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11/21/2011
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5 E-Commerce Trends For SMBs In 2012

Finalizing your website strategy for next year and beyond? Consider this expert advice first.

10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
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Online retailers are prepping their websites for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the ensuing holiday shopping surge. They should also be thinking about what's in store for 2012 and beyond.

Diane Buzzeo, CEO at Ability Commerce, sees mobile commerce kicking into high gear in the new year. "In 2012, if you don't have mobile you're very behind," Buzzeo said in an interview. "It's not a matter of keeping up anymore; it's a matter of staying in business."

That means more than simply optimizing your existing website for iOS, Android, and other devices. Nor is mobile the only front that small and midsize businesses (SMBs), in particular, need to attack. Social commerce, HTML5, and the evolving popularity of user ratings and reviews should also be top of mind. Read on for Buzzeo's calls on what SMBs need to be thinking about for their online stores in 2012.

[ Security is sure to be a hot topic in the new year. Check out 4 Security Issues SMBs Should Watch In 2012. ]

1. Consider crowdsourced pricing. When it comes to social business, Buzzeo thinks more and more online stores will turn their customers into a salesforce by offering volume markdowns--or what she likes to call "crowdsourced pricing"--similar to how LivingSocial and other daily deal sites entice buyers with a free deal for getting three friends to purchase the same offer. The concept is not new--it's essentially the group discount, repurposed for the Facebook era--but Buzzeo thinks it will go into online overdrive in 2012. Example: you offer a product at a particular price point but only if/when it hits X number of purchases. The strategy can deliver collateral wins for sales and marketing departments, too, in the form of email addresses and other data. "We think it's a great way to start monetizing social media," Buzzeo said. "We think it's going to be very big next year."

2. All hail, HTML5. Like plenty of others, Buzzeo and company are all-in on HTML5, especially now that Adobe has conceded development superiority and killed mobile Flash. Buzzeo is particularly keen on HTML5 for online video in Web stores. "So many people were doing their videos in Flash, and you couldn't see them on an iPad," Buzzeo said. "You don't have to make the decision anymore: VHS or Beta? It's HTML5, so we can put all of our focus there."

3. Bet on video commerce. Buzzeo thinks the ability to buy from within a product or other video--and consumer uptake of that ability--will gain major momentum in 2012. She offers a fashion example: If a shopper is watching a video of someone modeling a particular outfit, they might hover and click on her blouse to move it to their cart. There they'll of course be offered the chance to purchase the hat, gloves, boots, and any other items on display in the video. Not in the market for a new blouse? "Put it into a duck hunting world," Buzzeo said, referring to an outfitter that's also a Ability customer. "Our intention for them is to have hunters out in the field--just like a TV show--and you can click on the guy's hat and put it into a shopping cart. That's 2012."

4. Seek and ye will find--or ye will go broke. "The days of navigation are really ending," Buzzeo said, adding that search has largely shoved the traditional notion of navigation aside. That's critical for SMBs and their online sales across multiple channels and devices. "Your site, your iPad [experience], and your smartphone [interface] all have to search extremely well and bring people to the right place. And you have to be able to check out very easily no matter what kind of device you're on."

5. Don't forget the usual suspects. User ratings and reviews on online products and services are not a 2012 trend, but Buzzeo said they're as popular as ever, thanks largely to both the social and mobile explosions among consumers. They matter now as much as ever--be sure your ratings and reviews are mobile-ready.

5. Avoid the app. Or, seriously, dude: HTML5. Beyond the realm of video, HTML5 gives SMBs--and any other developers--the opportunity to build a single platform without worrying about native apps for a myriad of devices and operating systems. If you haven't already, Buzzeo recommends abandoning the app paradigm--at least for e-commerce--as a New Year's resolution.

"There are lots of reasons for a mobile application. A Web store is not one of them," Buzzeo said. "Everything about your Web store on a smartphone needs to be every bit as dynamic as it is on a laptop."

InformationWeek is conducting a survey on the state of database technology in the enterprise. Respond to the survey and be eligible to win an iPad 2. Take the survey now. Survey ends Nov. 25.

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