When you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur, many details demand your attention remain solidly n the present. The success of your store depends on making savvy decisions, sometimes on short notice. Day-to-day operations account for a significant chunk of your time, energy and budget. It’s easy, and sometimes necessary, to put future planning on the back burner as you work to address more immediate needs.
But to remain competitive, you must keep an eye on the future as well as the present. To reach your larger ecommerce goals, now is the time to start planning your ecommerce future.
Forecasting Industry Trends
Your product lineup will inevitably change and grow over time. The only way to make savvy decisions is to keep abreast of the developments within your retail sector. Sure, customers want Product X this season. But what about next season? Are your competitors moving toward Product X 2.0 or even Products Y and Z? Which features are customer favorites, and which could use updating next time you reimagine your product catalogue?
It’s also imperative to keep an eye on larger industry trends in ecommerce. The ways in which people shop online and buy products change over time. For example, subscription box models are currently rising in prominence because they offer customers the convenience of recurring order fulfillment, over manual one-off purchases. This is the immediate future, but what will come after that? You have to look ahead.
Delivering Personalized Experiences
How people buy products online is just as important, if not more so, as what they choose to buy. In general, customers are seeking a more convenient and personalized ecommerce journey from start to finish.
Convenience is paramount to earning conversions and building up a loyal customer base. This necessitates offering a smooth, seamless path to purchase—for both desktop and mobile devices. Navigation and search functions are vital tools in this journey. Customers also expect responsive customer service, which is why many forward-thinking ecommerce stores are implementing artificial intelligence-driven solutions like chat bots. Failing to smooth out snags will only lead to higher page abandonment and reduced customer satisfaction with your company as a whole.
Personalization in ecommerce entails engaging with customers on their terms. In other words, customers don’t just want to shop at any online store; they want to feel like a brand is meeting their wants and needs as they occur. For example, machine learning is increasingly allowing websites to use data to cater their messaging and support to customers in the moment. Incorporating personalization into your site typically requires utilizing customer data to the fullest. Understanding insights related to your target audience will help you deliver effective experiences throughout your funnel.
Anything you can do to make every customer feel accommodated and understood will increase the chances of earning their business. Conversely, missing these opportunities will only alienate customers—perhaps even prompting them to seek out a better experience from another store.
Ensuring Scalability for Growth
Downtime is very costly for ecommerce websites. There’s the actual cost of missed revenue opportunities, of course. But there are other types of damage to consider. Inc. lays out a few of the tangential costs of site crashes and glitches:
- Detrimental to your company’s image
- Customer frustration
- Cost of identifying and fixing the problem
- Technical support expenses
If all goes well, you’ll need to anticipate future growth. Your website will need to accommodate an increasing volume of traffic, especially during special promotions and holiday sales. Websites that fail to scale will have a hard time increasing revenue and retaining customers. The best way to plan for spikes in traffic and sales volume is to choose a scalable cloud-based ecommerce platform. This will ensure maximum uptime, fewer site issues for customers and peace of mind as you expand your ecommerce empire.
Implementing Lasting Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is make-or-break for ecommerce enterprises of all shapes and sizes; just one successful attack can compromise your customers’ personal and financial information. A comprehensive cybersecurity strategy has two components: implementing security measures for your site and boosting customer trust so they feel confident making purchases from your site.
Encryption is a key foundational element of protecting the data your website collects. According to one Forbes contributor, the future for cybersecurity in ecommerce features companies moving toward decentralized systems plus blockchain technology. It’s safe to assume hackers are always advancing their techniques, so a decentralized approach to cybersecurity makes it more difficult for them to find a “door” through which they can enter.
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance continues to be of the utmost importance for retailers. This helps establish a baseline for protecting the electronic payment information of your customers. But, as one cybersecurity expert notes, even when you achieve PCI compliance at a certain point in time, you are not guaranteed automatic continued compliance: “Just because you’re compliant this year doesn’t mean you’ll be compliant next year.”
Which goes to show how cybersecurity is an ongoing effort—one that bridges the present and the future. Failing to update your systems and plan for future growth will be extremely detrimental to your businesses’ activities as well as its long-term viability. Complacency in this regard can be the invitation a hacker needs to target your online store.
Your Ecommerce Future: The Bottom Line
Ecommerce has progressed in leaps and bounds since even a year ago. As artificial intelligence technology and mobile adoption continue to surge, retailers will have to adapt or risk falling behind competitors. The key is continuing to understand, through data and analytics, what customers are looking for and how they want to obtain it. Then, it’s a matter of facilitating a conducive experience through a high-performing website that’s both secure and scalable.
Ecommerce entrepreneurs of the world, don’t delay. Now is the best and only time to start planning for your ecommerce future.