ChannelAdvisor held their annual EU Catalyst conference in London this week. At this event they always review the current state of ecommerce as well as looking at the areas of growth for the next year. This year the overriding themes were Local, Social, Mobile and Internationalisation.
Ecommerce is changing and the boundaries between online and off line are converging. Retailers are already adopting strategies such as order online, collect in store, but this is just the start of linking up the Internet with the high street.
In the future when you’re purchasing a product it’s highly likely that you’ll research the product online and then, if it’s an urgent purchase, locate a local store where you can collect the item the same day.
Mobile will become a key driver for ecommerce, the current mobile shopping experience is but a pale shadow of the future. Google demonstrated Google Goggles, a mobile app that allows you to take a picture of a landmark picture or product and the app will identify the image and tell you exactly what your photographed. If this is a landmark or piece of artwork you’ll be presented with more information on the Internet, but if it’s a product then you’ll be connected to Google shopping and be able to make an online purchase.
“eBay’s future aim is for their shopping app to identify the handbag and find the same or similar products on eBay that you can purchase immediately”
eBay also talked about their vision for the future with the example of seeing a woman in the street carrying a hand bag. If you took a picture of her, eBay’s future aim is for their shopping app to identify the handbag and find the same or similar products on eBay that you can purchase immediately. The smartphone will become a tool for shopping in new ways and browsing for products will be the “old fashioned” way of shopping.
Local shopping will become ever more important and mobile apps will be the all encompassing link. An example would be if you arrived at a conference to find you’d forgotten your mobile phone charger. Voice search on your smartphone would trigger an Internet search and locate a local retailer with the product in stock. You could use your phone to reserve a charger and then your GPS map function on your smartphone would guide you to the retailer where you could complete the purchase. In order for this to work retailers will need to add more attributes to their shopping feeds to include stock availability and location information in addition to product details and prices.
Local shopping via mobile will be great for emergency purchases, but traditionally shopping is a social experience. People often go shopping in groups, and social networks aim to replicate this experience online. Many sites already allow you to log in with Facebook Connect and have “Like” buttons so that you can share products of interest with friends. Google have recently introduced a similar “+1″ button which is essentially a copy of the Facebook Like button.
By sharing products with your social networks friends can discuss products, suggest alternatives, and most powerful of all when your friends make a purchase it will appear in their news feed as a recommendation. Whilst today many retailers are unsure how to get started with social networks simply connecting with them is the way to start. Make sure you have a business page on Facebook and a Twitter account. Frootion can help you set up a feed on Facebook to display products from your website or eBay shop, this will allow Facebook users to share your products and of course you can engage with customers by offering discounts for actions such as “Liking” your page.
The easier you make it for your customers to share and talk about your products and services with their social media network the wider your circle of influence will spread.
Finally the remaining topic at the conference was International commerce. Currently 20% of all eBay transactions are cross border and the size of the International market is growing rapidly. Amazon announced that they’d be adding a marketplace to Amazon Italy, which was opened in November 2010. The UK, France Germany and Italy represent 69% of the entire European market so these are the four countries that online retailers should concentrate on first.
Internationalisation is more than just adding shipping methods though, listing on overseas marketplaces in the buyers language and local currencies is the easiest way to sell internationally, but full localising your own website with foreign language versions and local URLs should be your next step.