3 Ways to be Competitive in Online Retail

By Vangie Beal | Posted March 04, 2013

It's an exciting time for ecommerce: the year is still relatively new, and it's time for business owners to look at what needs to doing to stay ahead of the game for the rest of the year.  

While industry firms like NRF and eMarketer forecast a positive outlook for the year ahead, online retailers do face challenges. Experts say you should expect to see some slow down prior to the holiday selling season, and you should be prepared for a new wave of online shoppers.

One of the big things to understand is that while more people will be shopping online this year, they will be budget-conscious. Many of these new customers will start shopping online because they are looking for low everyday prices, but they will also spend less money per transaction. Small business retailers will also need to compete for another type of consumer: the mobile shopper. Make no mistake; it's extremely important to offer mobile-optimized versions of your website.

Small Business Computing spoke with ecommerce experts to find out what you need to do this year to stay relevant to consumers and one step ahead of your retail competition online. Here's what they had to say.

Be Competitive with Your Mobile Presence

Despite earlier predications mobile didn't mature in 2012 as many had expected, but we're seeing increased mobile traffic today, mainly from smartphones and tablets going to websites.

According to Matthew Winn, marketing communications manager for Volusion, the problem is that small business owners simply don't see conversions happening in mobile, and they don’t view a mobile Web presence as a big priority. "What these small business owners aren't looking at, however, is the increase in mobile device traffic to the website," he said.

The big thing to know about mobile optimization is that it results in a good user experience for customers. Winn said that, typically, consumers may conduct the product research using a mobile device (perhaps on the bus or subway on the commute to and from work), but they complete the transaction using a desktop computer either at home or at work. 

"More and more traffic comes from mobile sources, and it will continue to grow," said Winn. "I recommend that small businesses leverage mobile optimization from within their ecommerce software if it's available, or hire in a third-party so they can give consumers a generally optimized mobile experience."

What's difficult for small online retailers, according to Winn, is that they compete with the Amazons and Best Buys for customers, and this is where having a good mobile presence is critical.

"If you have two shopping options – a small mom-and-pop shop that has the same price as the larger retailer – but you have to fumble around with your thumbs or make three extra clicks on the small business site, it's easier for the customer to abandon the site and shop elsewhere," said Winn.

Winn said a mobile presence is a must-have to be competitive in online retail, but you don't need the most amazing mobile presence in all of Web development. "Small businesses with the mobile basics in place are moving in the right direction," he said.



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