It's a reality; every year retailers work harder to make it easier for consumers to shop online, and at the same time consumer confidence in shopping online continues to rise.
A June 2010 IMRG study found that "online retail sales have increased 22% year on year," and that "this is the highest rate of increase in more than two years."
So why is this happening? Is it because there's more selection online? Is it because it's more convenient? Is it because retailers have become smarter and are giving consumers fewer reasons to say no?
I would argue it's a mixture of all of those reasons, but primarily it's because of the latter. So what have the leading online retailers done to give consumers a reason to buy online instead of in-store?
1. Reviews. If the well-informed consumer isn't going to read a review directly on your site, they're going to read it somewhere else. So why drive traffic away from your site? The best example of reviews done right is on Amazon. The ratings are averaged, you can comment on reviews and there is a nifty little side-by-side comparison of good vs. bad reviews.
2. Specs. The best online stores give consumers all the information they could ever want: accurate sizing charts for clothing; dimensions and weight; every possible spec for electronics. I have seen online shoe stores with print-off sizing charts, a great tool for converting skeptics!
3. Pictures and video. This may be the closest we can get to try it before you buy it. Pictures with a zoom feature and hi-res video of the product in action can help to convince the skeptic that the product is of the quality they expect.
4. Free Returns. Advertise free returns; just about every product sold on TV does, so why shouldn't online retailers? And many do; even though some consumers may opt to return a product they are dissatisfied with, free returns have an overwhelmingly positive effect on easing consumer hesitation.
5. Free Samples. This of course isn't going to apply to kitchen appliances and high-end electronics, but it will apply to a lot of digital media. An excerpt from a book, a preview of an mp3 or a trailer to a movie; all of these in essence let consumers try it before they buy it.
There is one emerging technology on the frontier of online shopping that promises tremendous gains for eCommerce: 3D visualization. Simply put, the ability for you to take a virtual product and spin it around.
A June 2010 survey conducted by Infogroup's Opinion Research Corporation found that:
- More than 80 percent of consumers say online 3D images make them more likely to purchase a product.
- 65 percent say they would be less likely to return a product after viewing it in 3D online.
- 78 percent say 3D images make them "comfortable" that the product they are viewing is high quality.
- About 60 percent say they would be more likely to purchase if they had 3D instructions showing how to assemble and use a product.
- Though consumers say 3D makes them more likely to buy and less likely to return products, only 31 percent say they would pay more for a product they see in 3D online. In other words, they prefer 3D and expect to see it.
- Preference for 3D images online increases with income: half of those with annual incomes below $35,000 prefer 3D images of something they are interested in buying, while 70 percent with annual incomes of $100,000 or more prefer 3D.
- Consumers under 65 prefer viewing 3D website images of products they are interested in buying, while consumers over 65 prefer print brochures.
It's clear that 3D visualization will inevitably become the new norm for online retailers. In conjunction with the other tips outlined in this blog, online retailers can actively make strides towards increasing their online revenue.
If you're looking to create a full-featured online store complete with 3D visualization, WebCanada in partnership with Front60 provides an out-of-the-box solution that can be fine-tuned to fit your business.
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