In recent years, ecommerce has become an increasingly popular way for consumers to shop. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend, with 62% of American consumers now shopping online more than ever before. For small businesses, this presents a unique opportunity to boost sales and reach a wider audience. In this beginner’s guide, we will explore how small business owners can prepare for the influx of online shoppers and leverage mobile and new technologies to their advantage.
The Growth of Ecommerce
The second quarter of 2020 witnessed a remarkable 75% growth in ecommerce compared to the same period in 2019. This growth even outperformed the peak sales season of 2019. This trend is expected to continue in 2021, with over 2.14 billion people worldwide projected to purchase goods and services online. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives, businesses should anticipate a surge in website visitors looking to make online purchases.
Preparing for Increased Website Traffic
To ensure a seamless shopping experience for your customers, it is crucial to prepare your website for the influx of visitors. Slow loading times can significantly impact conversions, with even a one-second delay reducing conversions by 7%. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to optimize your website’s load time. One effective strategy is to compress images, finding the right balance between file size and image quality. Numerous free image compressing tools are available online to assist you in this process. For larger online stores or websites experiencing higher than expected traffic, upgrading your web hosting plan to one that offers more bandwidth may be necessary. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data, such as media and content, that can be transferred from your web server to your users. As visitor numbers increase, so does the amount of data that needs to be transferred.
The Importance of Mobile Optimization
While desktop devices still lead in terms of sales, mobile devices generate a significant amount of traffic. The pandemic has further increased the popularity of mobile browsing, with 45% of consumers reporting that they use their phones more frequently for shopping since the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that your website’s design is responsive on mobile devices. Creating a website that works well on both desktops and smartphones is easier than ever, especially if you are using a website builder. Mobile purchases were predicted to account for 72.9% of total global ecommerce spend by 2021, amounting to $3.56 trillion. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, ecommerce traffic on mobile devices grew by 25% across all industries. Mobile devices play a vital role in every stage of the customer journey, with 58% of multi-device purchases utilizing mobile as a transitional touchpoint.
The Rise of New Tech in Ecommerce
In addition to mobile optimization, new technology trends are shaping the customer experience and providing merchants with new channels to explore. Voice shopping, facilitated by voice control devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, has gained significant popularity. One in five smart speaker owners already engage in voice commerce, and the pandemic has further accelerated the adoption of voice assistants. Chatbots are another emerging technology that is transforming the customer experience. Google search volume for “chatbots” has increased 19 times in the last five years. More than half of customers express a preference for businesses that offer chatbot interactions. Implementing chatbots can also yield cost savings, with merchants potentially saving up to 30% on customer service spending. Beyond customer service, chatbots can also benefit areas such as sales, marketing, and order processing.
As ecommerce continues to dominate the retail landscape, small businesses must adapt to meet the demands of online shoppers. By optimizing their websites for increased traffic, ensuring mobile responsiveness, and embracing new technologies like voice shopping and chatbots, small business owners can thrive in the ever-evolving ecommerce landscape. The opportunities for growth are significant, and by staying informed and proactive, businesses can reap the rewards of this digital revolution.