Currently 18.43 million South Africans make use of ecommerce, more commonly known as online shopping, with an additional 6.36 million users expected to be shopping online by 2021, spending a predicted average of over R3000 per session.
It is clear then that the ecommerce landscape is one that businesses simply cannot ignore. Online shopping, even further accelerated by COVID -19 due to people not wanting to be in crowded spaces such as shopping centres, is here to stay.
The recent development of a Virtual Showroom, to replace one of the world’s largest exhibitions, clearly demonstrates that the digital world holds the key to future proofing businesses beyond COVID -19.
By giving customers access to a virtual showroom, they are given the experience of “being there”, which is sorely missing in so many online shopping platforms.
When entering the ecommerce landscape, it is important to consider some of the trends, behaviours and developments to create an understanding of what is needed to successfully move your business into the digital space.
Understanding consumer behaviour
Tech-savvy retail businesses are considered the businesses most likely to come out of the current crisis thriving. This means the first step to doing business online is to understand how consumers behave and what drives this behaviour.
The shift to ecommerce shopping has increased since COVID -19 and will continue to do so. With the modern consumer population mostly confined to their homes, people are using this time to start or plan DIY home improvements or even more extensive renovation projects.
Engaging the customer
Consumer engagement in the digital space is more than just a website. Countless developments in virtual reality mean that consumers expect more from their online experience. They want an experience beyond seeing the product from different angles – they want to be “fully immersed”.
Nowadays consumers expect an interactive online platform that allows them to replace the in-store experience in a fun, creative almost game-like atmosphere. Modern day platforms also allow customers to talk directly to businesses as they would when visiting a bricks-and-mortar store.
Understanding buying in a digital space
Beyond creating an engaging platform, business owners also need to consider the digital consumers’ preferences before building an online experience. Some considerations are:
• Where will the consumer be able to access your products? If it is only web-based, you may be missing a vital market – the mobile phone user.
• Offering online purchasing is paramount. This means the best and most used purchase methods. In our country, there is a need for online stores to offer a variety of secure online payment options, not only credit cards. According to IOL, the preferred payment methods of South Africans shopping online as of August 2019 are: Credit card (45%), debit card (21%), bank transfer (20%), PayPal (7%) and other at (8%).
• Does the offer include a delivery option and at what price? How do consumers feel about paying for deliveries? This is a cost to the business and another vital consideration to ensure that the customer returns to your platform.
Mobile is a must
South Africans love their mobile phones! As many as 18% of South African internet users made an online purchase with a mobile phone in the past month alone, which is why it is vital that online shopping be accessible to mobile phone users. Card companies such as Visa have realised that it must be easy to shop online and are investing significant research into how to make this simpler for card users.
Closing the loop
All the crucial steps in the buying journey – from inspiration to purchasing – are needed to create a viable online solution for businesses.
The new generation of consumers has always loved an interactive online experience. Older generations have recently increased their online purchasing. Even more importantly, future generations will expect a seamless omni-channel buying experience.
To adapt to the “new normal”, it has become clear that businesses cannot ignore that the digital space is where commerce is moving to and that seeking ways of continuously improving upon the online customer experience is essential to making it work.
Acknowledgement and thanks go to NeoCon for the information contained in this article.
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