The Internet hasn’t yet sounded the death knell on brick-and-mortar stores, but it has swallowed up a good chunk of the business they transact. In 2018 more than 5,000 retail stores shut shop in the United States, and that number rose last year. While the closures were not exclusively due to increased e-commerce business, it was undoubtedly a key factor. 

The march toward increased e-commerce is relentless, but it is a constantly evolving animal. How e-commerce is done today is not how it was done ten years ago. It would be best if you stay up-to-date of the changes in online businesses, or you’ll fare no better than the physical shops that are closing in droves. So how do you ensure you remain on the e-commerce gravy train going into 2020?

Strengthen your UX design

As e-commerce replaces brick-and-mortar, your website will serve as your store’s ever-present salesman. It, therefore, needs to offer a user experience that will leave an instant and lasting positive impression on any visitor. Here are some things you can focus on to improve your UX:

  • Increase your site’s loading speed – The longer visitors have to wait for content to load, the higher their chances of losing patience and leaving even before they understand your value proposition. Every extra millisecond visitors have to wait could cost you up to 1 percent of your revenue. Conversely, faster pages could bring up your gains by up to 12 percent. 
  • Present information clearly – Use short paragraphs and segment key information with easy-to-digest bullet points. Clever use of white spaces between sentences and paragraphs will help readers better focus on the information you’re presenting. 

Images can also do wonders for your UX if used wisely. Replacing stock photos with images that better reflect your brand goes a long way toward increasing visitors’ confidence in what you’re selling. Play around with the layout—try asymmetrical designs or split-screen layouts to avoid a boring presentation.

  • Use mobile-friendly pages – In the age of broadband Internet on handheld devices, you’re selling yourself short if your site doesn’t offer a good mobile experience. Indeed, customers should be able to access information in almost the same way they do on a computer. They should also be able to complete a purchase on the go if they so wish. Not being mobile compatible can also see you penalized by Google. 
  • Subscription models – Offer your potential customers the option of paying via monthly/yearly subscriptions. As opposed to one-off payments, this method guarantees your continual income, prolonging your engagement with your customer. 

Subscriptions also offer customers the ability to access products or services as they need them without having to worry about having enough money, at that moment, to pay. 

  • Provide a chatbot – Chatbots are a great way to get customer feedback in real-time through both the website and messaging apps. Surveys have shown that people are now spending more time on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and the like as opposed to social media sites. Chatbots use artificial intelligence to simulate a conversation with an actual salesperson. But the beauty of chatbots is that they can be available 24/7 and at a fraction of the cost.  
  • Implement virtual reality – VR technology may have been initially envisioned as a way of enhancing entertainment experiences. Still, it was just a matter of time before it crossed over into the world of commerce. V-commerce, as it is now being called, is helping retailers reach their target in exciting new ways. 

A popular sneaker brand is using this technology to allow shoppers to try out shoes virtually by projecting an image of the desired shoe model onto their feet. Car sellers can offer potential buyers a virtual test drive, giving them an accurate feel of the car’s interior. VR is, without a doubt, one of the hottest UX design trends to look out for in 2020.

E-commerce is a Moving Target

The days you could afford to do business without an online presence are all but gone. But merely designing a website and adding e-commerce functionality to it is not enough. Even as they employ various techniques to optimize their returns from e-commerce, businesses should keep an eye on the future to take advantage of emerging trends to increase their competitive edge. What was once the stuff of sci-fi movies is very quickly becoming a reality, so enterprises need to keep an open mind and be adaptable.

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