By Ketan Shah, Manager – Business Analysis, Lyons Consulting Group
If you work in online retail, you’ve probably heard more than enough of mobile first, content is king, omnichannel, always-on... But the cloud of buzzwords that today’s marketers live under doesn’t do justice to how quickly and significantly the marketing profession has changed. In the face of ever-faster tech innovation, the need to respond quickly to new trends and shifting priorities is paramount.
Expecting Interactivity Online
Our expectations of what’s possible with phones, computers, and websites have changed dramatically in the last decade. Just for fun, take a look at what Zappos’ 2005 homepage looked like. Now check out PCWorld’s list of Best Cell Phones of 2005.
Ten years ago, you would not be able to view a website on your phone in an easy-to-read manner (if at all). Today, consumers expect everything to be clickable. Consider how the touchscreen has affected our behavior. We now want to interact with every component of a website. Pictures, buttons, text, icons . . . you name it, consumers want to click. This is especially true for younger generations—the digital natives who’ve grown up with touchscreens and mobile devices. I have a two year old son who has already recognized the “YouTube” app on my phone and is able to open it because he knows that is where I go to let him watch his favorite songs and nursery rhymes.
These types of screens are an intrinsic part of their lives. When was the last time you clicked on or hovered over an image? Chances are, if nothing happened you thought something was wrong! When it comes to today’s eCommerce stores, if there isn’t an obvious path to purchase — if a web visitor encounters a “commerce dead end” — then that experience will grate with the visitors’ expectation of constant interactivity. While they may still ultimately make a purchase this time, a less-than-optimal user experience means that they’re less likely to come back and buy again and can be a reflection on the overall brand.
How People Shop Online – First Impressions
I bet that you’ve purchased something online recently. We did just exit the holiday shopping season, after all! How did you find that product — a stumble-upon approach based on a vague need (or want) and a Google search; a daily deal or discount; or did you know exactly what you needed and where to buy it? The way people find products online is inherently different than it once was. Consider this recent Forbes article recapping the “expanding threats” that Amazon poses for eCommerce stores – and search engines too!
This means that when a potential buyer does find your site, it’s critical to capture web visitors’ attention immediately to keep them on your site. There are many fish in the sea when it comes to internet retailing. The saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” applies to the digital world as much as it applied to people. The best way to grab attention – and lead them down the conversion path of least resistance — is with engaging visual content that’s also interactive (ideally shoppable or ecommerce-enabled in some way).
It’s not just Gen Y and digital natives; older generations are also changing their digital behaviors. We’ve heard about the huge Powerball jackpot recently (at the time of this writing it was at $1.3 billion). I was surprised to find out that my 73 year old father purchased his tickets online (without asking me for help, I might add) – a pretty impressive thing in my unscientific sample of one. So even if millennials aren’t your target audience, your online revenue will suffer if you don’t prioritize this critical shift in consumer expectations.
How Can Online Retailers Stand Out?
These are two major shifts in how retailers sell their products online. Rich, highly visual content that grabs consumer attention and facilitates transactions addresses both of these trends and potential pitfalls.