With emerging technologies and the growing popularity of mobile devices, the opportunity to tap into new markets and boost sales has increased exponentially for online retailers.

In the past year, eWAY signed up a variety of merchants — from fashion retailers, to plumbers and gardeners — indicating the significant growth in the number of small businesses trading online is not slowing.

Only those businesses that understand the evolving online retail space will enjoy ongoing growth.

Here are key trends that businesses should leverage to grow online sales.

Go omnichannel when thinking about payments

eCommerce is moving towards a stage where accepting only one type of payment would be out of the question. The more payment options that online retailers offer to shoppers, the higher their chances to increase conversion rates.

Tradesman are a great example. By setting up omni-channel payments, tradies can ask customers to book and pay online for a specific service, or take card payments using a wireless mobile POS device on the job, along with traditional payment methods such as cheque, bank transfer and cash. Omni-channel merchants can also integrate their online and offline services to enhance productivity — syncing things such as inventory and accounting software with payments in one place.

Set up integrated marketing across multiple devices

Website analytics tools help online retailers identify customers across devices. These tools keep track of shoppers’ habits and how they interact with an online store, making it easier to distribute digital marketing spend according to types of traffic. The data collected allows retailers to know how much time visitors spend on a website, what they’ve clicked on, if they’ve visited an online store from a tablet or mobile phone, and if they have previously made a purchase.

This valuable information is key to segment marketing strategies according to traffic and different target audiences. Merchants can then tailor ads to target prospects that have browsed a site more than once — even if they’ve done it from different platforms — instead of spending marketing efforts on one-time website visitors.

Marketing tactics such as re-targeting should also work across devices, allowing online retailers to stay connected with customers and prospects regardless of the platform they use. This way, online stores can send automated reminders and targeted ads to customers who abandoned their shopping carts to any device they’re using — boosting conversion rates. Prospects who are re-targeted with ads are 70% more likely to make a purchase.

24/7 customer service is a must

Online retailers need to provide shoppers with a range of platforms to answer questions and to offer customer support. Today, in a globalised e-commerce industry, an email address and a phone number with limited contact hours won’t cut it.

Adding a chat pop-up window, embedded to a website, improves the trust of a brand by establishing a 24/7 communication channel with customers and prospects. This also makes communication between customer and merchant easier and more efficient. According to a study, 96% of customers forced to expend “high” effort with a company over an enquiry are likely to go to a competitor.

Shifting to a proactive customer service makes customers feel they’re valuable to a brand and that someone is paying attention to them just like a store assistant would do at a bricks-and-mortar store. More and more customers are looking for the most convenient shopping experience, and with an increasingly competitive e-commerce landscape, a reliable and always-on customer service can be a key differentiator.

With expectations for 2016 to be another record year for online sales, retailers need to make sure they stay ahead of the curve to get their share. Making online payments smooth, convenient and easier than ever is only possible by catering to customers needs and preferences. Providing a vast array of options for payments, marketing and customer support will help online merchants gain new customers and offer existing ones more opportunities to make a purchase.

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