In recent years, there has been a considerable shift in the way people shop for goods and services. In the past, you'd have to get in your car, peruse a store's shelves looking for just the item you wanted, wait in line, and finally be greeted by a cashier to complete the transaction. The rise of e-commerce has significantly simplified this process.
Now, all a person needs to do when they want to shop is open his or her laptop – or smartphone, for that matter. Customers can now shop from any location with a device that fits in the palm of their hands. This ease and convenience is creating quite the uptick in online shopping.
E-commerce by the numbers
In 2014 alone, business-to-consumer e-commerce purchases will increase by more than 20 percent on a global scale, according to forecasts from eMarketer. All told, sales will hit $1.5 trillion worldwide by the end of the year. A number of factors influence the expansion of e-commerce.
"Growth will come primarily from the rapidly expanding online and mobile users bases in emerging markets, increases in m-commerce sales, advancing shipping and payment options, and the push into new international markets by major brands," eMarketer stated.
There are several key markets where much of this growth is taking place, including in the Asia-Pacific region. E-commerce sales there are projected to overtake those in the U.S. – eMarketer predicted that in 2014, Asia-Pacific online shopping purchases will generate $525.2 billion. American e-commerce is no slouch – the U.S. market is projected to produce $482.6 billion in sales by the end of the year.
Industry growth means rise in competition
The expansion of the e-commerce sector means many things to both retailers and users alike. As the industry continues to grow, more organizations are throwing their hats into the ring in the hopes of making a profit from the rising number of online shoppers. For customers, this means more choices, and as a result, a higher level of competition among businesses.
FT contributor Sarah Mishkin reported that new e-commerce websites are springing up in markets all over the world, signaling the steep competition newcomers now face. And it's not just the startups that are emerging in this ever-changing marketplace.
"An increasing number of established retailers, especially luxury ones for whom customer data and store design are paramount, have started launching their own websites," Mishkin wrote.
Due to this increased competition, it is now vital for these companies to build e-commerce websites that not only showcase their products, but also attract customers and keep them engaged. Without these elements, chances are good that those businesses will fall behind the myriad other choices in the marketplace.
How to improve e-commerce offerings
There are several ways an organization can enhance its online offerings. Firstly, the use of specialized e-commerce software provides the management and control necessary to keep up with competitors. When retailers have complete oversight of their website, they can add and adjust products and design elements to ensure that their platform stands out in the e-commerce world.
Search Engine Journal contributor Zoe-Lee Skelton also noted the importance of a streamlined shopping cart and purchasing experience. Customers shouldn't have to jump through hoops to complete a transaction, nor should they be left guessing the shipping costs or expected delivery date. The shopping cart should contain all relevant information needed to complete their transaction.
Skelton also advised providing customer service features like chat. This way, if a shopper runs into any problems or has a question, they can easily reach out to the company for answers.
One of the most critical ways to improve an e-commerce site is by leveraging a partner that can provide all the necessary tools. Hostway has everything e-commerce companies need to enhance their online platforms and remain a leading force in the market.