Pay Close Attention to the Merchant Behind the Screen

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
With online shopping now being a customary activity for seven out of every 10 Internet users, online retailers must aim to make a traditionally transactional experience much more user friendly.

Why Online Retailers Must be Social

You may remember where you were when you bought your favorite pair of shoes or the person you were with when you ordered that hard-to-find collectible that completed your set.The act of buying has always been part of our social DNA- whether it's the story behind a product or a recommendation/referral from a friend-shopping is a social activity.

With online shopping now being a customary activity for seven out of every 10 Internet users, online retailers must aim to make a traditionally transactional experience much more user friendly.The benefits are essential for the lifecycle of a retailer-potentially resulting in higher sales and increased engagement, with a more comprehensive online shopping experience increasing the amount of time online shoppers' spend browsing.

With the growth in online shopping we're finding that the experience has come to represent many things, from curation to sharing, to getting recommendations, and of course for communicating.To date, e-commerce has been all about getting what you need quickly and inexpensively.This can be useful for some consumers based on the need, but there's an interesting change in consumer behavior emerging. With online social networks now fully integrated in our lives, shopping has become more about discovery, entertainment, and communication.

Despite the advent of big box retail, it's fair to state that a small, local, specialty shop can thrive alongside a major chain store.For example, in Japan, a local fish shop continues to profit even when a massive supermarket chain moves in because people often know and trust their local merchants.When they have a positive experience with that merchant, they will tell others about their experience and in turn provide an honest referral for that business.This same idea is the driving force behind the emergence of "curation" as an important trend in e-commerce.Today, it's the way in which we piece together our shopping items, concepts, looks, and styles that begins to tell a story of who we are as independent shoppers.It enhances the online experience by making shopping personal once more.And because of our integrated social networks, this discovery and entertainment shopping model is one that we're likely to want to share in real time with all of those people in our network.

A vending machine approach does nothing to enhance the merchant-buyer relationship anymore.We, as consumers, want to be connected and trust the people from whom we're buying a product.

Recently, many brand and product managers around the world have been trying to harness the power of social and e-commerce.From Facebook fan pages to sponsored Tweets and pinboards, trying to measure the "value of a like" is becoming a major initiative for brands.Social marketing platform, EngageSciences, has taken this initiative to the next level by tracking how users engage and share on e-commerce sites.

But in order to keep consumers coming back, online shopping must be about engagement-it's as simple as that.By recreating the tangible experience of shopping in a brick and mortar store, online destinations have been successfully utilizing social aspects to engage with consumers via video, blogs, photos, and much more.We'll continue to see creative approaches to making the online shopping experience more personal and unique.As the lines between the online and physical world blur, retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to create the kinds of lasting, meaningful customer relationships that once required an in-person interaction. Now, either in concert with a brick and mortar presence or solely online, merchants have the opportunity to redefine their relationships with consumers in new ways on the immense scale that the Internet provides.