There are a number of differences between retail websites and other websites. Technology adoption is one area that is especially poignant. Consider the exhibit on the right.
Does this graph indicate that users have a little desire to purchase on their web-enabled phones? Probably not. What drives the activities listed above? Availability and Usability. Because vendors concentrating on the top categories have made these activities easy to find and easy to use, the masses flock to them. What’s my point? Online retailers could easily make their shopping carts available on mobile phones, but have not. Why? I don’t have all the answers but one reason I believe is because they are apprehensive of to trying try something new, even if it has huge potential .
Adoption Life Cycle
The Rogers Curve below describes the adoption of new technologies. Many of you will be familiar with this figure. I’ve overlaid the curve with a smaller curve that represents the typical retail industry adoption. Notice that most retailers are a bit slower to adopt technology (including web analytics, social media, mobile, video and rich media) than other industries.
I mentioned before that retailers seem apprehensive to try new technologies. Coming late to the game may not necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, maybe we should consider it “fashionably late.” Here are the advantages.
- The industry tendency to adopt new methods and technology late ensures that the technology has been tested and proven. This reduces wasted investment by allowing other companies/industries to be the guinea pigs on the bleeding edge.
- You’re not the only one who’s late. Your competition from the same industry will likely be late adopters as well.
In essence, being an Innovator or Early Adopter in the retail industry allows for first mover advantage while still reaping the benefits of proven technology.
As you can see, timing here is crucial . Without awareness of new technologies, it will be difficult to gauge where on the adoption life cycle that technology might be. It is crucial to work on technology initiatives while keeping an eye on other innovative industries to see what is coming down the pipe.
As web technology continues to evolve at a blazing pace, keeping up with the trends will become important to more than just the fashion industry. Online retailers are in a uniquely advantageous position because early adoption of technology provides the benefits of being a first mover with the security blanket of tested and proven solutions.
Innovators in Online Retail
So, you want some concrete examples, you say? I am here to please!
In an article for eMarketer in June 2010 (Mobile Shopping From In-Store), Jeffrey Grau cites several examples of retailers who are using the mobile channel as a competitive advantage. Amazon.com launched a mobile app in December 2009. Shoppers will go to other stores to try or examine a product, then order it from Amazon Mobile. This allows Amazon to avoid the overhead of retail space.
Giselle Tsirulnik at Mobile Commerce Daily reports (Sept 13, 2010) that the retailer, Express, recently launched a mobile app that will send visitors discounts and promotions based on their GPS location. Way to think outside the box, Express!
In her article of October 18,2010 (Getting Social Customer Service Right, Forrester), Diane Clarkson describes several ways in which companies are using social media to reduce customer service overhead. One example she uses is Walmart’s online forum as a place where customers can ask and answer questions to each other.
In another example, Xbox is using Twitter as a method for customers to contact a representative. The upside here is that the tweet is also visible to others who may have the same question.
There are limitless options for utilizing technology in your online marketing strategy!
So what are you waiting for?