Ecommerce giants like Amazon are becoming stronger, and ecommerce as a whole is experiencing growth at an unprecedented level.

However, there's one statistic that is slightly disconcerting for many retailers. 

A new report by and Forrester Research revealed a startling fact: 2015 online sales were flat for 17% of 195 surveyed retailers.

This doesn't sound too bad until you realize that 2014's report only indicated flat sales for 3% of survey respondents.

It's up to retailers in 2016 to provide a lift in their plateaued conversion rates and take their market share back from giants like Amazon.

But how? Amazon introduced groundbreaking technology in the past year, and it has vast resources that would make any retailer jealous.

The best way to lift sales is simple: stand out from competitors in the eyes of consumers. Doing this, however, is easier said than done.

The secret to standing out from your competitors lies in three factors: unique product offerings, great prices and policies, and helpful customer service.

Here's how to master all three.

Assortment optimization

If you're the only seller of a certain product, of course you'll come to mind when a consumer is looking for it.

But what does it take to build a unique product assortment? Two words: competitive intelligence.

Use competitive intelligence to find out where you stand in comparison to your competitors' assortments.

This way you can find out which products only you have, and use them to your advantage when it comes to marketing and promotional strategies. Purchase keywords related to those unique items to take advantage of search engine traffic.

You can also use this assortment data to know when more competitive prices are necessary. The products with competitive overlap are going to warrant closer attention when it comes to their prices.

If you have a lot of competitive pressure, your prices generally need to reflect that. On the other hand, if you're the only seller, capitalize and maximize revenue when possible.

Great prices & fulfilment policies

Prices and policies are two of the greatest tools retailers can use to remove the fear of buyer's remorse from consumers' minds.

However, having the right price does not always mean having the lowest price. A higher price with a helpful return or shipping policy can be more useful than a low price with a mediocre policy. 

However, competitive prices are still useful when you have a lot of retailers fighting for the shopper's attention.

Roughly 65% of shoppers will actually spend 15 minutes or more on comparison shopping engines to make sure they're getting the best price possible.

But sometimes having the lowest price just isn't possible, and that's where great return and shipping policies can come into play.

About 82% of shoppers want free shipping at the time of checkout, and 88% will review your return policy..

No one wants to pay extra for something like shipping because it has nothing to do with the actual product they're purchasing, just the cost of the service performed by the retailer.

Remove this stigma with free shipping thresholds, since 43% of shoppers will add more to their cart to qualify for free shipping.

Helpful customer service

Amazon is known to have killer customer service, so step your own game up. Live chat has become the norm to help shoppers throughout their shopping presence. It answers any questions that go beyond the product description.

As successful as live chat is, many retailers have adopted it already. You need innovative ways to improve your customer service online.

Some online retailers have taken to the brick and mortar realm to aid shoppers in their purchase decisions and give them the opportunity to try items on before committing to a purchase.

This is where omnichannel retail comes into play and it’s going to be huge in 2016. Early adopters will reap the benefits before the rest of the industry plays catch up, so make sure to stay ahead of the game and embrace innovation.

Doing so can help you stand out from your competitors.

Ecommerce is growing, but if sales are staying flat that's indicative of the giants becoming larger and the smaller retailers standing still at best.

It's time to take the power back. Don't hesitate on new technological advancements, and instead make yourself out to be an innovator to improve the shopping experience on your site.

For more on this topic, read:

Ari Shpanya

Published 5 February, 2016 by Ari Shpanya

Ari is the co-founder of HomeShare and Zent , Graduate of the GSB Stanford Ignite program, and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Pretty sure that when you say "conversion rates" you actually mean "sales". I think it's generally accepted that conversion rates for most types of digital marketing are falling as brands do more of it and shoppers react less strongly as a result . But sales are generally rising because, as I said, brands are doing more digital marketing and that more than compensates.

On the wider issue, here are 6 proven technical ways to boost sales:
1. Cart Abandonment Emails,
2. Browse Abandonment Emails,
3. Personalized Recommendations on Email Campaigns and Product Pages,
4. Email Address Capture Forms,
5. Automatic Daily or Weekly Emails,
6. Personalized Home Page

over 2 years ago

Richard Hussey

Richard Hussey, Owner at RSH Copywriting

If only it were that simple. While I don't disagree with anything in the article a brand could easily follow all of that advice and not see any uplift in conversions.

Passing over the issue of the sample size (how representative is a sample of 195 retailers?), I'd be interested to know what the sites with flat conversion rates have done to improve user experience and convenience in the face of stiffer competition.

What data and insights into user behaviour have they used to identify specific issues users might be having? To solve a problem you fist have to isolate exactly what's causing it.

Unless I misunderstood the point, haven't large, established retailers being doing omnichannel for some time?

over 2 years ago

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