Louis Columbus, in a Forbes article last fall, made an interesting observation that progress in eCommerce technology had reached an inflection point. In mathematics and business, the inflection point describes a place on a graph where the curve changes dramatically. Columbus writes,
“Born-in-the-cloud e-commerce systems are innovating at a pace that outdistances legacy, on-premise systems. The inflection point is most visible in how quickly user experiences, support for multi-tier distribution selling, advanced pricing and order workflows are improving.”
The emergence of cloud-based, made-for-the-web software, and better data analytics has dramatically contributed to the technological growth of eCommerce platforms, which allows for innovation in eCommerce features and functionality. Every year, there are new, trendy features everyone talks about implementing and just as often those trendy features don’t catch on with consumers or with businesses. So what makes eCommerce features stand the test of time?
Which eCommerce Features Your Business Really Needs
Over the years, we’ve passed through the Information Age, which shifted to the Consumer Age and are now we’re being touted as being in the Experience Age. This evolution expresses the shifts we see in eCommerce technology and software capabilities, but it also hints at what will make eCommerce features relevant today and into the future. Consumers expect an easy-to use website and a cohesive experience from a business, as demonstrated by the example of such successful eCommerce sites as Amazon and Alibaba. And eCommerce businesses expect an easy-to update website and an integrated system that gives them a cohesive picture of their effectiveness.
The eCommerce features that will stand the test of time are the features that deliver on addressing both the consumers’ needs as well as the business needs to make their day-to-day life easier. Here are 8 features we believe will be here years from now.
1. Find In-Store and In-Store Pickup
Many companies run both brick-and-mortar stores and eCommerce websites, are using their internet presence to help support their physical stores by including find in-store and in-store pickup as options. For instance, Slice Intelligence reported that Sam's Club made almost one-third of the company's 2015 online revenue with the in-store pickup option. Other large retailers that have greatly benefited from this feature include KMart, Best Buy, and Toys "R" Us. For B2B eCommerce, the find-in store and in-store pickup can save you and the consumer on high shipping costs for bulk orders or heavy orders. It’s convenient for both consumer and businesses.
2. PunchOut Catalogs
This B2B feature offers a way for B2B customers to order from within their own procurement system. Basically, the buyer punches out from their own ordering system to order directly — and transparently — from their supplier. This simplifies many aspects of buying and and updating product information, plus allows the buyer to take advantage of integrations they already have in place. It can help attract larger accounts from businesses that demand this kind of functionality. PunchOut catalogs greatly simplifies many aspects of B2B eCommerce and provides consumers with the most current pricing, product descriptions, availability and a quicker delivery.
3. Return Policies
Sadly, returns are a fact of life for eCommerce websites. Online return rates can be as high as 50%, but your business can turn this into a positive if you remember that over 90 percent of shoppers say they will order again if they find the return process easy. Just about two-thirds of customers will check for a return policy before they make that first order. It's important to include return policies and a built-in process to make returns in order to gain trust and loyal customers and that’s not going to change.
4. Advanced Pricing Options
These days, customers may want to pay for their purchases with credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, and a number of other payment options. And in for B2B, large corporations or businesses may prefer to be invoiced on a monthly or quarterly basis rather paying for multiple purchases across the entire organization multiple times a day. Some businesses may even want to use e-checks. It's important for businesses to try to accommodate as many customers as possible with convenient payment alternatives. If you decide not to accept a particular payment option, you should probably include some mention of your reasons for that decision on your site. Along with payment options, online customers also tend to value transparency.
5. Mobile-Friendly Features
Really, it's past time to implement a mobile-friendly version of your eCommerce website. The tipping point has already been passed where more people spend online time on their smartphones and tablets than they do on laptop computers. At the same time, it's also important to make sure that the mobile version doesn't take anything away from the desktop and laptop site version because shopping conversions are still somewhat better on these traditional computers, according to Smart Insights.
6. Personalized Recommendations
If you've spent any time online, you have probably noticed personalized recommendations. Your social media feeds are personal recommendations of content you may like or find interesting. Amazon is the undisputed leader of personalized recommendations. These suggestions could be based upon the item that you are viewing, upon the items in your shopping cart, or upon past purchases that you have made. A good eCommerce platform automatically acts as a clever salesperson to help people find exactly what they want and even add-in value with upsells by delivering a customized user experience.
7. Shopping Lists
Sometimes called wish lists, this feature allows customers to save items that they may not be ready to purchase but hope to obtain in the future. Not only do these lists offer convenience to customers, they also give people a way to share their desires with their social networks, other shoppers or maybe even their boss.
8. Price Management
Both B2B and B2C online sellers may need to set prices differently across different channels, for different geographic locations, and even for various customers. Having a way to manage different pricing sets is particularly important as many companies sell globally and not just in their own backyard or country.
9. A Great Buyer and Seller Experience
Tested eCommerce features can offer buyers a great customer experience and they can help sellers operate more efficiently, which leads to greater profits because of this.