With 2012 behind us, it’s time to take a look at the state of online commerce and where it will go from here. As people continue to spend more money and time online, 2013 may be the year we see a genuine shift in how companies and customers interact. Consumers are demanding more than brick-and-mortar retailers can offer, creating new opportunities for eCommerce merchants large and small alike.
Below, we discuss 5 trends that businesses need to be aware of in order to stay ahead of the game in 2013.
1. Security gets serious
Hackers were very busy last year, with multiple big-name brands hit with cyberattacks and countless others affected in less publicized incidents. Unfortunately, the outlook for 2013 doesn’t look much better as cybercriminals continue to follow the money. With eCommerce sales topping $40 Billion for the first time this holiday season, these incidents are predicted to increase over the next 12 months.
Merchants need to learn from the mistakes of their peers and take necessary steps to proactively protect themselves and their customers. If your business is not fully PCI complaint, now is the time to invest resources into this process. The cost of a breach will only go up over time, and many small retailers will not be able to cope with the consequences. By preparing for the worst early on, online retailers will be able to weather the security storm to come.
2. Fast, free shipping or bust
With eCommerce giant Amazon already testing same-day delivery, customers across the board may start to expect cheap, expedited shipping from all merchants they buy from. As we saw during the holiday season, industry leaders are setting precedence for fast, free shipping regardless of order amount.
When assessing your business strategy, it will be important to decide how you want to structure shipping in 2013 and beyond. Not offering free shipping for at least some orders will most likely result in considerably less conversions than in years past.
3. Rise of the SMB
The number of small to medium-sized online retailers will continue to grow as website creation and maintenance becomes easier. The technical eCommerce barriers of the past are quickly disappearing, which will open the door to a multitude of opportunities for specialized merchants in the New Year.
As shoppers move away from mass-market retailers in favor of more niche options, customization and focus will be an important part of success. Taking advantage of security features to build trust among consumers will help small businesses compete with larger, more established counterparts.
4. Testing, testing, testing
Companies have always experimented with testing to improve customers’ online experience, but testing is quickly becoming mandatory if retailers are to efficiently turn browsers into buyers. Best practices for site optimization can vary widely from site to site, and testing is the most effective way to determine optimal website design and maximize return on investment.
Continuously adapting for changes in consumer behavior and preferences will be key to increasing sales, and companies that don’t test will quickly fall behind the curve this year.
5. Tablets take all
Nearly every website saw increased traffic from smartphones and tablets in 2012, and this trend will only increase in 2013 as tablets race to outsell traditional desktops. With tablet conversion rates twice as high as those from mobile, online retailers must accommodate this shift by developing and perfecting their tablet-specific sites.
Having a responsive site that’s adaptive, no matter how it is being viewed (desktop, mobile phone, or tablet device), will be the new norm. Many merchants have yet to catch up, and they risk being left behind if they don’t adopt a responsive design strategy.
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