4 Ways to Up Your E-Commerce Game in 2017

To stay on top, stay on trend.
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Although most customers still purchase on desktop, many shop from their mobile phones. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and easy to use. (Photo: Stanisic Vladimir/Shutterstock)

In e-commerce, the game is constantly changing. Winning is more than playing by the rules — it’s knowing what’s just around the corner that can give you an edge over your competition.

Ryan Gibson, vice president at Wheelhouse Digital Marketing Group, has spent more than a decade advising big-brand retailers. NCR Silver spoke with Gibson about some of the most important e-commerce trends small businesses should know about to stay ahead of the curve.

Focus on mobile

Optimizing your e-commerce site to provide a shoppable experience on mobile will continue to grow in importance over 2017 and 2018, said Gibson.

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“A lot of times, people will shop on their mobile device and then ultimately purchase — especially larger-ticket items — on the desktop.” -Ryan Gibson (Photo: Ryan Gibson)

“A lot of times, people will shop on their mobile device and then ultimately purchase — especially larger-ticket items — on the desktop.” But as consumers continue to become more comfortable making purchases from their smartphones, mobile conversion rates will skyrocket, he said.

“One of the ways to help facilitate that is by making sure the experience you are providing allows consumers to behave the way they want to behave,” he noted.

The buying experience should be as painless as possible for customers, no matter how they access your site. For instance, if a potential customer is browsing your store from their smartphone, make it easy for them to save their favorite products to a wishlist, or send an email with a link to the item, he said. The less effort you require of them, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

From a mobile design perspective, Gibson said it’s critical to “think light.” E-commerce sites use a lot of images, so make sure they are sized right for a mobile display and optimized for quick loading.

Also, “Make sure the most important content that your users are looking for is easy to be found — that they don’t have to have to scroll and scroll and scroll,” he said. If you know your customers tend to view the specs on a product, make sure your specs link is prominent.

Related: 7 Ways to Optimize Your E-Commerce Checkout Experience

Consider subscription services

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Subscription services that include automatic purchasing can draw in customers and simplify their shopping experience. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Another growing trend among e-commerce vendors is providing subscription services and memberships, said Gibson. If you sell a product that needs replenishing on a regular basis, providing automated delivery options can be a real draw. It’s about knowing what the consumer wants and needs and figuring out how to provide them with a simplified buying experience.

If the subscription model isn’t a good fit for your business, Gibson suggested finding a way to integrate the idea of automated purchasing into your marketing and customer loyalty programs.

“It’s basically taking customer loyalty to that next level,” he said. As the holidays draw near, for example, you can leverage your program to provide reminders of last year’s purchases and try to facilitate a repeat order.

A word of warning: if you promise it, make sure you can deliver. “Otherwise,” he said, “that promise of recurring delivery or replenishment can be a big disappointment from the consumer’s perspective.”

Leverage Pinterest — and maybe Snapchat, too

According to Gibson, Pinterest will likely continue to be a strong marketing tool for e-commerce businesses in 2017. “This year, Pinterest is really stepping up their search capabilities,” he said, and as more consumers use the platform for searching, they’re more likely to use it for buying products, too.

Related: How to Make Your Brand’s Pinterest Board Convert to Sales

“I think it’s going to be big this year, especially since the product is going to be developing and building out going into Q4 this year — around holiday time. So if Pinterest fits your category and your customers, I think that’s definitely a place that you should explore.”

Another rising star in the e-commerce marketing world is Snapchat, said Gibson, but it’s not clear yet how long the “Snapchat for Business” trend will last. “Their ads are still pretty new, so it’s very much in a testing phase.” Only time will tell, he said.

Same day delivery

Gibson said expedited and same-day delivery will play a big role in 2017. While small business owners can’t compete with the likes of Amazon, they must factor in the new level of expectations the company has set for online consumers.

“If you can meet that, or get close to that expectation — if you can afford to deliver that experience — it’s certainly something that you should take into account.” -Ryan Gibson

“Otherwise, the unique selling proposition for your brand might have to be something different. If you can’t deliver the same product in the same amount of time, it has to be the service around the product or the guidance you give around the sale that gives you an edge.”

Related: Should You Offer Free Shipping?

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