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Think BR: The continued growth of online retail

With continued growth of online purchasing, it is time retailers started being smarter, with integrated and more intuitive online presences in order to take advantage of this market shift, writes Simon Norris, chief executive officer, Nomensa.

Simon Norris, chief executive officer, Nomensa

Simon Norris, chief executive officer, Nomensa

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The latest research from the British Retail Consortium has revealed that online retail sales of non-food items are up 15.6% from last year despite a slowdown in the industry overall. 

I wonder whether the trend holds true for the retailers that are embracing the cross-channel which is much wider than the multi-channel (digital devices).

I expect those organisations which are successfully blending their store and online sites will be experiencing growth in both of these channels because they are making them work better together.

This is why the click and collect service is functioning so well; it extends the service that the store would have offered through the phone to the internet.

Businesses which do not spend time and money on in-store and online design will, in my view, not achieve the same level of professionalism and security as those that do.

The organisation will be unable to reach channel synergy because when the store and online site function together they produce results that are not independently obtainable.

In contrast, those that invest in website and in-store design will offer a meaningful experience that feels more authentic, enjoyable and engages more deeply.

Until online sales break through the 20% ceiling, the majority of executives will not fully embrace online retail as a true commercial model.

However, these online retailers should want to be as good online as in-store and the site should not just be a catalogue, it should be an experience.

Although purchasing online is not quite the same as physically going into a store, online shopping should not reduce the individuals’ experience.

This is why understanding website design, user experience and social behaviour is critical in the quest for any retailer to gain marker shares.

Organisations that really examine customers’ needs and expectations and have a high level of presentation features, will automatically put the online site ahead of its competitors and will help to uncover not just what online shoppers want but also what they need. This in turn will lead them to a purchasing decision.

Convenience is also a major factor for online consumers. The web is considered to be main stream and is an integral part of our everyday lives, but with convenience comes expectation.

The site should be easy to use and if the website offers a poor user experience, it undermines the perception of the retailer.

As such, every single corporation should aim to deliver a barrier-free experience so that the digital world is completely accessible to everyone.

People judge in terms of experience and therefore user experience is everything. Businesses need to understand audience behaviour and expectations so to provide an engaging experience, regardless of how a person accesses it.

Therefore, sites which have information gaps and poor navigation make the process confusing and ineffective.

Consumer appetite for shopping online in general has improved substantially thanks to easy to use and secure payment systems, affordable internet connections and the ever increasing popularity of mobile devices.

Although this surge of online retail sales is set to continue in an upward trend, user experience needs to improve if retailers want to accelerate more rapidly.

Organisations need to realise that in order to improve their websites they need to not only progress their online experience but to focus on each consumer’s user experience and try to transform it, improving accessibility and making interaction experiences more personal  which will help engage the 21st century customer.

People are following conventions, are becoming more confident with purchasing online and are more likely to buy more quickly because the internet is packed with great promotions and shopping online is the definition of convenient.

On the other hand, due to the end of the Olympics, it is only natural that we go back to thinking more about the current state of the economy. People are more vigilant about how and where they spend their money and are taking longer to make decisions when purchasing.

The most recent statistics on high street spending which show a two% dip over recent months, and the increase in ‘roboshopping’ (research online buy offline) illustrate this.

Therefore, because consumers are shopping in the most convenient ways for their own needs, it is the organisations responsibility to make sure every customer’s expectations are met.

I hope to see a continued growth in online retail sales as a result of good user experience and the implementation of website designs which are simple and accessible, to make sure every online consumer has received an engaging, enjoyable and exemplary online experience.

Simon Norris, chief executive officer, Nomensa

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