There’s no doubt that the future of e-commerce for small businesses is booming. Americans, on average, own four digital devices and spend nearly 60 hours a week on them. Consumers are constantly connected, now more than ever, through this evolving digital world. They are adopting new technological habits, using smartphones, tablets and social media as a standard in everyday tasks.
The future of e-commerce is smarter, faster and a lot more promising for business owners.
Let’s not immediately rule out brick-and-mortar, however. There’s one major advantage that brick-and-mortar has over e-commerce; consumers can physically see, feel and test out a product. Online sales may be increasing every year, but physical stores are still dominating the purchasing decisions. According to the A.T. Kearney Omnichannel Shopping Preferences Study, consumers still prefer brick-and-mortar stores. As a matter of fact, 90 percent of shoppers across demographic and age groups would rather make a purchase in person than online.
A recent study from comScore reported that 86 million Americans use their smartphones to shop online. Two thirds of online shoppers visit a physical store before or after their online purchase to look at the product or compare it to another. People love getting out of their homes, shopping with others and touching things.
“A strategy based on leveraging the appeal of the physical store supported by digital is the best formula for capturing the maximum number of sales, building sustainable customer loyalty, and creating opportunities to cross-sell,” says A.T. Kearny partner and study co-author Andres Mendoza Pena.
Consumers are shopping anywhere and everywhere, thanks to technology. They are on their phones, tablets, PCs; basically anything that connects to the internet. Last year, online sales reached $1.2 billion in one day. Granted, it was one of the biggest shopping days of any year – Black Friday. International Data Corp. has predicted that by 2015 PC web usage will be outshined by the mobile web. If the time and resources aren’t quite there for an app or mobile site, a website optimized for mobile should exist, at the least.
Business has been done in the past without the use of social media or digital advertising. Why should you start now? No, the better question is, why haven’t you started? Social media marketing gets your product or service out to targeted consumers faster than any print marketing. With sites like Facebook, target markets can be more specific based on demographics, interests, etc. and sites like Twitter can get conversations going about your business. Each social media platform has a use that can be tailored to your business objectives. Social media advertising can be so powerful and beneficial; however, it’s important to be cautious of spreading too thin and maintain depth within social profiles.
For starters, digital coupons are much more eco-friendly; as well as cost efficient. In a comScore study, one-third of those surveyed reported that they prefer receiving coupons online versus any other method. The study also showed that 35 percent of participants thought digital coupons “helped with new ideas.” In other words, consumers would make purchases based on the coupons, even if those products were not necessarily on their initial list of items to buy.
There may not be a single winner just yet. Each has its benefits and advantages over the other. I think we can see, however, that as a team, brick-and-mortar and e-commerce are a solid setup for success. It’s important to adapt now to the growing technology and digital world because it’s likely that it will be the one to remain standing if and when brick-and-mortar is no more.