How to future proof your e-commerce shop

Even before the global COVID pandemic hit, Canada was a serious ecomm player. In 2019, with a revenue of US$30 billion, Canada was the eighth largest ecommerce market globally. 

global ecommerce marketshare

During lockdown, much like our waistlines (sigh), ecommerce ballooned. Research firm Absolunet estimated that e-commerce sales for Canadian merchants doubled in the period between 11 March and the end of April.

Not to be Obvious McObviousFace here, but retail stores with a pre-existing ecommerce presence benefitted the most during this time – and will continue to do so as we adapt to the new normal.

As we previously wrote, retailers have to consider whether they want to return to bricks after the clicks and mortar approach over the last few months. Physical retail won’t ever dissolve completely - but it will change unimaginably. And so will ecomm.

Things like having packages dropped with a drone delivery service would have been scoffed at as foolish a few years ago - and yet it is now a reality. You might not have thought that you'd be able to do your entire monthly shop from the palm of your hand. You definitely didn't ever think that artificial intelligence would actually exist beyond the silver screen (did you?)  - and yet here we are. 

Nothing accelerates change quite like challenges. But how do you stay ahead of the game? As many ecomm merchants learned during the global crisis and economic shutdown, they are not immune to some of the very real challenges faced by their physical cousins.

From having to navigate the logistical nightmare of border shutdowns, preventing import for those who rely on production material from further afield, to having to cope with getting a backlog of orders out without having Karen calling every ten minutes to find out why it was so late. (Again: sigh.) The learning curve was steep – and it could still be climbing.

A year ago, Shopify estimated that global eCommerce sales will skyrocket to $4.5 trillion by 2021. Considering the way the world has changed over the last six months, that forecast will most likely spike even further.

That also means the competition will increase - even for niche merchants. Suddenly, you might not be the only one selling those cutie pie trinkets made out of recycled egg cartons.  

Subscribe to my channel

My sales channel, that is. From Spotify to veggie boxes, subscriptions are a big deal in ecommerce. These subscriptions have more than doubled every year, climbing to $2.6 billion in 2018, according to a report by McKinsey.

As much as things that are novel (excluding that flipping coronavirus) are exciting, humans are creatures of habit. It may be harder to get us to try it out of the gate, but if we find something we like, we’ll stick with it.

Can your product be adapted to offer a subscription? Subscriptions can be anything from a curated box to an actual service. Offering a small discount for an upfront payment will also help put some cash in your kitty, giving you a bit of a cushion to help grow your product.

Set yourself apart from all the others by making sure you offer some kind of personalization to every single one of your subscribers.

Consider restrictions

As countries went into lockdown around the world, more people started shopping online for basic essentials like groceries. Many retailers weren’t prepared for what they had to deal with. The logistical systems in place were poor and buckled as soon as there was even an inkling of strain.

Is your ecommerce platform geared up for a sudden influx of traffic? What about your delivery partners? And your staff? If you are a medium sized merchant with members of staff who pack and ship orders – can they handle an increase in orders?

Or at the very least, stress test

If you do not want to limit your orders, make sure you stress test your systems. No matter how solid you think your infrastructure is, there will always be something that knocks it out. Sometimes it is not even the most obvious stressor that delivers the knockout blow.

Sure, you might want to see your business grow at rocket speed, but if you haven’t got the right fuel to make that happen, it might try to impersonate a SpaceX rocket.

Speak up

Voice search - our virtual friends better known as Cortana, Siri, Alexa and "HEY GOOGLE" - are becoming more normalized. Voice search queries are vastly different to the typed queries - which means you have to adapt your content accordingly. Write in a way that your customers speak.

Think global, think galactic

It might sound contradictory, but as much as travel closed in, the world has opened. 

Okay, hold fire on going galactic. It might be a little while yet before we send those delivery drones up to Mars. Thinking global does not mean you have to have a visible global presence. A Nielsen study found that most online shoppers had made a purchase from beyond their country's borders in a six-month period. Over 60% of Canadian respondents said that this was the case for them - but only 29% of US respondents had branched out.

This global shop front brings both challenges and opportunity.

You can appeal to customers in places you had never considered before, provided your price point is within their currency exchange range. Setting this up is no longer a challenge, with most reputable eCommerce platforms offering a straightforward multi-currency option and will have delivery partners all over the world.

But the shopping showroom is true for everyone – not just for you.

Customers will turn their touchpad faster than you can say page load if the experience is irksome at any point.

Remember what we said about stress testing those systems? Make sure you have used your ecommerce platform as if you were a customer. Find the kinks and fix ‘em.

Then smoke the competition with your rocket ship’s flames as it takes off to go make that delivery in our own little version of outer space.

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