Mobile technology is a significant disruptor which is driving a boom in e-commerce sales. The UK has the highest smartphone penetration in Europe, and its e-commerce market has one of the highest shares of the consumer retail wallet, neck-and-neck with China at 20%. In 2016, more purchases were made on mobile devices than desktops, accounting for 64% of Black Friday purchases in the UK, according to ChannelAdvisor’s data. It’s lucrative – and also helps brands create new paths to consumers.

Yet this opportunity comes with a downside. The ‘always-on’ economy is breeding consumers that are in a hurry and on-the-go, with shorter attention spans. How can retailers attract and maintain their attention in order to get ahead? Here are five crucial strategies for online retailers to keep up with the market changes:

1. Mobile rules

In Q4 2016, for the first time in history, we saw the majority of orders from mobile phones. Retailers must go where their customers are. In short, you have to put mobile first. It’s not about desktop 2.0 – it’s about a new class of winners taking share from incumbents. Particularly if you’re a smaller or unknown brand, poor performance could quickly ‘bounce’ customers away from you; but it’s also an opportunity to differentiate with exceptional service.

There are some easy wins. Fundamentally, don’t make it difficult to buy from you. Think about navigation – does your check out process work easily on a phone? Are your payment methods mobile-friendly? Consumers are increasingly expecting easy options such as ApplePay and PayPal. Do not neglect them to avoid losing potential customers.

2. Reaching your audience

To really succeed with mobile, you now need a multifaceted strategy, not just optimised navigation and a responsive mobile website. And it does pay to get personal. A true ‘mobile-first’ strategy should also incorporate personalised social campaigns.

Dynamic product ads are a good place to start. Exploiting data pulled on consumer browsing and purchasing behaviour, these highly-targeted adverts enable retailers to personalise marketing offerings and significantly improve customer experience. Offered by both Facebook and Instagram, dynamic product ads can hugely increase potential reach while also being a very efficient and effective means of targeting the right users.

When it comes to product advertising, we have seen Google and Bing increase in popularity with our customers. Meanwhile, for retailers looking to influence consumers at the point of purchase, Amazon’s sponsored product ads and headline search ads are a great option and easy to action.

3. Work the marketplace

Most consumers will now start – and finish - their purchasing journeys via a marketplace such as Amazon or eBay. With millions of unique visitors, almost infinite choice, and an excellent user experience, marketplaces are fast becoming a one-stop-shop. For smaller retailers, these sites are a fantastic way to get products in front of new customers who may never have found them through organic search. With sophisticated features such as ready-made auctioning tools and multiple listings, they give maximum return for minimum effort. Meanwhile, services such as Fulfilment by Amazon, as well as logistics and distribution, mean they are now much easier for boutique retailers to use. Diversification is also key – make sure you’re going beyond Amazon and eBay to gain maximum exposure.

4. Order fulfilment

We’re now seeing logistics as the next hot topic for e-commerce, with an increasing demand for quicker shipping. Two-day free delivery has become table stakes. With eight out of ten consumers shopping online if offered free shipping, delivery is therefore as important – if not more so – than boosting traffic to your website. Amazon once again wins at the delivery game, with its Fulfilment option, but others are following its lead.

5. Cultivate your brand

Making the leap to brand status is one of the most challenging hurdles for a retailer. While there aren’t any shortcuts, you can get it right from the start. First comes the quality product, then getting the pricing right. Differentiation can also really help to carve out a niche. While customer service can be trickier to manage against the scale of big brands, taking advantage of the excellent service offered by big marketplaces can help. Using Amazon’s brand registry to list your products can help retailers to exert more control over listings, with brand gating as an added extra to safeguard intellectual property.


By Adam Joseph, director of client services at ChannelAdvisor

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