After years of steady growth, the COVID-19 pandemic caused online spending in the U.S. to soar past estimates in 2020. According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020—an increase of 44% over 2019—compared to just a 15% increase from 2018 to 2019.
As the e-commerce sector grows as a whole, one area is experiencing even greater expansion and promising new value to large and small businesses alike: in-app commerce. Some examples of in-app commerce are:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Snapchat Screenshop
- Instagram Shopping and Reels
- Shopify integrated into several other apps like Walmart and TikTok
- Google Shopping
You can build your e-commerce business in these apps rather than build out your own website, but it’s important to understand both sides of that decision.
Building your business in these apps is similar to having a business in the mall. You are a renter of space, not an owner. You don’t have as much control over the traffic or the branding, and you are beholden to their rules and algorithm. The host app to your business also owns the first-party data of all the traffic that comes through their walled garden.
Having your own website gives you more autonomy over the look, feel, user experience, data, and the relationship with the end user. It’s more like having your own independent store rather than renting space in a mall. But with that autonomy comes additional costs for features and activity otherwise provided by an e-commerce site.
In-app retail has some solid benefits, which is why it is so successful. First and foremost, for any starting business, this is key: it’s a ready-made storefront. The infrastructure is in place and you simply need to populate a few areas to get things going. That infrastructure could include an integrated means of accepting payment, shipping options, and facilitation of returns and exchanges. Features and integrations do vary from app to app, but Shopify, for example, is integrated on Google and TikTok. Not all apps are created equally, but they do offer features you would have to get for yourself if you built your own website.
Instant Access to Audiences
Secondly, you enjoy the benefits of the traffic and momentum of that app. They are marketing themselves, which drives traffic to their site. They have a search feature on their site which can drive traffic to you. You can then advertise your business on that site using their search features and first-party data to its users.
Another Tool in Your E-Commerce Toolbox
Remember, this isn’t an either-or proposition. Many businesses are on Amazon but also have their own website, and they might even have a physical storefront to boot! But using in-app commerce is far more turnkey and affordable than building out the infrastructure for your own website or physical store out of the gate.
Getting Started on E-Commerce
If you are looking to get into the e-commerce space or your business is digitally native and you’re looking to expand into the social or in-app retail space, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Evaluate where you are driving your traffic and customers
Is your in-app commerce set up in a way that is welcoming, engaging, and user-friendly? If you’re using a social platform, like Instagram Shopping, does your social content offer something of value to your customers like useful information or entertainment? Are the images and footage you use of high quality? Like an in-person retail business, you want your online shopping experience to positively portray your brand and make it easy for users to find what they want.
- Plan out your strategy
Think about your target audience and how you want to connect with them. Are you just trying to get anyone over to your page? Can you define the type of person that your product or service would be most suitable for? How can you go about finding those folks and drawing them in?
- Once you draw users in, how do you intend to foster a relationship and keep the conversation going?
Customer experience is of the utmost importance. Digital space is highly saturated, so the best way to stand out is to provide great service with an easy-to-understand interface.
- How do you plan to guide that conversation toward conversions?
Personalized email marketing with offers relevant to each customers’ engagement history with you can go a long way in garnering repeat business.
With all the changes happening in the digital ad space surrounding privacy and the deprecation of third-party data, first-party data is becoming the new currency. First-party data not only allows you to stay connected with your target, but it also offers an opportunity to customize that experience.
Remember: it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to win one.
- How will you measure success?
Finally, and most importantly, be sure to have a way of measuring your strategy’s progress. Is it even working? By tracking your results on a regular basis, you can optimize your efforts to work better for your business.
Capitalizing on Growth
Even as physical retail reemerges from the pandemic, experts predict e-commerce to continue the growth set in motion in 2020. Not only is spending on e-commerce expected to grow, but e-commerce is also expected to account for an even larger portion of total retail sales heading into the future. These trends are already well underway, but it’s not too late to take advantage of this momentum.
If you or your business needs some guidance on how to capitalize on the growth in e-commerce, give us a call because the Happy Medium team would be pleased to partner with you and to help you face this digitally charged future–or you can learn more about our experience building digital solutions by clicking here. Dive deeper into the ever-changing landscape of digital media and marketing by checking out other articles on our blog.