By Adam Stewart, Marketing Director, Rakuten’s Play.com
More people are shopping online than ever before, and not just for Christmas. In fact, a survey commissioned by Rakuten earlier this year showed that 83 percent of UK consumers frequently shop online.
According to figures from IMRG, the UK’s industry association for e-commerce, online sales are expected to reach £77 billion in 2012. Therefore, in this fast growing retail ecosystem it’s more important than ever for retailers, big or small, to stand out from the crowd.
Creating a brand personality online
It’s safe to say that e-commerce is the future for retail, not just for the major household names, but also for the host of smaller stores that are cropping up every day and offering an alternative to mass-market retailers.
Real-world shops have traditionally differentiated themselves on more than just price, while products and price are obviously a central element to e-commerce success; personality is just as important in differentiating one shop from another.
As such, how a website or storefront looks is a key to helping smaller retailers establish brand awareness, drive sales, and build customer loyalty.
With competitors just a few clicks away, the look of a retailer’s online shop front can be the deciding factor between clicking on ‘checkout’ or navigating away from the website altogether. So, for smaller online retailers to evolve and prosper, it is essential that they are empowered to make the very most of their presence online and offline.
Standing out from the crowd
Whether the retailer has its own standalone website or is part of an online marketplace, it shouldn’t be confined to standard templates for its online storefront.
Consumers buy into brands, and first impressions count, so retailers should be able to personalise the look and feel of its site and brand image, to build lasting customer relationships. Retailers should consider these three factors when customising a storefront:
1) Product placement: Just as many retailers would do in-store, if there is a particularly popular product, such as the Furby toy this Christmas, position them prominently throughout the online shop, to help drive additional sales.
2) Knowing the seasons: Using the Furby example, if a third of the business’s annual sales come around Christmas, then its storefront should have a completely different look and feel during the festive period, in order to capitalise on this seasonal trend.
3) Beauty is not everything: The most effective e-commerce pages have both detailed product information and a host of high-res images, as the look and information on a page are not mutually exclusive. To sell successfully online, retailers must strike a balance between looking beautiful and effectiveness as a sales tool.
Giving a little more
Marketplaces are there to support their merchants. The rigid set of templates that many merchants are offered restrict the look and feel of their website. All retailers should address this, which is why Rakuten’s Play.com allows retailers to customise the entire look and feel of their storefronts, including colours, fonts, font size, photo video size and position, and layout.
With thousands, if not millions, of retailers across the globe, many of whom will be selling the same or similar products at competitive prices, how merchandise is presented is a critical point for the success of a business.
Let’s consider two competing retailers selling a mulled wine kit for Christmas. Pricing is identical, and both retailers have attractive and informative pages. The question is ‘who gets the sale’?
Customisation is key, and pages that flag external reviews, contains more information, better photos, and embed videos on how to prepare the mulled wine, could make the difference.
In our experience, it’s the extra mile that really counts toward the bottom line. Retailers should invest in added extras and customised shopping experiences to increase brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.