Though the e-commerce space is full of opportunity, the $2.7 trillion market is also fiercely competitive. There are new stores opening around the world each day, selling a variety of products within different niches.
A few years ago, it would have been enough to have a smart site with great products. Now, you need to up your game to get ahead of your competitors. There are a number of other challenges too:
- Choosing the right products: This is probably the most important challenge for e-commerce businesses. A key tip is to stay away from short-term niches and focus on products that have long-term demand. Also, find the right balance between competition and a gap in the market. After all, if there isn’t any competition at all, is there a demand for what you’re trying to sell?
- Driving traffic to your site: The number of ways shoppers can find your site is increasing, but so is the challenge of being discovered. You need to spread your efforts across a number of streams, including SEO, social media, and email marketing.
- Conversion rates: With an average 2.5% conversion rate for e-commerce sites, there are improvements to be made. Learn more in another post, Average E-commerce Conversion Rates and How to Increase Them, is a good guide on how to address this particular challenge.
- Finding the right technology and partners: With so many agencies, platforms, and services available, picking the right ones can be a challenge. The key is to focus your business needs and choose the options that can help you meet them.
- Having the right team in place: For all the technology, vision, and awesome products – you still need to find the right people. This can be more difficult than you think. It’s important to have a selection process that reflects the culture of your business and a solid support structure in place.
With these factors in mind, we’ve put together a list of the top e-commerce business ideas for 2019:
This is an idea that has been around for a while, but automation in e-commerce is constantly evolving. There are now tools to help with almost every part of the e-commerce process, including email, shipping, and social media.
Take automated (triggered) emails for example. Studies show they enjoy a 624% higher conversion rate than “batch and blast” emails.
This is neatly illustrated by cart-recovery emails, which have an average open rate of 48% – double that of average newsletters. According to research conducted by the Baynard Institute, the cart abandonment rate stands at 69.23% – equating to $4.9 trillion a year. Tellingly, up to $2.75 trillion is recoverable.
Let’s take a look at how one of our users, City Furniture, designs and uses cart recovery emails with MageMail:
(Source: Author’s screenshot)
As you can see, the email follows a simple format: the images of items left in customers’ carts, some handy contact details, and a “complete your order” call-to-action button. The email is focused and personalized – designed to convert promising leads into paying customers.
The fact there are over 2.4 billion active social media users around the world means you should be using these platforms to their full potential.
The lion’s share of social purchases have been through Facebook and to a lesser extent Instagram. Yet, all the major social media platforms have seen increasing retail activity over recent years. Even Snapchat has recently announced a move to scale-up its e-commerce operations.
With the number of social platforms that can be utilized for e-commerce growing, it makes sense to automate this process. Consider using tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to help organize your social media strategy.
The key to automation is to understand that when it works, it makes your e-commerce store far more efficient. Shipping is the one area where having streamlined, automated processes in place will make a real difference.
Using software like ShipStation, you can automate processing, fulfillment, and shipping of orders. This will take some weight off your shoulders as you work to scale-up your business.
2. Voice Search
The standard keyword search was turned on its head when Google began adding relevance and context to the mix. Not only have internet searches evolved to return results with the aim to give users more of what they want, beyond the words they use, on-site searches are also getting smarter. As Phillip Jackson, e-commerce entrepreneur and 5x certified Magento expert says,
“On-Site Search is evolving daily. The most innovative sites in 2018 provide multiple ways for customers to interact with search: from providing facets to filter results directly within a predictive search results panel (on every page of your site!) to natural language processing; to *contextual* search to further refine a result-set: customers have higher demands now more than ever that search work the way they expect it to.”
One of the emerging trends within the e-commerce space with regard to searches is vocal control. With the arrival of Amazon Echo and Google Assistant devices, more people are “speaking out loud” to shop.
Given the fact that 20% of mobile searches on Google are vocal, this is a trend that’s only likely to keep growth. It’s clear from surveys that the younger generation has embraced this approach to interacting with digital interfaces.
In recognition of this, Google and Walmart recently announced a partnership to enable customers to order groceries by voice alone. Amazon was even quicker off the bat in organizing similar partnerships with Uber and Domino’s.
As with most new technology, quite how voice search will affect e-commerce remains unknown. However, there’s no doubt it’s a trend that’s around to stay, so optimize your site with this in mind.
3. Sell Your Own Work
If you have a creative talent such as art, photography, or music, you should consider e-commerce as a means to make a profit. Use a platform like Magento to get you going, and use digital marketing to promote your creations.
