Sales from eCommerce portals are steadily gaining an upward trend and steadily becoming a significant portion to total retail sales. The contribution percentage of eCommerce sales is increasing at a much higher rate than retail sales in general boosting retail sales. eCommerce is also complementing in-store sales, transforming consumer experiences. The current trend will continue and eCommerce sales will eventually become an imperative and a must have for any retailer.

Forward looking retailers reckon this trend and are incorporating eCommerce strategies in their business plans.

In today’s world, consumers choose online shopping to in-store shopping because of three reasons

A. Competitively priced

B. Saves time

C. Convenient without any time constraints

Consumers have also adopted the “showrooming” approach, where they visit the store, compare in store prices to those of other stores online, and many a times end up making the purchase from another online retailer. The ease of online shopping is contributing to the rise in eCommerce sales as surveys conducted globally indicate.

Global perspective in retailing does not limit to either offline or online model, there is a huge gap between the two models that e-tailers are trying bridge by going hybrid- a combination of both online & offline retailing. In past few years, a handful of online portals have taken their business offline as well, adopting the hybrid model to their retail strategy.

A few Online retail trends that we will most likely see mature in 2014 are:

  1. Multichannel retailing will be the norm – In the coming year retailers will continue to focus on imparting their customers a connected and unified shopping experience through multiple channels and touch points simultaneously or even interchangeably. In 2014, more retailers will give customers the ability to interact and complete transactions on their own terms. In other words, if a customer wants to view an item online, purchase it using their smartphone, and return it by dropping by the store, they can do so in a smooth and seamless way.
  2. Adoption of mobile wallet will continue to rise – Cash and credit cards won’t be things of the past any time soon, but mobile will definitely get a huge chunk of the payments pie in the coming year. According to Forrester Research, mobile payments will amount to $90 billion in the coming years. And we anticipate that in 2014, retailers will be taking big strides towards that number by adopting solutions such as PayPal, Google Wallet, Square Wallet and more.
  3. Personalized in-store experience – A Forrester report suggests, web personalization is “Creating experiences on web sites or through interactive media that are unique to individuals or segments of consumers.” Retailers will now get serious in adoption of technologies that help them personalize and the web certainly provides amazing insight into customer desires, from search information to tracking online behavior and purchases. In theory, leveraging this depth of information offers retailers the chance to deliver a personalised online experience that far exceeds anything that can be delivered in store without a dedicated personal shopper. With the right personalisation strategy and tools retailers can offer a customer the online equivalent of a bricks and mortar store where anything they want to buy is located in endless aisles.
  4. Complete Device Support – Large number of queries from customers begin on smartphones. Many people use mobiles to research products online before buying them through PCs or in physical stores. Quite a few people visit online stores and buy products right through their smartphones or tablets. As a consequence, all the eCommerce stores need to be accessible through a wide range of mobile devices. We saw the rise of response web design this year, and in 2014 most eCommerce stores will support all kinds of mobile devices.
  5. Retailers will reinvent loyalty programs –  Loyalty still remains the untapped arena with shoppers.  Trends and metrics available indicate that retailers would try and beef on their loyalty efforts in the Year 2014. Physical loyalty cards are on their way out and are fast getting replaced by customized, geo tagged digital passes that reach customer’s passbook for instant redemption.
  6. Widening Product Range – Most of the eCommerce stores today sell non-perishable specialty items like, apparel, electronic goods, books, jewelry, handicrafts, etc.. But with the same day shipping trend picking up some eCommerce portals have also started selling perishables like fruits, medicines, and grocery products. It will become possible for people to do all their shopping online.
  7. Relationship marketing and thought leadership will rule retailers’ sales & marketing strategies – Say goodbye to pushy sales people who follow shoppers around. e-tailers will learn that going for the “hard sell” isn’t effective anymore. Instead, they’ll invest in cultivating relationships and establishing thought leadership. In 2014, we expect more brands to employ likeable experts to manage online forums and community experts who will do suggestive selling. They will most importantly advice, solve problems, and build relationships. We are soon to witness a role transformation for a store associate as “the role of the associate will change from an information provider to a facilitator of engagement.” Instead of just giving product and pricing information, they will leverage each shopper’s data (i.e. previous purchases, shopping behavior etc.) to provide tailored advice and shopper-specific offers. We predict that retailers will invest more in training their staff for this role, and they’ll also invest in arming them with the right tools.
  8. Customers’ need for speed will grow in 2014 – The “always connected” consumers expect quick answers to questions or requests, and businesses will need to work extra hard to get in touch with shoppers as quickly as possible. And while businesses have already started doing it via live chat, SMS alerts, 24-7 hotlines, and social media, we’re anticipating brick-and-mortar retailers to roll out solutions that would enable associates to give instant, real-time. Speed can also apply to order fulfillment. As Retail Customer Experience put it, “By 2016, 50 percent of national retailers, will invest in distributed order management, enterprise inventory visibility, and workforce management to enable same day fulfillment.” We believe that in 2014, e-tailers will find ways to streamline and speed up order fulfillment so they can get products into customers’ hands as quickly as possible.

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