For generations, the basics of retail stayed the same. People who wanted to buy something usually had to go to a store and most people were able to find a store by looking for its sign. I don't have to tell you that times have changed (that's what clocks and calendars are for) or that the internet has dramatically affected the way people shop and interact with businesses. Many small business owners have only waded into the waters of ecommerce, but the time has come to dive in. Recently compiled data from the end of 2014 shows that retailers need a strong internet marketing and ecommerce strategy now, more than ever.
The 2014 holiday season was reasonably good for business owners. However, it was online retailers who saw the largest gains in traffic and revenue. With great deals, fast shipping and simple cost comparisons, more and more consumers are choosing to do a lot of their shopping online instead of in stores.
A recent study found that the number of people shopping online during the holidays increased dramatically from 2013 to 2014. According data from Wipro Digital Research, 36 percent of U.S. shoppers and 45 percent of U.K. shoppers reported doing the majority of their shopping online back in 2013. Their newest survey found that 61 percent of U.S. and 71 percent of U.K. consumers reported making the majority of their purchases.online.
At the beginning of the year, Wipro Digital Research conducted a Post Holiday Consumer Survey based on 2,023 online respondents split about equally between the US and the UK. The study confirms that more people are eschewing brick and mortar stores for online sites. Furthermore, the responses of these consumers suggest this trend will continue into the future.
"Consumers continue their steady march online, finding few reasons to shop in-store rather than online for their holiday shopping," said Avinash Rao, Global Head, Wipro Digital in a press release announcing the study's findings. "But even online, omnichannel retailers are losing customers to internet pure-plays. Bricks and mortar retailers are having difficulty delivering on the benefits of omnichannel retailing."
This isn't just about the power of ecommerce during the holidays. The study's findings suggest that retailers should expect to see online sales growing faster than in-store sales throughout the year. In both countries, half (50%) of those surveyed said they plan to do more shopping online in 2015. Only 4 percent of the U.S consumers surveyed and 6 percent of those from the U.K reported planning to increase visits to a store this year.
Investing in an ecommerce software platform is important for all businesses, because consumers use all channels at their disposal when researching, selecting and buying a product. In-store browsers can become online shoppers and vice versa. This was seen in the Wipro data. Even when consumers reported browsing both online and in a store, one in three (34% in the US and 33% in the UK) chose to go back online to make their purchase.
The conclusions from this study are supported by a recent report from IBM which found that 43 percent of US consumers prefer to shop online. The IBM study also reported that 29 percent of US consumers made their most recent purchase online. Some of this is related to need for some businesses to update their ecommerce sites, and the fact that some customers use online research to find a nearby location that has a product they need.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of people who may 'prefer' to shop in-store but 'choose' to shop online because it's the most convenient option. In any case, the data shows a real value for businesses that embrace internet marketing and ecommerce to reach the large percentage of customers who are shopping online.
Improving a businesses ecommerce and internet marketing strategy can prevent a small retailer from falling behind their competitors and provide new sources of revenue as more consumers choose to shop online. One of the benefits about adding ecommerce to a business strategy is that it doesn't require much more than what is already available at the brick and mortar location.
A clothing boutique that wants to start selling online only needs a computer with an internet connection to run the ecommerce solution (a website or app) and some boxes to ship things in. In this way, adding ecommerce can require far less investment than opening a second location.
It should be clear to business owners and marketers that the old models of retail have changed and that it's essential to change their strategy in accordance with the new reality. Ecommerce and online sales will become an ever-important factor in the revenue of retailers. For marketers the writing is on the wall: you don't need a bigger sign, you need a bigger internet marketing presence. Small businesses need ecommerce now, more than ever.
For more information on how online and mobile sales affected the 2014 holiday season (and how they'll affect the future) read this article on the Web Marketing Pros website on 2014 holiday data.