Understanding the Engine of Ecommerce: Ignitions and Tailpipes

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

engine-marketingIn some ways, ecommerce is a lot like a car; the general concept is easy to understand, but in reality, it takes a lot of small pieces working in unison to get the desired effect. Ecommerce is more than just people clicking on a button to buy things online. It encompasses the entire sales process of getting people to a website, motivated to buy and to finish the checkout process. Understanding how the individual components of ecommerce contribute to the whole is important for marketers. Knowing how the engines of ecommerce function can help marketers create better campaigns and get more people to buy on their site. This article will focus on the ignition system (consumer motivation) and tailpipe (checkout issues) of your ecommerce engine.

A key component in the engines of ecommerce is motivation. Motivation is like the ignition switch of a car, it’s what gets the whole process started. The global marketplace is large and diverse, so getting people to choose to buy a certain product and to buy from a certain retailer makes up a big part of the challenge. Recent research from Forrester sheds some light on the reasons why people visit a certain site. According to their data, 39 percent of US adults who have visited a manufacturer’s website have done so to get product information. This was the most cited reason is shows that most people enter the sales funnel looking for information and not to make a purchase. However, once in the sales funnel, a good site with a good price can get the person to buy in the end.

This shows the importance of providing a lot of useful information about a product to consumers in an easy-to-understand format. Even though this statistic from Forrester is specifically about manufacturer websites, the point remains valid for all ecommerce sites. People want information most of all.  Searching for information was cited by more people as reason for manufacturer’s website than “to buy a product”, which accounted for 31 percent of traffic, and “to find a coupon” which accounted for 22 percent.

Even though coupons ranked third among reasons people went to a manufacturer’s website, there’s still a tremendous value in using them. If one in five consumers are searching for coupons, this is audience that is worth catering to. People don’t look for coupons just so they can say they saw a good coupon. People who are looking for coupons are normally preparing to buy an item, making them a good target audience for marketers.

Another thing business owners and marketers should keep in mind is that things at the tail end of the sales process matter just as much as things at the start. To continue the car metaphor, the checkout process is like the tailpipe of a car; if the checkout process is clogged the ecommerce engine won’t run.  Many people visit a website, add items to the cart, but then abandon the cart at the last step. A recent study by L2 found that 68 percent of online retail shopping carts are abandoned before purchase. There are a lot of potential reasons this could happen and online retailers shouldn’t immediately give up on those potential sales.

Sending triggered emails to these customers may be a way to bring them back into the sales funnel. The L2 report noted that 56 percent of US sportswear brands send emails after customers abandon online shopping carts before purchase, compared to 23 percent back in 2013, which shows the triggered email response trend is on the rise.

Online retailers should also be wary of things that can lead to cart abandonment. One thing to consider is that shipping costs may be scaring off customers right before checkout. According to the Forrester report cited above, 57 percent of US online consumers consider shipping costs when making purchases. This is backed up by recent data from comScore which found that 68 percent of US online shoppers will not make purchases with retailers that do not offer free returns shipping.

A lot of online retailers offer free shipping which is the best way to go if possible. Consumers have become used to seeing free shipping as an option and any price for shipping greater than $0 can quickly lead people to start a search for a retailer with a similarly priced product with a lower shipping costs.

There are a many parts of the ecommerce engine to focus on but it’s important to address issues at the start and finish. Motivating people to visit a site and getting them to complete the checkout process are vital parts of any ecommerce plan. For more information on creating a better ecommerce site, read this article with 10 stats that will make you a better marketer.


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