while they spend several hours each day looking at the screens of their mobile devices, they spend a lot of time on social media as well, Facebook and Instagram especially.
To adapt your store to social media is no longer a theme related issue. It all depends on your marketing strategy and your advertising budget.
What do you need?
- Establish a social media presence. You need social media accounts on all the major platforms. Create these accounts if you don’t already have them and start planning your schedule and brainstorm for entertaining ideas for your targeted audience.
Post frequently and try to match your audience needs and interests. However, you can also trigger emotions and present your products in action. Choose something specific, something that you know it would immediately create a response. Take for example Natural Solar, an Australian company that sells solar batteries.
There are not many people who take an interest in their niche, but if you want to sell, you need to grow awareness on your brand and products and show your audience what you are doing. And, associate your name with something everybody likes.
TIP: Aim for authenticity, not perfection. Many marketers and business owners make mistakes by aiming for perfection when it comes to social media strategy. Just remember one thing: there is no such thing as the perfect post or the ideal image. Every individual thinks differently about a specific concept and acts according to its individuality. Your aim should be at making your posts look professional and neat, not to make every image or video go viral.
- Design/redesign your social media pages. In social media, the visual factor is very important. Treat it accordingly. For instance, on Facebook, try to use the same banners and colors of your eCommerce website in order to have continuity and consistency. Or, if you are conducting specific marketing campaigns that require the use of different banners, try to make at least them easy to be identified with your brand. Suffice to say, the official logo should always be present. Your customers should be able to recognize your brand while browsing one of your social media pages.
- Create a successful advertising campaign. You want your store to be successful. You need to sell as much as possible, but to do so, you need customers. Without them, everything you did so far would have been useless. You can grow awareness on your brand through effective marketing and great designs for your store, apps and social media visuals. However, nobody will install your app or visit your website if they are not aware of your online presence.
You need to start advertising. Let’s see some of the most important steps required at this point:
Study your audience. Figure out who are your customers, understand their behavior, what do they like and share on Facebook for instance. This information is essential because you need to know whom you are addressing to in order to be able to create and distribute effective banners. You can start by using Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences feature. It will help you target your audience easier and more efficiently.
Create your compelling banners. Pay attention to this guide published by Facebook. It will help you better comprehend how the banners look on a desktop and especially mobile device on both, Facebook and Instagram. The mobile factor is almost as important as everything else, therefore, treat it accordingly. Once you know to whom you are addressing and what are the various type of banners you can create, it’s time to design yours.
There is no need to install and learn to use professional image editing software. However, you need stock quality photos and professional product images. For a professional design in just a few minutes of work, I would recommend an online banner generator such as Creatopy. It will allow you to create multiple banners at a time and adapt your design on the go so that it will be compatible with your brand visuals.
Examples of effective and professional Facebook banners:
- The New York Times: Cartoon style banner
- Kay Jewelers: Video banner
- Fresh Books: The self-explanatory banner
- Shopify – The banner that promises to change your life
- Surface – The banner that tells you why their products are better
Each of these banners has something unique that makes them efficient. Here are a few tips that will help you adapt your strategy to your audience:
Keep things simple: Ask a question, insert a call to action, or remind people why your product may be useful to them. Don’t overuse your verbs and don’t write an essay. As you can see in the above examples, effective banners come with simple and easy to understand messages that are adapted to the targeted audience.
In other words, use clear slogans and keep it short.
If you have the possibility, use testimonials in your ads. People tend to trust their peers more than the companies.
Always check your conversions and statistics. Thus, you will always know when a banner is not efficient enough and, after a while, you will get better at choosing your visuals, your texts, and your descriptions. Also, the targeted audience may change or, expand, according to your brand strategy. You will need to adapt constantly to the new trends and customers.
With every year that passes, technology evolves, society changes, the ways people interact with brands and business also changes. As an entrepreneur, you need to adapt to these changes and focus on delivering to your customers exactly what they want, when they want and how they want it.
I tried to pinpoint throughout this article some of the most important things you should consider when you are starting an eCommerce business so that you will be able to reach your targeted audience effectively and convince them to buy from you.
What do you think about this topic? Are you aware of other important things a marketer or an entrepreneur should take into consideration for an eCommerce store? How important do you think is to adapt it for mobile use and advertise it on social media?