This will save you the expense and logistics of setting up a brick-and-mortar store. The key is to test the waters, before you jump in and open a fully-fledged e-commerce store:
- Reach out to online communities: They can be found anywhere from Facebook to Reddit. You need to identify those communities that share your passion and promote your products to them.
- Use Etsy or Spotify (for music): This is a great way to test the demand for your products. Taking this approach enables you to provide a way for people buy your work. There will be fees involved but it’s cheaper in the short-term than setting up a whole website.
- Utilize social media: As we pointed out earlier in the post, social media has over 2.4 billion active users. This number will only keep growing – it’s a huge potential marketplace for your products. The trick to make it work is to keep your output focused, engaging, and relevant.
Many of the headlines concerning cryptocurrencies have covered the dramatic rises and falls in Bitcoin’s value.
Don’t let that scare you off.
Cryptocurrency, both as a concept and as a practical method of value-exchange, is in its infancy. So, there’s bound to be some inherent uncertainty, particularly with so much excitement and speculation surrounding it.
2018 could be the year in which cryptocurrencies become a more “mainstream” form of payment for e-commerce stores. Already, major platforms such as Magento are enabling merchants to accept Bitcoin.
The appeal of cryptocurrency is two-fold:
- No need for banks: With cryptocurrencies, there’s no need for third-party provider fees.
- Advanced transaction security: Using cryptocurrencies can cut the risk of fraud because they are decentralized (spread across multiple networks), rather than being held in a single place or on a single server.
There’s also some interest in the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies, blockchain. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has begun to use it to track, upload, and verify logistical information on all imported products. This is a signal that a revolution in the way e-commerce works is in the air.
Now is the time to get ahead of the curve.
5. Specialize in a Niche
In a similar way to when selling your own work, having in-depth knowledge about certain niches or products can be a top selling point.
The key is to find a niche where there’s a healthy balance between demand and competition. Once you have done the research and identified a gap in the market, you start selling the products to the niche audience who are already looking for your products on the web.
As a specialist store, you need to demonstrate your knowledge and prioritize customer service. B&H Photo Video is a New York-based store absolutely nailing this strategy:
Using smart design, the store displays all the essential information about products without the need to scroll. The ratings and reviews are also a good addition, giving the customer that extra level of reassurance.
What sets B&H Photo Video apart from their competition is what happens when you scroll down:
The level of knowledge on display here is exceptional for an e-commerce store. It provides a wealth of useful information to the customer and directs them to the right products for them.
In delivering a high standard of customer service, and showing they are the authority on the products they sell, B&H Photo Video is able to charge premium prices and still provide excellent value.
6. Mobile Commerce (M-Commerce)
M-commerce’s moment has finally arrived. In the past, online retailers have struggled to overcome the challenges of mobile shopping. This year marks a turning point.
In the US, m-commerce is set to ramp up to 40% of all online retail sales in 2018. This means you should be focusing on making your e-commerce store as mobile-friendly as possible:
This search page from Booking.com is a great example of how brands are optimizing their mobile sites. The oversized format and minimal content make it easy for the user to select their options and navigate through the process.
Another challenge of m-commerce is image display.
Outdoor apparel brand, REI makes product images the central part of product-pages for an almost full-screen experience:
This leads to an image being big and high-res enough for the mobile user to really see the detail. And the detail matters. By making it as easy as possible for the shopper to see what they intend to purchase you’re bound to drive up conversion rates.
As we blaze our way through 2019, it’s clear these are exciting times in e-commerce. The emergence of voice search, mobile commerce, and automation are not entirely new concepts. However, they are all starting to make a big impact on online retail in a significant way.
Voice search, for example, may simply be a more convenient way to shop for many. Yet it will have a huge impact on the way SEO works and how e-commerce sites should be set up. The time to prepare for this is now, as the younger generation become more active shoppers.
Automation has long been a key area for efficient e-commerce businesses, and it’s constantly evolving. It pays to review your current processes and do the research on what’s new. There’s always a chance you could automate a new area of your business, including shipping and email marketing.
This year’s biggest trend could be the rise of m-commerce. Studies have shown shoppers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of making purchases on their smartphones. There’s no longer any excuse not to at the very least have a mobile-friendly site.
And of course, there’s cryptocurrency. By making it easy for shoppers to pay in Bitcoin or any other kind of cryptocurrency, you would be putting your store ahead of the curve.
Be proactive, and never stop looking at the latest ways to boost your e-commerce store.