What We Learned About eCommerce in 2014
For retailers, 2014 has been a standout year when it comes to pushing a digital strategy. It has been marked by increased growth of eCommerce, the further emergence of mobile, and advent of email as mobile’s major marketing channel. A look at some of the standout statistics of 2014 helps to layout the direction of eCommerce for 2015.
This year’s ecommerce outlook was bolstered by a record setting holiday shopping season. This year’s Black Friday weekend in particular saw a number of lifts over last year including a 14% increase in online sales on Thanksgiving day and a record 17% boost on Cyber Monday (the first to exceed two billion in sales) according to comScore. Even with these record setting numbers, the success of this year’s eCommerce efforts extend beyond the holiday season. Q3 2014 was the 20th consecutive quarter to show double digit growth in ecommerce sales in the US.
With all this success, however, there is still room to improve. According to a Loyalty360 survey, there are still some shortcomings that eCommerce needs to overcome. In particular, consumer frustrations peaked with online items being out of stock (60%), lack of product information (52%), and incongruous impressions between online and in-store items (47%).
If there was anyone left who thought that email marketing had gone the way of the dinosaur, 2014 should serve as definitive proof that it is alive and well. Not only 95% of online consumers use email and 70% of them prefer email communication over text messages or direct mail, but email has emerged to be the biggest marketing channel on mobile phones driving 27% of mobile retail orders.
For recipients, the most desirable emails are personalized and image based. According to MailerMailer, email campaigns with personalized content yielded the highest open rates of 17.6%. In addition, according to a 2014 survey from Hubspot, nearly 70% of respondents stated that they preferred image heavy email campaigns over those that were more text dominant. Both of these trends make the argument for email merchandising in 2015 an easy one.
Mobile continues to be a major disruption to the eCommerce status quo serving as the dividing line between a winning and losing online sales strategy. According to a comScore study for Internet Retailer, apps continue to dominate online experience with 52% of online time spent in smartphones and tablet apps and only 8% spent in mobile browsers (the remaining 40% of the time is spent in web browsers on desktops). According to IBM Analytics, it is the first time that mobile surpassed desktop in this regard. As a result, US retailers are recognizing the value of mobile with 77% of them maintaining mobile apps and 70 percent operating mobile optimized websites.
With the advent of mobile, email undergoes the biggest disruption out of all marketing channels. While 66% of the emails are opened on mobile devices, only 11% of emails are optimized for mobile. It seems that retailers understand the importance of mobile-optimized browsing experience but are yet to realize the importance of mobile-friendly email experience. This is a bad news considering that email plays an increasing role in mobile commerce.
Looking at 2015
Moving forward, we are looking to continued shift of physical retail to the online world and increased importance of eCommerce. Accordingly, retailers active in eCommerce will have to continue to work on tying up loose ends. This includes refining apps and websites for mobile and mastering the art of responsive merchandised email with the understanding that the driving force that is mobile will only continue to grow.
While retailers are doing a great job creating mobile optimized shopping experiences within apps and mobile web sites, email experience seems to be lagging behind. It is unfortunate given that email is emerging to be the biggest marketing channel on mobile phones driving 27% of mobile retail orders just this year. Retailers who master mobile-friendly experience for both email and direct shopping experience will most assuredly win out over the competition in the coming year.
Image courtesy Maria Elena