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What Happened, Next?

Posted February 8, 2012 By Wayne Morris

growth-chartIt’s official: in 2011, online sales in the UK alone passed the £50 billion mark for the first time. But while the headline number there is remarkable, the more interesting story is the fact that for firms like Next, online sales are actually propping up the high street side of the business.

Could it be that we’ve reached the tipping point, where ecommerce begins to steadily overtake high street sales across the board? And if so, what’s causing this shift in behaviour?

Buying online has become so common as to be almost universal among connected UK users. But enormous new areas of potential growth are still emerging.

Retail on the move

Take mobile for instance. Between apps and increasingly sophisticated mobile purchasing experiences, this is an area that is just getting started. Being able to check the prices in real shops against online retailers has been possible for a little while now but buying on the spot is only going to become more popular.

Naturally however, this presents a whole new kind of user behaviour that businesses must cater for. How do you anticipate and design for a buying experience like this that hasn’t really existed before?

The answer is simple – you take the same approach as you would with any online property to ensure the people you attract to your page actually end up converting. That is to say, experiment broadly with variations on the experience and use the data that this produces to finalise the design alongside whatever configuration helps people complete their purchase.

Worlds collide

Imagine a physical shop that shifted its layout to suit every customer at every stage of their shopping process. Just browsing on a first visit? No problem, here’s a wall of trainers. Coming back after a day and ready to complete the purchase? Here’s the cash register with a chip and pin machine that has the buttons exactly where you expect them.

Sounds unlikely? Not online. Because every customer that visits your site, whether on a mobile, tablet or computer, leaves a trail of their behaviour that can be used to optimise the online experience – and create one that is intuitive and personalised for maximum relevancy, engagement and conversions.

When we look at where online retail goes from the £50bn point and how it can become a significant proportion of a company’s revenue, you have to imagine that it’s solutions that focus on optimising the online experience that will present the most potential for growth.

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