E-commerce is getting bigger year after year, and when things get bigger they get more competitive. Merchants of all sizes are popping up and thriving on a constant basis. Every report about total revenue and sales in the online retail industry always mentions the upcoming year will be bigger than the previous year in sales. 2015 will likely be no exception. However, to ride the wave of growth you need to be ahead of your competition, and that means knowing and utilizing the latest trends, changes, techniques, and technologies out there to keep you ahead of the pack.
I’ve laid out 4 ways the shipping and e-commerce worlds will be changing, or have already changed, for 2015.
1. Big changes in shipping rates from UPS and FedEx
If you weren’t aware of it by now, FedEx and UPS will be factoring Dimensional Weight into every package shipped in 2015 and beyond.
Wait, what is Dimensional Weight?
On top of a package’s actual weight, it also has a “Dimensional Weight” based purely on the dimensions (L x W x H) of the box and doesn’t even consider its real weight. This Dimensional Weight is determined by a specific formula (which you can calculate yourself or use our Dimensional Weight Calculator). Take the Dimensional Weight of the package vs its actual weight and the heavier of the two is considered the Billable Weight.
Of course, the dimensional weight of a package is usually heavier than the actual weight most of the time, so this will lead to an overall average increase on shipping costs for most people who ship a lot through FedEx and UPS. If you aren’t aware of what these changes are it can lead to sudden increased shipping costs across the board—certainly not a great way to kick off the new year.
What you can do about Dimensional Weight changes.
These new changes hurt, but they can be sidestepped in some instances. Dimensional Weight seems like it was designed to penalize sellers if their packages are not “dense” enough, but when the packages are dense enough, the actual weight ends up being very high which will naturally make the package expensive to ship. One potential answer is with the United States Postal Service which has shipping offerings for very dense, heavy smaller packages (ship dense packages through Flat Rate Green offered by ShippingEasy), and flat rate shipping options for packages that are not as dense but support weight up to a specific maximum threshold (Flat Rate boxes and Regional Rate boxes).
However, the easiest way to solve the dimensional weight issue is using shipping software with rate comparison capabilities, like ShippingEasy, that can find the best rate based on your package’s dimensions and weight. Make sure you measure and weigh your packages though, or your software might not find the best rate possible if certain metrics aren’t included.
2. USPS is going to be a lot more competitive in e-commerce
The United States Postal Service wants to be a bigger player in e-commerce for 2015. They’ve been steadily improving the experience for businesses and package recipients through cheaper shipping rates, better tracking capabilities, and offering various shipping methods that help sellers find the best possible way to ship unique packages. They have already reduced their rates for Priority Mail in September of 2014 to be more competitive with UPS and FedEx, and will be more aggressive in 2015 in becoming a mainstream shipping provider for more e-commerce sellers.
A lot of the older problems USPS had in the past with e-commerce are starting to be addressed. Amazon is even utilizing USPS for the last miles of their Prime package shipments through a deal they made late in 2014. While some aren’t happy with the change, it will likely improve customer perception that USPS is a viable shipping option.
How to take advantage of USPS’ efforts.
All of these changes mean that more people are receiving more packages from USPS and their overall impression of USPS as a carrier is improving. Take advantage of this growing public perception by shipping USPS when it best suits your packages.
3. Mobile users will overtake desktop users as the majority of online shoppers in 2015
If it hasn’t happened already, 2015 will be the year it does. Reports are always coming out about mobile user traffic growing in the e-commerce world, but this will possibly be the year where it’s the majority.
That means responsive design won’t be something nice to have, and a mobile-optimized site won’t be an extra feature to your store, it will be the standard. As opposed to losing a chunk of potential customers from a low-quality mobile experience, you will be giving a bad shopping experience to the majority of visitors that find your site.
What you can do.
If you use an e-commerce platform all-in-one solution like Shopify or Bigcommerce, make sure you have a theme installed that supports mobile users and that your mobile site loads as fast as it can. If you’re using a platform that can install themes, make sure it’s responsive. Check your site speed loading times for mobile users with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It will let you know how fast your pages load and anything that may be slowing them down.
Mobile users can abandon your site for a myriad of reasons: Limited time, low signal, slower mobile internet speeds, and much more. Don’t let your slow-loading site be one of those reasons.
Google PageSpeed Insights shows a nice preview of how your page looks on a mobile phone, and tips to speed up your page load times.
Aside from mobile site speed, another big weakness for mobile e-commerce sites is their check out process. Purchasing something on your mobile phone isn’t typically a smooth process, and most shopping carts aren’t designed to make purchasing easy and simple for mobile users.
One great, fast, and simple way to gauge the quality of your mobile checkout process is to set up a user test (through UserTesting.com) and see a video of a user purchasing an item from your store on a mobile device, complete with video of them purchasing and their thoughts along the purchase funnel. You can quickly identify frustrating spots along checkout and fix them. It’s $49 for a purchase, but absolutely worth it if you want to make sure your mobile users are getting an optimal experience on your site.
4. E-commerce is going to get a lot more technical—for everyone.
Expensive technologies and optimization tactics that used to only be worth it for large companies to improve their conversion rates, sales, and revenue are becoming widely available to smaller sellers and merchants for much lower prices, sometimes even completely free. 2015 will be a year customer experience matters more than ever, and a technically optimized site will be the one shoppers return to.
One good example of this trend is Optimizely, which just made their split testing software completely free for the vast majority of people who use it. Now there’s virtually no excuse to not A/B test pages on your site because of the associated price.
Split testing is just one facet of newer ways of boosting your store’s revenue. There are many other areas you can take advantage of growing technologies and practices.
Are you doing user testing to check the usability and ease of the shopping experience for your customers? Do you optimize your site’s page loading speed for user experience and search engine benefits? Do you utilize abandoned cart recovery emails? Do you frequently ask customer feedback to find weaknesses in your store’s shopping experience? Do you have page-click and heat map data analyzing tools installed on your site? Are you chatting with your potential customers while they’re on your site?
If you’re not utilizing some of these techniques and technologies, you bet your competitors are and will be, in growing numbers in 2015.
What you can do
That’s a lot! Where do I even start?
Getting started here is actually pretty simple, as great companies and apps exist to help you tackle these areas of your site’s functionality. They also do a good job of educating you on how to go about using their products and techniques as well. These services have low entry pricing for smaller businesses, some are even free.
- For in-site chat, check out Olark and Zopim (Both have “Free Forever” plans for starting users).
- For heat map and page click analytics, check Crazy Egg ($9/mo Basic plan)
- A/B testing can be found with Optimizely (free)
- Site usability tests can be found on UserTesting.com ($49 per user test)
- A site speed test can be found on Google’s PageSpeed Insights (free to use)
- In-site customer feedback surveys can be utilized with apps like Qualaroo ($63 per month, a bit pricier, but it is a powerful user feedback tool)
- Cart abandonment recovery exists as features for shopping platforms like Shopify, Volusion, and Bigcommerce which all have cart abandonment automated email features.
With this, you can be aware of what’s different and changing in the e-commerce world, and have plenty to do to improve your site’s performance on all levels. With more e-commerce stores launching every day, small differences will be the deciding factor for many sites that get visitors to become customers.
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