Looking into our ecommerce Palantìr, we’ve noticed several important patterns brewing for the online shopping landscape. Read on as we delve into our 2014 ecommerce predictions.
Firstly, the subscription rage continues – but the quest for recurring and predictable revenue will be met by challenges from customer cancellations and account upgrades and downgrades.
Furthermore, the dreaded online sales tax is slouching toward merchants across the U.S. and online stores will begin to earnestly grapple with compliance for thousands of local tax directives.
And thirdly, the creation of seamless multi-channel ecommerce is our new white whale. Companies will earnestly look to invest into robust web content management (WCM) systems to help tame their disparate online systems into hubs of integrated applications and functionality.
Subscription billing models are good for businesses because they provide consistent and predictable revenue. But there are many different types of subscription billing models and choosing the best one for your business is not always obvious. Online stores should consider their options and conduct price tests to see which billing model brings in the most conversions or creates the greatest lifetime value.
Different Types Of Subscriptions
Time Based Intervals
When it comes to billing customers in regular intervals, you can decide to bill them based on time or volume. Subscriptions based on time intervals are very common, like how Netflix charges me $7.99 a month for access to their video streaming service.
The key is that the customer submits a consistent payment regularly. Some companies decide to charge monthly payments while some decide on annual or even quarterly payments. As a business owner, or as someone in charge of an online store, it’s your choice.
Activity Based Intervals
Your other option for billing customers in regular intervals is to measure value based on user activities. Usage-based billing is the common form of this type of billing model. Activity based intervals do not provide as predictable an amount of revenue like time based subscriptions, but their advantage is that they may bring in greater amounts of revenue than flat time based fees, especially from heavy users.
Changing Horses Midstream
What do you do when a customer changes their subscription midterm? This either means they cancel, upgrade or downgrade their subscription status.
For example, if I wanted access to Netflix DVD delivery in addition to the streaming library, Netflix should be capable of providing me with two different billing dates for the same account. Or they should be able to charge me partial price if the price of the DVD is simply added on to my streaming service. If not, that information better be listed in the Terms and Conditions of your site.
The point is that because subscriptions are all the rage, many people want to hop on the bandwagon in search of recurring and predictable revenue. But don’t be fooled into thinking that these billing models are simple and uncomplicated. They are not. And choosing the right one for your business involves careful consideration and analysis.
Online Sales Tax
This year will produce more talk regarding the passing of the Marketplace Fairness Act and complying with the Streamlined Sales Tax project. For those who don’t know, the Marketplace Fairness Act allows states to charge a sales tax to ecommerce businesses who drive over a million dollars in gross revenue selling goods to that state’s residents. The Streamlined Sales Tax project makes compliance with thousands of separate tax jurisdictions as efficient as possible for businesses.
A major problem for merchants is that the tax rates vary from state to state and many states have additional tax compliance rules for various counties and other local jurisdictions. Also, certain types of customers may be exempt from the sales tax and you have to have a proper certification and exemption process for these customers.
Ensuring compliance through an in house team may be difficult for many businesses and they should look to partner with companies like Avalara who specialize in online sales tax compliance.
Web Content Management Systems For Multi-Channel Ecommerce
While consumers embrace an ever increasing amount of online channels to find and buy products, such as websites, emails, online ads and mobile apps, online merchants scramble and adopt an ever increasing amount of platforms and services to run their businesses, creating disparate databases that do not communicate with each other, and fragmenting operational efficiency.
A web content management (WCM) system helps ecommerce professionals build, maintain and optimize their websites, blogs, emails, advertising displays, product catalogs, checkout processes, shopping carts, confirmation pages, etc., all in one integrated platform.
WCMs also collect useful data from all these assets, giving businesses the option to present site visitors with customized and localized personal experiences. They allow you to test various automated customer experiences for all your customers: design one web experience for a professional programmer and another for a consumer oriented youth. WCMs provide a better way of leveraging content marketing assets with product shopping experiences, whether they are mobile or at a desktop.
The market is ever-changing. It creates new technologies which create new expectations for shoppers. Everything from channels to prices are in flux. Keep yourself informed of the latest ecommerce developments to keep your business ahead of the competition.